Employers and the Class of 2016 Don’t Totally Understand Each Other

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There have been so many millennial recruiting studies and think pieces that, at this point, we all know what millennials want from their jobs. They want to make a difference. They want to make an impact. They care about organizational values and missions. Craft a strong employer brand and show off you commitment to making the world a better place, and you’ll have millennials knocking down your door, right?

Not so fast. According to new research from iCIMS, the things we think we know about millennial talent aren’t entirely accurate – at least, not when it comes to the class of 2016. Maybe it’s because the class of 2016 is on the younger end of the millennial spectrum and so embodies a different set of values than their older counterparts do, but whatever the case, iCIMS has found that this particular crop of young talent doesn’t care much for company missions.

No, to recruit the class of 2016, you’re going to have to show them the money: According to the iCIMS survey, 44 percent of the class of 2016 say that salary is the most important factor in determining job satisfaction. However, only 35 percent of recruiters said they believed salary mattered most to young workers.

What’s more, only 11 percent of the class of 2016 said the company mission was important in determining job satisfaction. Of all the job satisfaction factors, it ranked dead last. On the other hand, 21 percent of recruiters thought that company mission was important to the class of 2016.

There is a disconnect between what recruiters think young workers want and what those young workers actually want. This could be disastrous for recruiting efforts: If you’re busy pitching your company mission, your competitors hawking fat salaries are going to beat you every time.

The takeaway for both recruiters/employers and recent grads should be clear: You’re both guilty of misunderstanding one another. It’s time to get your expectations and beliefs in line with reality.
The takeaway for both recruiters/employers and recent grads should be clear: You’re both guilty of misunderstanding one another. It’s time to get your expectations and beliefs in line with reality.
Infographic: Cheri Saddul, Recruiter.com Source: “The Class of 2016 Report,,” iCIMS Hire Expectations Institute

But what’s the reason for this disconnect? Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS, thinks there are a few factors at play. First, she says, some recruiters might be operating from outdated assumptions.

“Recruiters are still referring to things that were important [to the workforce] in the past – things that are not necessarily important now,” Vitale says.

Vitale also believes that ballooning levels of student loan debt may have forced this latest group of graduates to get a little more pragmatic when it comes to their career goals.

“Student debt is on the rise, which might be why outgoing grads are prioritizing salaries over anything else,” Vitale says.

And what about those company missions? Have millennials become totally mercenary?

“I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that millennials really care about making a difference, but I think that recruiters might be saying it over and over again without listening to what their candidates actually want,” Vitale says. “Maybe this round of millennials cares more about brass tacks and paying bills instead of making the world a better place – but possibly that’s just [the case] for their first job out of school.”

Vitale also notes that education is the most popular industry with the class of 2016 – an industry that isn’t exactly known for its lucrative gigs.

“It seems to be counterproductive to them wanting to make a ton of money,” Vitale says. “It may be a case where many are thinking, ‘I want to believe in a mission and make a difference, but I also want to make enough money to pay off my debt.’”

Miles Jennings, CEO of Recruiter.com, adds that the employer/young worker disconnect may also be due in part to the fact that these brand new job seekers don’t have much experience in the the world of business just yet. Instead, much of their experience has been gleaned from their educations, which aren’t totally aligned with the realities of professional America.

“Recruiters and hiring managers, in contrast, are intimately aware of the practical needs of their businesses,” Jennings says. “These business needs change rapidly and do not correspond to most normal tracks in education. Young job seekers often don’t have insight into the real needs of the current job market, and colleges often do little to help.”

On the Flip Side, the Class of 2016 Has Some Unrealistic Salary Expectations

Paychecks matter to the class of 2016. We’ve established that. But unfortunately for them, their first paychecks may not be exactly what they were expecting.

Forty-two percent of the college seniors surveyed by iCIMS said they expected to earn $50,000 a year or more at their first jobs – but only 23 percent of employers pay entry-level employees that much money. The vast majority of employers pay their entry-level workers less than $50,000 a year.

Men held particularly erroneous salary expectations, with 56 percent of them believing they would make $50,000+ right out of college. Women, on the other hand, were more realistic: 68 percent of them felt they would make less than $50,000, which, based on the stats, is a much safer bet.

It’s tough to figure out why so many members of the class of 2016 have such inflated salary expectations, and it’s even harder to explain why more men than women had those expectations. For that, we’d probably need the help of a sociologist.

That being said, Vitale has one theory as to why the class of 2016 expects to make more than they realistically will: startup culture.

“I think part of it has to do with romanticizing certain industries, like tech,” Vitale says. “A lot of students in this age group think they can start a startup in their garage and suddenly become Mark Zuckerberg.”

Regardless of whether or not these young workers can build the next Facebook, their somewhat idealistic salary desires may not turn out to be such a bad thing.

“There’s nothing wrong with having certain salary expectations, whether they are realistic or not. This is the beauty of ‘at will,’ market-driven employment,” says Ashley Saddul, CTO of Recruiter.com. “It’s up to the class of 2016 to make their case to recruiters or employers.”

If young workers think they deserve more than the market rate, they’ll need to prove it – and if they can, then their expectations may not be so unrealistic after all.

Saddul also cautions the class of 2016 against seeing salary as the be-all, end-all when it comes to compensation.

“What the class of 2016 should understand, however, is that salary is but one aspect of compensation,” he says. “Work-life balance, flexible hours, commute time, profit sharing, or stock option plans should also be considered when making a decision regarding compensation.”

The takeaway for both recruiters/employers and recent grads should be clear: You’re both guilty of misunderstanding one another. It’s time to get your expectations and beliefs in line with reality.

But how?

“It starts at the college level,” Saddul says. “Recruiters should be a lot more engaged with career counselors and college students.”

Jennings agrees: “I would suggest that colleges, as often as possible, bring in diverse sets of professionals from all walks of life and careers to speak to the students. The gap seems to be in the practical ramifications of specific careers. Students should be much more informed than they are about the specific trade-offs that they will make during the course of their careers.”

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