College students and parents everywhere are asking the question: will I (or my son/daughter) be able to find a job when I (he/she) graduate?  A legitimate question as the national unemployment rate hovers at 8.6% and has been reported as high as 16% for those between the ages of 16 and 24.

For college graduates, the expectations for 2102 are more positive then we’ve seen since 2007: targeted hiring of those with a BA/BS is expected to increase by 7% in 2012.  At first glance, these numbers are most welcome but there are some caveats to this information: almost as many employers surveyed reported a significant increase in hiring this year as those who reported a significant decrease in hiring (the numbers ranged from an increase of 45% to a decrease of 46%).  In addition, there are simply fewer jobs than college graduates. Thus, it behooves those students who are getting ready to enter the job market to research those employers who are hiring and prepare themselves to be the most qualified.

Where will the jobs be this year for those brand new graduates?

First, company size.  Companies who have between 9 and 100 employees show the biggest increase in hiring college graduates this year: 19%.  Organizations with 101-500 employees report no change in hiring, companies that have between 50 and 3,999 employees report a 3% decrease in hiring and large companies with over 4,000 employees expect to hire 9% more college graduates this year than last.

Next, industry sector. The retail industry expects to hire 25% more college graduates this year over last.  Similar increases were reported for information services (23%), healthcare (23%) and transportation (20%).  Manufacturing and utilities are projecting negative trends in college graduate hiring.  Finance and insurance expect to increase hiring this year by 6%.

Finally, by region.  The southwest region tops the list with a projected 14% hiring increase, followed by the southeast at 12% and the Great Lakes region at 10%.  The Northwest region reported a 4% decrease in hiring.  The northeast reported a 3% increase.

What are the employers who are hiring looking for in a college graduate?

  • Fit.  Will the candidate fit in with the culture of the organization?
  • Flexibility.  Will the candidate do whatever is asked of them?
  • The ability to “cross boundaries”, or mix technical skills with people skills.

College graduates must be able to articulate how their experiences have helped them develop these skills and how they will bring those skills to a professional setting.

Source: Michigan State University, Recruiting Trends

Susan Kennedy is the Founder of Career Treking, a job coaching firm that specializes in helping college students and graduates identify and find the right job. Since 2005, Susan has helped countless college grads find their ideal position and career path, regardless of college major. Susan has also published a book, The Job Coach for Young Professionals. You can find Susan on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @SusanCareerTrek.