National Survey Finds College Doesn’t Prepare Students for Job Search

A new study from Millennial Branding and reveals how personality can impact hiring and long term career prospects

Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and Nexxt, a career network focused on helping people grow and succeed professionally, today announced the results of a study entitled, “The Multi-Generational Job Search.” Following a national survey of job seekers and HR professionals, 43% of the 2,978 respondents said that “cultural fit” was the single most important determining factor when making a new hire. And while academic success was helpful, the majority of hiring managers (64%) would still consider a candidate who hadn’t even attended college.

According to the survey, the top three attributes that companies are currently looking for are: a positive attitude (84%), communication skills (83%) and an ability to work as a team (74%). However despite this need, liberal arts majors were shown to be the least likely to land a job, with only 2% of companies actively recruiting those graduates – versus 27% for engineering and computer information systems and 18% for business.

Based on the data, acquiring a college degree is important, but may take a backseat to an applicant’s personality. In fact, 73% of hiring managers felt that colleges are only “somewhat preparing” students for the working world. The biggest challenges facing hiring managers seem to be how the job seeker presents themselves – 36% of HR Pros reported that candidates are “unprepared” and 33% said they have a “bad attitude” when interviewing.

The survey looked at Gen Z (Ages 20 or younger), Gen Y (Ages 21-32), Gen X (Ages 33-49), and Baby Boomers (Ages 50-68). Responses were then segmented into whether the respondent was an employer, or a job seeker.

Highlights from the Employer Responses:

  1. Cultural Fit is Key – 43% of HR professionals rank “cultural fit” as the single most important thing in the hiring process, followed by “relevant courses” (21%) and “internship experience” (13%). Only 2% ranked “GPA” as being most important in the recruiting process.
  2. Job Boards Are Effective – 45% of HR professionals find candidates on job boards, followed by their company website (18%) and employee referrals (17%). 71% said that referral candidates get high priority when deciding whom to hire.
  3. Employers Want Personality – The top three skills hiring managers are looking for are: a positive attitude (84%), communication skills (83%) and teamwork skills (74%). The least important skills were:  “having a global perspective” (10%) and “working virtually” (10%).
  4. College Isn’t Everything – 64% of employers would consider a candidate without a college degree, and 65% said that where a candidate went to school doesn’t matter. 73% feel that college is only somewhat preparing students for the working world.
  5. Employers Can’t Communicate Needs – 61% of companies said that their talent needs have changed over the past two years, but 54% haven’t communicated those changes to the student marketplace.
  6. Students are Unprepared – 36% of respondents said they are unprepared, and 33% said they have a bad attitude when interviewing. Employers suggested candidates could stand out in the recruiting process by “learning as much as possible” about their company (57%), “bringing a portfolio” of work (15%), and “bringing a case study” showing the results from a project (10%).

Highlights from the Job Seekers Responses:

  1. Salary & Meaningful Work Are Key – The two most important benefits all generations look for when selecting an employer are “salary” (30%) and “meaningful work” (30%). Only 10% said “healthcare benefits” and 2% said “401K” plan.
  2. Jobs are Online – The most popular way respondents are getting jobs is through “online job boards” 28%, followed by “company websites” and “referrals” at 8%. Only 2% have gotten a job from a career fair. More Gen Y’s are getting jobs through job boards than older generations and when it came to social networks, 53% are applying to jobs through LinkedIn, followed by 19% for Google+ and 10% for Facebook.
  3. Is College Worth It? – Although 71% of all generations pay their way through college, 31% of job seekers said that a degree isn’t worth the cost. Due to the high price of education:- 41% said it’s going to take 4 or more years to pay back student loans
    – 53% said that colleges should be accountable for getting students jobs
    – 33% of all generations would have rather started a business than attended college in the first place
    – 59% said that college doesn’t prepare students for the real world
  4. Young Entrepreneurs – 65% of Gen Z and 62% of Gen Y are either somewhat interested or very interested in starting a company, versus 54% of Gen X and 40% of Boomers. Gen Y’s (47%) and Gen Z’s (60%) are slightly more likely to work at a start-up than Gen X (43%) and Boomers (45%).

“In the current economy, majoring in liberal arts won’t yield good job prospects so you have to pair a liberal arts degree with business courses in order to become a more appealing candidate. Students have to up their game by being prepared for interviews, presenting their best self and matching their work style with the right company culture if they want to successfully find a job.”

– Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself

“You hire a person, not a resume and college graduates need to take this into account as they prepare for their career.  Corporations are looking to make a long term hire and look for individuals that are flexible and can work well in a team environment.  It is important to study a company prior to the interview, show them your passion and present yourself in the best possible light. Recent college grads need to remember that there is still one exam left – the one-on-one interview.”

– Rich Milgram, Founder and CEO of Nexxt

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Nexxt is a recruitment media company that uses today’s most effective marketing tactics to reach the full spectrum of talent – from active to passive, and everything in between. Learn more about hiring with Nexxt.


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