How Covid has changed graduate career preparation and recruitment in U.S.

Oct 25, 2022 | Research, Sector & policy

Graduate career preparation and recruitment in the United States has changed since the pandemic, explains Claire Mason from the Global Career Services Summit.

There is no doubt that the Covid pandemic has revolutionised the world of work and graduate job markets. What skills and competencies do young professionals need to navigate the post-pandemic world of work?

This is why The International Network of Employers and University Career Services (INEUCS) was formed. The world’s leading employer and careers advisory associations from Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States have been brought together by the Global Career Services Summit.

This brings together teams of experts from industry and academia to provide its members with an insight into the key strategic and tactical approaches being deployed by recruiters and universities in the field of graduate employability.

Our latest webinar focused on graduate career preparation and university recruiting in the United States. The presentation, by Shawn VanDerziel, Executive Director, National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and David Ong, Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Maximus and former President of NACE, highlighted some interesting trends during the pandemic recovery period and considerations for the future reset.


US graduate job market

It is no surprise that during the pandemic employment rates of US graduates dropped significantly (NACE First Destination Survey), however the 2022 labour market is looking much stronger.

Employer ratings of the job market for graduates in 2021/22 was regarded as very good, with a significant increase in the job outlook for the class of 2022. This is great news!


Pandemic impact on internships

The pandemic triggered a rethink of US recruitment activities resulting in an increase of virtual career fairs and internships.

Virtual internships were considered to be successful with employers perceiving the quality of cohorts work performance and diversity of cohort to be much better in 2020. This was however at the cost of a reduction in quality interaction and camaraderie of interns.

Conversion rates during the pandemic were significantly improved from 55.5% in 2019 to 66.4% in 2020. However, this saw a steep decline in 2021 (51%) back towards the mean of previous years, prompting us to ask, why?

Shawn, suggested a change in student attitudes and behaviours could be the cause. Students employment priorities have changed over the last few years with salary becoming less important and opportunities to develop skills and competencies taking precedent.

Internships in 2021 and predicted data for 2022 shows that virtual and in-person recruitment activities are here to stay with the majority of internships adopting a hybrid approach and with travel restrictions for employers opening up, in person career fairs are on the increase. This all sounds great! However, there is a caveat to all this, disparities exist in internships and pay rates!


Evidence of disparity

In the US women earn 82-83 cents on the dollar to men. It has long been considered that this is due to family reasons (women taking time away to have children, care for family etc). NACE conclude that this is a myth. They found that this gender disparity starts at the beginning of their career.

Data shows the starting salary for men and women mirrored the national data, that women earn 82-83 cents on the dollar to men. Women also make up the majority of students in the US, but only account for 42% of interns in 2021, with the majority of these in unpaid internships.

There are also disparities when we look at race. White men are overrepresented as a proportion of paid internships in the US.

It was particularly interesting that NACE looked at students perceptions of virtual recruiting job search experiences and found that black students were much more likely to perceive that they learned more from a virtual experience. This was even true if they had not previously taken part in an in-person experience. This was dramatically different to the perception of white students.

These disparities matter, as Shawn pointed out, employers make decisions based on internship experiences. David made a call to action to everyone, do whatever you can to diminish these disparities. This will take all of us to correct – equity needs to be a priority!

The US has seen a decline in screening by grade point average (GPA) (dropped from 75% to 46% in the last three years). Screening by GPA is an equity issue that excludes students in ways not relevant to the job.

NACE have established a career readiness framework to help practitioners on both the employer and college sides to better understand what competencies are needed for the world of work. This work is intended to help close the competencies and skills gap, helping students to demonstrate concrete examples of skills and competencies in applications and interviews.

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