Ann Hartley sits at her desk, ready to help students at the KU Career Center. College graduates entering the workforce have a lot to look forward to as recruiting trends have shown the labor market bouncing back.

College graduates entering the workforce have a lot to look forward to. Recruiting trends have shown the labor market bouncing back 18 months after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The 51st Annual Recruiting Trends Survey and Report, recently released by Michigan State University, was the focus of a virtual event hosted Nov. 16 by the University Career Center and Lawrence organizations. 

The report found that employers are “buoyant and resilient about the opportunities available to college students in 2021-2022,” with 66% of employers describing the overall new college labor market as “very good” or “excellent.“

Phil Gardner, executive director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, shared his impressions of the current labor market and workplace conditions.

One of the biggest impacts over the last year has been the shift to virtual recruiting said Gardner, who has done 25 recruiting reports. Fifty-percent of surveyed employers said they have been able to recruit nationally, whereas, in the past, that percentage was usually in the low 20s, according to the report

“The relaxing geographic boundaries move the college labor more, to more a national focus, which breaks down lots of barriers,” Gardner said. 

Ann Hartley, associate director of the University of Kansas Career Center, said this shift has been represented in the virtual career fairs held at KU. More companies have been able to attend and recruit in an online format. 

“There are employers who can take advantage of virtual events who might not otherwise travel to campus to meet students. Employers enjoy cost savings with virtual recruiting,” Hartley said. “We have seen more employers offering their own virtual events for students to attend to learn about them and their opportunities.” 

She also said many employers are continuing to conduct virtual interviews because the technology is available to everyone, and some people even prefer the online format.

“There are more remote working options available to employees and lots of people are wanting to have remote options for work. Some employers are using a hybrid model where employees can work part of the time at home and part of the week in the office,” Hartley said. 

Lydia Poer, a senior studying strategic communications at KU and on track to graduate in May, said the possibilities of virtual interviews make her nervous as she enters the workforce. 

“It is something that I have been able to get used to with online classes but it is still a strange reality that people in my position have to deal with,” Poer said. 

While national recruiting is up, Gardner said regional employers still have an advantage as many students want to stay regional. 

Gardner said flexibility is a top factor in what employers are looking for when interviewing. 

“The pandemic has caused many employers to reevaluate positions and assignments and how they work together. With that being said, employers want candidates that can adapt to the constant changes,” Gardner said.

Hartley said, in her experience, candidates stand out to employers when they are prepared and present themselves professionally.

“Many people find a great first job because they talked with someone at a career fair or some other type of event. Take advantage of all the tools available online to find jobs and submit your resume, but also reach out to people and use a personal approach,” Hartley said. 

Hartley said it is important to research companies and know what you want and what they have to offer when looking for a job. 

“In addition to work experience, think about your abilities, what you are good at, and what you have to offer to an employer,” Hartley said. “Research employers and careers before starting a job search so that you have an idea in mind about the type of career you want and what an entry-level job for a new college graduate would look like.”

Poer said her job search experience has given her mixed feelings. 

“It definitely was not what I expected when I pictured myself looking for a job. I think the pandemic changed a lot of my expectations and caused a lot of uncertainty, you know, for what I am going to do after graduation,” Poer said. “I am glad employers have been able to adapt with us as we learn how to navigate everything, but I am glad to hear that the job market is recovering.”