WMU News

Hiring of new college graduates expected to increase

Jan. 15, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Students who graduate during the 2003-04 academic year should have an easier time finding employment than their peers who graduated during 2002-03.

Recent surveys conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicate nearly 13 percent more new college graduates will be hired this year compared to last year.

Lynn Kelly-Albertson, executive director of professional and career development at Western Michigan University, says the improved forecast is based on a higher level of anticipated hiring reported by employers participating in NACE's Job Outlook 2004 survey.

NACE, the nation's leading source of information about the employment of college graduates, annually surveys employers across the country. Its 2003-04 survey is being conducted in four parts to provide periodic updates on the job market for new college graduates. Three parts of the survey already have been conducted, with the latest findings being released Jan. 6. NACE will conclude this year's survey by releasing a final update in April.

Kelly-Albertson says WMU facilitates NACE's information gathering by surveying employers who hire WMU graduates and making information about salaries, job titles and the number of job offers available for use in the national survey.

Based on the national data NACE has collected thus far, service-sector employers are the most optimistic about college hiring. As a group, these survey respondents said they expect to hire 22.2 percent more new college graduates this year, compared to 3.4 percent more hires reported by manufacturers. Nearly 47 percent of respondents said they have firm plans to recruit on college campuses during spring 2004.

In addition, 34 percent of employers characterized the overall job market for new college graduates as "good," a five percent increase compared to last year, and 57 percent characterized it as "fair." When asked about the job market for new college graduates within their specific industries, 53.3 percent said it was good, very good or excellent.

In terms of interviewing for a job, the survey found that many employers focus on their own interns. Respondents said they place 42.5 percent of their interns in full-time, regular positions and that 59 percent of their new hires in 2003 had internship experience--gained through their or another organization.

Among those who plan to increase their hiring in 2003-04, the reasons most often cited were company growth, increased demand for products and services, and attrition. Employers who project further hiring cuts most often cited continued poor demand for their goods or services, indicating that the economic recovery is not universal.

"NACE doesn't expect the improving job market to translate into bigger starting salary offers," Kelly-Albertson says. "Fifty-one percent of this fall's survey respondents said they don't plan to increase starting salaries at all. And of the 49 percent that did, the average increase was projected to be less that 4 percent."

According to Kelly-Albertson, employers foresee having an ample supply of job candidates to choose from without upping salaries or reinstituting signing bonuses, although 32 percent do plan to extend signing bonuses to woo their top-choice candidates.

"Competition for the best employment is always stiff for new college graduates," she says. "But economic conditions aside, students can improve their chances of finding a good opportunity by investing in themselves early."

Kelly-Albertson advises students to start visiting their school's career center as freshmen or sophomores and to do their homework regularly and often. She says staff members in WMU's Career and Student Employment Services encourage students to take advantage of CSES to learn about the job opportunities available in their fields as well as what to do in school to land the kind of jobs they want.

"Employers tell us that WMU students are generally well prepared academically," Kelly-Albertson adds. "The areas that students need to improve on are knowing about the company they're applying to, articulating how they can benefit the company and dressing in a professional manner. We help students improve in these areas by teaching them how to research prospective employers, reflect on their skills and package these skills well--through professional dress as well as effective resumes and letters."

In addition, Kelly-Albertson says, many CSES resource materials and services are available online, which is a boon to busy students and alumni.

"It allows them to participate in career exploration and job searching as it fits into their schedules," she notes, "day or night, evenings and weekends."

More information about career and student employment services at WMU is available by calling CSES at (269) 387-2745 or visiting its Web site at <www.broncojobs.wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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