New Grads Wanted; People Skills Critical

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The latest generation of college graduates is entering the job market at a prime moment, when employers are ready, willing and eager to hire. But a new survey from CareerBuilder suggests that the best jobs will go to those who work on a few real-world shortcomings that those bosses perceive in newbies.

According to a survey conducted for CareerBuilder's 2015 College Job Forecast, 65 percent of American employers plan to hire recent college graduates this year. That's up from 57 percent last year, and the highest percentage since 2007. Nearly half are recruiting new hires in advance of graduation.

What's more, one-third said they will offer higher pay than last year. A total 26 percent said they would offer starting salaries at $50,000 and higher. Another 20 percent said they would pay $40,000 to $50,000, and 28 percent have set salaries between $30,000 and $40,000. Only 26 percent expect to pay under $30,000.
People Skills Missing

Despite their willingness to hire new grads, employers admit to a belief that a college education doesn't fully prepare people for some real-world challenges. Asked to name which skills they think recent college graduates lack, employers most often cite interpersonal or problem-solving skills.
In short, today's graduates have an enviable comfort with modern technology, but may lack the attributes known as "soft skills." Most often mentioned were interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills and oral communications ability.

Here are the skills most often found lacking in new graduates, and the percentage of hiring managers who cited them:

• Interpersonal or people skills, 52 percent
• Problem-solving skills, 46 percent
• Oral communication, 41 percent
• Leadership ability, 40 percent
• Written communication, 38 percent
• Teamwork, 37 percent
• Creative thinking, 36 percent
• Project management, 26 percent
• Research and analysis, 16 percent
• Math, 15 percent
• Computer and Technical, 13 percent

"One in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including soft skills and real-world experience that might be gained through things like internships," said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder. "Job seekers with a good mix of both technical and soft skills will have the best prospects right out of college."

When asked where academic institutions fall short, employers agreed with the following concerns:

• "Too much emphasis on book learning instead of real world learning": 46 percent
• "I need workers with a blend of technical skills and soft skills gained from liberal arts": 38 percent
• "Entry-level roles within my organization are more complex today": 22 percent
• "Not enough focus on internships": 15 percent
• "Technology is changing too quickly for academics to keep up": 14 percent
• "Not enough students are graduating with the degrees my company needs": 10 percent
Get Smart

CareerBuilder suggests that new grads emphasize their real-world experience, to get to the front of the pack of candidates. Play up relevant experience from classwork, volunteering and extra-curricular activities, in addition to any previous jobs and internships.

Here are some of its other job-search tips for college students:

Search early, search often: Most employers said they recruit college seniors, but more than one in four start courting students when they are still in their junior, sophomore or even freshman years. So, it's never too early to start researching companies that interest you. Reach out to inquire about part-time jobs or internship opportunities, which can be a great way to get a foot in the door.

Update your status: Employers check candidates' social networking profiles. Make sure your online presence is "employer-friendly." Your profile should highlight your skills, creativity and relevant interests. Don't forget to check your privacy settings.

Think big picture: When considering an offer, focus on the whole compensation package, not just the paycheck. There could be learning and advancement opportunities, benefits and other perks that make accepting the job worthwhile.
In the Catbird's Seat

It's no surprise that graduates with business degrees are in the catbird's seat when it comes to job-hunting. A total 38 percent of employers named business graduates as their most sought-after candidates.

Other degree-holders in demand:

• Computer and Information Sciences, 27 percent
• Engineering, 18 percent
• Math and Statistics, 14 percent
• Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences, 14 percent
• Communications Technologies, 12 percent
• Engineering Technologies, 12 percent
• Communication and Journalism, 10 percent
• Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities, 9 percent
• Science Technologies, 8 percent
• Education, 7 percent

The job descriptions available are dominated by information technology, at 30 percent, and customer service, at 28 percent. There also are plentiful opportunities in finance and accounting, 22 percent, sales, 21 percent, and business development, 19 percent.

The CareerBuilder survey was conducted online by Harris Poll from Feb. 11 to March 6, 2015, and included a representative sample of 2,175 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes
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