We surveyed hundreds of current students and recent grads on AfterCollege to get the scoop on the job search and your recruiting efforts from their perspective.
This is what they had to say about how they look for jobs and learn about openings, their experience with career fairs and info sessions, and some of the most common pain points of the job search process.
Which part of the job application process is most difficult?
- Deciding which positions to apply for: 24.2%
- Preparing résumé & cover letter: 29.4%
- Job interview: 33.8%
- Salary negotiation: 8.6%
- Other: 4.2%
Some note-worthy write-in answers included “Requesting my professors to write a rec for me over and over,” “Everything requiring 3+ years of experience I don’t have and can’t get without already having 3+ years of experience,” and “Figuring out where to live.”
What could companies do to make the job application process easier?
- Make job descriptions less confusing: 9.7%
- Respond to applicants more quickly: 56.4%
- Simplify the interview process: 9%
- Eliminate cover letters: 21.8%
- Other: 3.1%
Respondents also added “Take out the ‘minimum one-year experience’ and hire new grads!” “Accept standardized formats of résumés to eliminate tedious manual entry of information,” and “Simplify the application process on their websites.”
What’s the main way you find out about job openings?
- Searching job boards: 56.1%
- Visiting a company’s website: 19.3%
- Attending career fairs or info sessions on campus: 10.1%
- Through friends or acquaintances: 11.5%
- Other: 3.1%
Notable write-in answers included “Recruiters contacting me,” “Email notification,” and “Social media.”
What do you like least about career fairs?
- They’re too crowded and I can’t talk to the companies I’m interested in: 38.5%
- The company representatives are rude or uninterested in me: 11%
- There’s too much going on and it’s hard to stay focused: 19.1%
- I don’t know—I’ve never been to a career fair: 26.1%
- Other: 5.4%
Other answers included “Career fairs I have attended tend to not cater to my career field,” “It is difficult to make a personal connection with your potential future employer while amongst so many others who are vying for the same job opportunities. Basically I find it difficult to make an effective first impression in order to separate myself from all the other candidates and make them remember me when they begin sorting résumés and scheduling interviews,” and “The career fairs are overcrowded and when you arrive the representatives simply tell you to go to the company website to apply for the jobs, which defeats the purpose of meeting face-to-face.”
What do you like least about company info sessions?
- They’re too long: 11.7%
- They’re boring: 9.3%
- They’re about a part of the company I’m not interested in: 8.8%
- I don’t know—I’ve never been to a company info session: 67.2%
- Other: 2.9%
Other answers included “They have little information that we don’t already know,” “Impersonal,” “They always direct you to their website, never give substantial information,” and “They focus more on a broad overview of the company instead of the day-to-day details within the actual company.” This confirms one of the points Mary Scott of Scott Resource Group brought up in her interview about recruiting toxic practices: “Students want to interact and hear the representatives’ stories and what they’re working on at the company, in a very granular way.”
However, a few students chose to write in positive reviews: “They are very informative. Love learning.” and “Personally, I like company information sessions. I have only been to very brief ones, but they have been intriguing and helpful in learning about the company.” So take heart—some students are actually listening!
What’s the most important factor to you when deciding where to apply?
- I think it’s a cool company: 14.6%
- I care about what the company does: 71.3%
- I’ve had a good experience with the company in the past: 3.3%
- Someone I know works there or used to work there: 2.6%
- Other: 8.1%
Notable write-in answers included “The company must align with my personal values and beliefs,” “Benefits. Specifically looking for good Retirement and Healthcare plans,” “Somewhere that will allow me to expand my knowledge even though my work experience is limited,” “Company culture and internal growth,” and “Location.”
A few stand-out points to keep in mind:
- Lack of communication throughout the application process is a pain point
- Career fair and info session attendees STRONGLY dislike being told to visit the company website
- Many current students and recent grads are confused by job descriptions that claim to be entry-level but require several years of experience
- A significant majority of students have never attended info sessions
- Students do about 75% of their job search online
- Gen Y applicants CRAVE personal connection. They want to feel connected to what a company is doing and also to the people who represent that company.
The next step: Can you use any of this information to improve the student/recent grad experience with your company and its application process? Maybe you could update your job descriptions to clarify that volunteer or internship experience will be considered or that candidates who are still in college or recently graduated are encouraged to apply.
Or you and your team could make a list of the most common requests you hear from students and come up with ideal ways to answer without referring them to your website.