The Class of 2021 could transform hiring: Here's what college seniors want from employers

A new report focuses on sentiments among college seniors regarding in-person work, salary expectations, hiring and more as the class of 2021 joins the workforce.

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The coronavirus pandemic transformed the way students and professionals work and learn on short notice with universities and workplaces adopting remote operations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. On Tuesday, iCIMS, a talent cloud company, released its Class of 2021 Report, and the company's sixth annual installment focuses on sentiments among college seniors regarding in-person collaboration, salary expectations and more.

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"While nearly everyone in the workforce has been remote for over a year now, most of us got to experience in-office collaboration pre-pandemic. But for college seniors just entering the workforce, that's not the case," said Jewell Parkinson, chief people officer at iCIMS. "Our Class of 2021 Report revealed that college seniors desire connection and collaboration as part of their workplace life often afforded in an in-person workplace setting."

Overall, about two-thirds of respondents college seniors said they want to "work in an office several days" per week or full time, compared to 2% of respondents who wanted to WFH full time. Virtually all college seniors (88%) said they wanted to meet with coworkers in-person "frequently" to "build relationships and network" and nearly half "consider the physical location of the job when considering whether to apply."

The authors of the report speculate that the "reluctance to work remotely" could be related to a "lack of work-from-home readiness" as a third of college seniors report lacking a dedicated workspace and 58% said they did not have all of the necessary equipment.

"Nearly two-thirds of college seniors want to work in an office several days a week or full time, and only 2% want to work remotely full time," Parkinson said. "Understandably, entry-level employees want to be afforded the learning-on-the job experiences often facilitated by interacting with their coworkers in person, building relationships and networking early on in their careers."

Salary expectations and job applications

A portion of the report touches on anticipated salaries among respondent U.S. college seniors. Overall, respondent seniors anticipated their first job would pay an annual salary of $51,931 on average. Compared to March 2020, HR professionals said they expected to shell out 22% more for entry-level salaries. Due to these anticipated salary and pay expectations among college seniors and HR professionals, the authors of the report point out that "this year's graduates are leaving nearly $15,000 on the table."

The report also highlights the top sources of online applications for 2020 and 2021. Last year, the top application sources include Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Google and Facebook, in order. In 2021, LinkedIn surpassed Indeed as the top application sources, followed by Google, Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, according to the report.

Video in the hiring process

In the next year, nearly all HR professionals (97%) said they plan to use video during the hiring process with the top use cases including video chat for live interviews, training and onboarding videos and use on career websites. While HR professionals plan to continue using video in their day-to-day, many college seniors appear to prefer in-person formats for portions of the hiring and job search prospect.

"The vast majority of college seniors (80%) prefer in-person interviews over video chats, believing that's how they best present themselves to a potential employer," Parkinson said. "However, many companies will increasingly rely on video for interviewing candidates. Therefore, employers need to make that experience as engaging and personal as possible."

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Texting prospective candidates

Interestingly, texting could play an increased role in the hiring process for prospective job candidates. The number of texts sent by employers to prospective job candidates increased one-third (34%) between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2020, according to the report, and 89% of college seniors "are comfortable texting with potential employers as part of the job interview process." The top three reported situations for texting among college seniors include interview scheduling, application updates and accepting a position via text.

"As we inch out of the pandemic, college grads are looking forward to an engaging and enriching workplace environment, so it's up to employers to take this into consideration and create a collaborative environment where everyone is able to contribute to a thriving culture," Parkinson said.

Report methodology

The survey was conducted from April 9 to 23 involving 500 U.S. HR professionals or recruiters as well as 1,000 college seniors from the U.S. (500), U.K. (250) and France (250).

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