Attracting the Class of 2024 to Entry-Level Positions

It’s that time of year again: the Class of 2024 is leaving school and heading into the full-time workforce. Graduation season means new opportunities for companies to snap up the most promising talent from this year’s graduating class. Many of today’s new grads are seeking entry-level roles that nonetheless offer them the benefits they want and a path toward growing their careers for the long term.

At Kaizen, we’re here to help you build a winning strategy for recruiting the latest grads. Here’s what you should know.


Regaining a Sense of Balance

 The Class of 2024 enters a slightly more normalized job market than their predecessors. This spring, the job market is still a bit tighter than it was five years ago, but it has eased from the intensity of the past year or so. As a result, both job seekers and employers have lost some of their “advantage” in the marketplace. Instead of a playing field heavily tilted towards one side or the other, both sides face a relatively strong market and moderate competition, resulting in a greater willingness to compromise.

This revamped landscape shows up in recent research, too. A study in the Atlanta Business Journal found that the quit rate of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs has now declined to approximately pre-pandemic levels. Still, the number of job openings is higher than pre-pandemic. In particular, specific in-demand industries, like tech and healthcare, are still struggling to find enough qualified talent to fill all their open roles.

As a result, employers and employees alike must become more thoughtful and measured in their approach. It’s about being willing to take the time to find a good fit. Employers shouldn’t quickly hire the first qualified candidates or fear leaving roles empty, and candidates shouldn’t simply accept the first adequate offer out of fear of long-term unemployment. Instead, the Class of 2024 is entering a workforce where the people on both sides are thinking long-term, hoping to find a good fit to avoid rapid turnover or career missteps.

This approach is essential to consider with the outlook for the Class of 2024. The National Association of Colleges and Employers projects that overall hiring for the Class of 2024 will dip by 1.9%. In fairness, however, this downturn contrasts record-high hiring levels of the last couple of graduating classes. The same survey reports that over three-quarters of employers rate the job market for the Class of 2024 as “good” or “excellent,” indicating confidence in a strong talent market for these new grads.


Wage Premiums and Career Growth

 Even when hiring young grads for entry-level roles, organizations must keep the so-called “college wage premium” in mind. The Economic Strategy Group from the nonprofit Aspen Institute indicates a significant difference in annual earnings for employees with a college degree versus non-degreed individuals. Those with a bachelor’s degree may enjoy a 90% earnings premium, and even an associate’s degree correlates with a 19% premium.

Of course, the exact level of competition and wage increase must vary somewhat, depending on the demands of each individual field. The highest-paying majors are engineering, computer science, and other STEM fields. In turn, the wage premium and the competition (or the premium for advanced degrees or specialized certifications) are likely to be higher, too, even at lower levels.

The flip side of this, however, is the risk of underemployment. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that as many as 40% of recent graduates (between the ages of 22 and 27) are underemployed or working in jobs that don’t typically require a degree. Underemployment can be severely demotivating for graduates and indicates that companies fail to develop an adequate talent pipeline ready to advance through the ranks in future years.


Hiring New Grads in Entry-Level Roles

Today’s new graduates care about work-life balance just as much as they care about benefits and salary. They’re interested in growing their careers but don’t want to spend their lives tied to their desks. That being said, they’ve experienced the beginnings of adulthood in a time of historical uncertainty, so they’re searching for jobs that offer stability and hope for the future. As a result, today’s young graduates tend to be particularly thoughtful about what they want – and don’t want – from even entry-level jobs.

Hiring fresh graduates in entry-level roles is about identifying potential more than anything. These graduates may have spotty part-time work histories due to pandemic-era disruptions and stressors, and they may have spent significant time with remote learning and thus not developing some of the “soft skills” that previous generations have taken for granted. Both employers and job candidates should be thinking towards the future, focusing on questions like:

  • What paths are available for career growth, training or upskilling, and internal promotions?
  • Is the pay competitive, and what benefits are available?
  • What is the organizational culture like?
  • Does the company invest in mentorship or similar career development opportunities?

As companies look to fill entry-level roles and identify promising talent, the new college graduates can be the source of enormous potential in these early-career employees. Successful recruiting now can lead to long, mutually beneficial working relationships, but companies must attract those employees with a strong employee value proposition, including opportunities for long-term career growth. Hiring for entry-level roles can feel like just ticking off a checkbox. Still, a more strategic approach can land your organization the loyalty of exceptional talent early in their careers, offering a path to a promising pipeline to elevate your team’s success for many years.

By Rose Dorta

Are you a high-performing leader or believe you have the potential to tackle a more challenging role? Would you be interested in career opportunities that are seeking these attributes?

I’d love to chat with you and answer any questions that you have. Email me, Rose Dorta, Managing Director of Kaizen HR Solutions, here.


Share This...
You might also enjoy