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2016 college grads: Prepare for a cutthroat job market

Sharon Florentine | July 1, 2016
The quarterly U.S. Hiring Trends Report from talent acquisition solutions provider iCIMS reveals that new graduates should prepare for some serious competition in the job market.

Get your game face on, class of 2016, because according to the quarterly U.S. Hiring Trends Report from talent acquisition solutions provider iCIMS, the job market is getting increasingly more competitive.

The research, which covers hiring trends from Q1 to Q4 2015 based on user data from 3,200 iCIMS customers, showed the already tight talent market constricting even more, and highlighted just how cutthroat the IT job market can be.

Supply and demand

In Q4 2015, in the Information sector -- which includes IT and telecommunications companies, among others -- there were an average of 41 applicants for every open position filled; nearly twice the number (21) in any other market segment, according to the data.

"That's an incredibly competitive landscape for new grads looking for jobs. And it's an even greater spread when you look at the Northeast region; there were approximately 26 applicants for every job filled and the Northeast had the highest ration of supply to demand for every quarter in 2015," says Al Smith, vice president of technology for iCIMS.

Underemployment

Increased competition could be one factor in the continuing problem of underemployment. Despite steady overall job growth, the number of full-time jobs created relative to part-time, contingent and internship positions is only 0.3 percent, says Josh Wright, iCIMS chief labor economist.

"Underemployment is one of the most disappointing aspects we see in this report. When we asked respondents, they said that their reasons for accepting a part-time job were involuntary or 'for economic reasons,' meaning they were looking for full-time work, but weren't able to get it, so they were settling for other options," Wright says.

The skills gap

The skills gap, too, continues to play a role, as the educational systems struggles to keep up with the fast-changing skills and experience needs of IT companies, says Smith.

"New grads are in a precarious position. Nowadays, employers are looking for hard, STEM skills, and while students are responding to that in terms of the kind of degrees they're seeking, there's still not enough to meet that demand. We're seeing a lot of emphasis on cloud technology, DevOps and other forms of technology automation, but again, finding those skills is increasingly hard," he says.

The job market in 2016 doesn't necessarily demand a degree from a certain brand-name school, but successfully landing a job is easier if your university or college offers co-op, internships and real-world work experience programs, Smith says.

"When I'm hiring, I'm giving a bias to these proactive schools that have programs like hackathons, internships and the like that prioritize students' real-world and on-the-job experience, especially for software engineers. These are the schools that are providing the most relevant education and these are the graduates that are landing jobs," he says.

 

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