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Job opportunities appear bright for students graduating in 2015

<p><strong>According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers plan to hire 9.6 percent more new graduates from the Class of 2015 for US operations than they did for the Class of 2014.</strong>PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EDWIN GANO / ASSOCIATE PHOTO EDITOR</p>

According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers plan to hire 9.6 percent more new graduates from the Class of 2015 for US operations than they did for the Class of 2014.PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EDWIN GANO / ASSOCIATE PHOTO EDITOR

Class of 2015 graduates can sigh in relief, not because it is almost time for graduation, but their employment prospects are better than those faced by recent graduates, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

NACE’s spring update to their job outlook survey found that employers plan to hire 9.6 percent more new graduates from the Class of 2015 for U.S. operations than they did for the Class of 2014, according to the organization’s website.

Evidence of this improvement can be seen in the job search process at Rutgers, said Janet Jones, director of Employer Relations for University Career Services.

“I would say we’ve had more activity, we’ve had more jobs listed and we’ve had more employers participating in our fairs,” Jones said. “It seems that the entry-level job market has seen some growth in the positive direction ... and that has also been substantiated by NACE’s recent report.”

Out of about 55 percent of Rutgers' Class of 2014 that responded to the annual post-graduation survey, 49.8 percent of respondents found full-time post graduation opportunities, such as full-time employment, entrepreneurial opportunities, internships and fellowships, according to University Career Services data.

Overall placement for the Class of 2014, which includes employment, continued education, military service and volunteer service programs, reached 79 percent, a 14 percent increase from the Class of 2013.

Data about the Class of 2015 is not yet available, but will be released online in February 2016 following a six-month follow-up with graduates, said Melissa Blake, assistant director of Marketing and Public Relations for University Career Services.

The initial NACE survey report in December showed an increase in the number of signing bonuses employers plan to offer to new graduates, particularly to candidates in the business, engineering and computer science fields, according to their website.

Neil Sheflin, a professor in the Department of Economics, questioned if this is a broad-based improvement in hiring, or if the growth may be limited to select fields.

“There’s real concern whether we’re seeing a structural change in the economy in terms of labor requirements — what kinds of skills and what kind of jobs college graduates are going to find,” Sheflin said.

While an increase in signing bonuses is consistent with the upward trend of employment prospects, other signals of improvement are better indicators of the labor market, as signing bonuses tend to be popular only in some fields, Sheflin said.

The declining national unemployment rate and responses gathered from graduating seniors in the Department of Economics demonstrates job market improvement following the 2008 recession and relatively slow recovery, Sheflin said.

Signing bonuses are attractive to new graduates who are entering the workforce and might incur expenses such as a new car, said Charles Fay, director of the undergraduate program in human resource management.

“For a lot of students who have immediate debt and (have) to move to a new part of the country and set up a household, and probably get additional work clothes, a lump sum bonus comes in pretty handy,” Fay said.

The signing bonuses Rutgers students are receiving have been in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, Jones said. These are generally being awarded to students who are accepting base salary offers of $60,000 and more.

Signing bonuses are an appealing option to employers as the market rate for jobs increases because employers can avoid equity problems of paying new hires more than what people who have been with them for a year or two are receiving, Fay said.

“A lot of companies will use hiring bonuses to both entice people to come work for them, but also not have to increase base rates of pay, or at least not as much,” Fay said. “They don’t end up having current workers get upset with them as demand increases.”

From an employer perspective, it is probably more an economic move than a competitive one, Fay said. It allows employers to be competitive “on the cheap.”

Graduating students entering the workforce must realize that they need to negotiate, particularly women, Fay said. There is a body of research that shows women tend not to negotiate as much as men do, which adversely affects their earnings.

In addition to doing their own homework, Jones encourages students to take advantage of the advising and coaching that career development specialists at University Career Services offer to help students who are actively interviewing.

“(Students) could look on Glassdoor, which is a great site for getting inside information to different companies,” Jones said. “They could talk to alums who maybe are inside already.”

Jones also suggests students use a salary calculator to understand the cost of living index for the geographical area where the job is and consider what their expenses will be to determine what their salary needs are so they can realistically negotiate.

For graduating seniors who haven’t landed employment yet, there is still an opportunity to connect with employers.

The N.J. Statewide Career and Internship Fair, which will be held on May 3 at Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on Busch campus, is sold out to employers, which means that about 156 employers will have representatives at the event.

The fair is open to all grade levels, as well as students from other schools and the general public, according to their website.

Job seekers can use a mobile app to download and filter through the fair’s directory, and Jones recommends students arrive early and prepared to introduce themselves to the companies they are interested in.

“The ones who do their homework and can speak confidently about their background and what skills they feel they bring, or something from a past experience and they’re able to talk about it and how that’s translatable in this other environment, I think that’s a great way to start,” Jones said.

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