Job Search Process is Frustrating for College Students, According to Survey

Posted By Terri Williams on February 12, 2016 at 2:03 pm
Job Search Process is Frustrating for College Students, According to Survey

By senior year, college students typically focus on completing their academic requirements as they prepare to enter the job market. However, despite an improving economy, some students are anxious because they haven’t received a pre-graduation job offer. They’re also frustrated by what they see as an unnecessarily difficult job search process.

The 2015 AfterCollege Career Insight Survey, conducted through the company’s social media channels, the AfterCollege website, and through Facebook advertising, provides insight regarding the job search process among college students and recent graduates.

Below are selected responses from the 1,259 survey respondents.

Pre- and post-graduation job status

Very few seniors and recent grads have a job lined up before graduation:

  • College seniors: 14%
  • Graduate students: 13%
  • Recent graduates: 30%

Instead, the majority of students and recent grads are actively searching for employment:

  • Undergraduate: 70%
  • College seniors: 84%
  • Graduate students: 74%
  • Recent graduates: 71%

Students are also finding that internships don’t guarantee a job offer:

  • Have had at least 1 internship: >50%
  • Had a paid internship: 61%
  • Internship resulted in a job offer: 24%

Who gets job offers?

Among the 14% of college seniors who have a job lined up after graduation, it appears that gender, GPA, race, and major all play a role.

A higher percentage of men (18%) than women (11%) are more likely to have a pre-graduation job offer.

Among races, White/Caucasian seniors have a slight edge over Hispanic/Latino seniors in pre-grad offers of employment:

  • White/Caucasian: 16%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 13%
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: 12%
  • African American: 10%
  • Native American: 9%

Seniors with higher grades have a higher percentage of offers:

  • 3.6 or higher GPA: 15%
  • 3.1-3.5 GPA: 13%
  • 3.0 or lower GPA: 10%

Choice of major has a significant impact on how many seniors have job lined up after graduation, with technology majors leading the way:

  • Tech: 28%
  • Business: 18%
  • Life Sciences: 15%
  • Math: 13%
  • Nursing: 13%
  • Arts/Humanities: 12%
  • Allied Health: 11%
  • Engineering: 8%
  • Social Sciences: 8%

The job search can be frustrating

38% of respondents say searching for a job is difficult; 24% say it’s very difficult.

When asked to name the most difficult part of the job search process, the responses were as follows:

  • Interview: 29%
  • Resume/cover letter prep: 28%
  • Deciding to apply: 26%
  • Salary negotiation: 7%
  • Other: 10%

When asked how they prefer to learn about job openings, the responses were as follows:

  • Email notification: 66%
  • Posting on job board: 50%
  • Posting on employer website: 50%
  • Through career center at school: 32%
  • Posting on social media: 29%
  • Text/SMS notification: 10%

Regarding social media, 73% search for jobs via LinkedIn, followed by 62% who use the school’s network, and 47% who search on FaceBook.

And respondents also think there are ways for companies to make the application process easier:

  • Respond to applicants more quickly: 71%
  • Simplify the interview process: 35%
  • Make job descriptions less confusing: 32%
  • Eliminate cover letters: 31%
  • Other: 8%

Survey implications

GoodCall asked Stephanie Kinkaid, Assistant Director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, to weigh in on some of the most pertinent findings.

While the job search may be frustrating, students should not lose faith in internships and networking. Kinkaid points to a National Association of College Employers report which revealed that students who complete two internships have a much better chance of getting hired.

“Twenty-five years ago, graduates could find a job without an internship, but now, with the economy recovering and the number of candidates per job opening increasing, students are finding that completing more than one internship secures them a much greater chance of employment,” says Kinkaid.

Her school’s career center, and others around the country, are actually recommending that students complete their first internship at the end of their freshmen or sophomore year to allow enough time for at least a second internship. “The expectations of employers are much higher than in past years – employers expect students to have job skills upon graduation so that time spent in training is lowered,” explains Kinkaid.

Regarding the frustration with resumes and cover letters, this may be a result of students failing to pursue opportunities to learn professional skills. Kinkaid recommends that students start drafting their resume and cover letter while they’re still freshmen. She says this makes updating the information a much simpler process, and adds, “A perfected resume should be an item that every employable adult can produce at any given time.”

And because college students in Generations Y and Z are digital natives, they prefer online job searches and applications. However, Kinkaid warns that these students may be limiting their opportunities since not all employers hire exclusively online. “Instead, students should be seeking out a network of mentors in an intended field rather than seeking impersonal online advertisements, because those online ads are not always up to date or relevant, which means that employers are not always quick to respond or may not respond at all,” explains Kinkaid.

Kinkaid says the students she works with at Monmouth College often ask if they should apply for a particular job, and this question is baffling. “My response is often, ‘What do you have to lose?’ If nothing else, completing an application is good experience,” says Kinkaid, and she adds that the student may get hired, or perhaps their resume gets passed to someone else who hires the student.

Students may think that the application process is unduly difficult, but Kinkaid says they may not be looking at the situation realistically. “The fact of the matter is that the employer can be selective; if you do not apply, someone else will.”

And Kinkaid says, “More employers are reporting to our office that some job candidates just expect a job to be handed to them.” She admits that the job application process can be both difficult and frustrating, and recommends that students obtain help from their school’s career center, as well as their advisor and professors.

“If you want to be a success, seek out resources to help you find a job,” says Kinkaid. However, she cautions students against expecting someone else to do the work for them. “If you put as much time in looking for a job [as] you did with your academics, you will find a job.” And she concludes, “Your first job might not be your dream job, but you will gain experience and take it to the next step in your journey.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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