What do new grads want from an employer? To start, a salary range

In the past year, layoffs and hiring yo-yoed across industries, creating a sense of whiplash and anxiety for graduates of the Class of 2023. After witnessing the class before them enter a job market of inflated salaries and extraordinary perks, 2023 graduates are resetting their expectations, and focusing on some particular priorities, according to a recent report.

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In its eighth annual “Class of” report designed to uncover how college graduates’ career expectations meld with HR professionals’ hiring plans, iCIMS, a recruitment software company, surveyed 1,000 college seniors and 500 HR/recruiting professionals.

According to Laura Coccaro, iCIMS’ chief people officer, what’s most unique about this year’s class is that they are the first wave of “21st-century babies” to hit the workforce.

And while the Class of 2023 is anxious and eager to land a job, Coccaro details some ways in which they’re rewriting the rules of what they want in their careers. In the salary arena, for example, among those new rules of engagement is the high value they place on salary transparency: 43% of entry-level applicants say they would not apply for a job if the salary range was not included in the posting.

Laura Coccaro, iCIMS chief people officer
Laura Coccaro, iCIMS chief people officer

Coccaro says that response is especially critical for women and minority applicants, who historically experience workplace pay disparities. To that point, 48% of women noted they wouldn’t apply for a role that doesn’t include the salary range (only 30% of men would not apply sans salary range). Similarly, Black students are almost twice as likely not to apply as white students if the salary range is not listed.

“As part of their quest for stability,” she says, “job seekers are not going to waste their time playing a guessing game of how much money companies are willing to offer.”

See also: Gen Z is unhappy; 5 ways HR can create the EX young workers are craving

So, how much do new grads expect to be paid? College seniors surveyed anticipate an average salary of just over $66,000 (compared to more than $70,000 in 2022). While this year’s class has slightly lower expectations, there’s still a disconnect, Coccaro says, as the $66K figure is still approximately $8,000 more than employers want to pay. And there are already disparities by gender: Female students expect to earn around $5,500 less a year than their male counterparts; on the other hand, they want to see more benefits tied to long-term financial security.

New graduates also seeking help with quality of life at new jobs

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Fortunately, Coccaro says, salary is not the end-all and be-all for employers looking to attract the Class of 2023. To help make up for what employers may lack in salary offerings, job seekers are also looking for the former to help champion their quality of life holistically. This includes bonus or overtime pay, financial advisory programs, student loan repayment, mental health support and more.

“By representing an investment into their personal lives outside of work, employers have the ability to offer a certain value to entry-level candidates that they cannot provide with a desired salary,” Coccaro says, calling salary transparency the “bare minimum” of what employers should share with prospective candidates from the start.

But when it comes to the salary range, don’t bury it in a long-winded job post, she adds.

“Bring the salary front and center so it can’t be missed. Being transparent about salary is a deal-breaker for Gen Z, so show them what they want right off the bat to lock them in and avoid any lingering questions.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].