UF Employer Retreat Sheds Insight Into Hiring in Today’s Market

Hiring a member of the millennial generation is not as simple as placing an Internet ad, recruiters learned at an Employer Retreat at the University of Florida. And keeping the best ones might be even harder.

Today’s college graduates are seeking and finding jobs on their smartphones, so you better be sure those ads are mobile device friendly. And with the lowest unemployment rate in seven years, and thousands of baby boomers retiring, employers are competing fiercely to find and retain the best hires.

Those were among the messages employers heard in a two-day program July 9-10 presented by UF’s Career Resource Center. Seven sessions taught recruiters what skills are being sought by employers and how to spot them in candidates. They also learned how UF is making sure its graduates meet the need.

Several factors beyond the low jobless rate are affecting the employment market now, according to Angel Iverson, associate director for employer development for the CRC. The U.S. is reducing its reliance on energy imports. The Affordable Health Care Act is affecting how people are covered and the overall health care system. The housing market is recovering, and the U.S. is lessening its reliance on outsourcing manufacturing.

Here are more trends for recruiters to consider:

  • Contractors and freelancers are expected to be 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.
  • 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 each day for the next two decades. Their likely retirement from senior positions will move middle managers up, creating lots of entry-level positions, Iverson said.
  • Thirty-six percent of employers report they have difficulty filling jobs, especially in information technology.
  • 250,000 jobs are being created each month this year, with a total of 20 million expected by 2020.

So who will be filling these jobs and vacancies as boomers retire? The millennials. They are defined as the 80 million people born between 1981 and 2000. They are career-minded, confident, connected and eager, Iverson said. Their top goals:

  • Good salary and benefits
  • Interesting and challenging work
  • Flexible work hours
  • Quick advancement.

Recruiters learned about the innovative ways companies are finding and keeping the best employees.

One recruiter said her company has started to hold “career conferences” for new employees, where they meet with higher-ups to talk about goals and more, and $1,000 is added to their salaries. Employers, concerned about turnover, are asking workers to give them a chance to match or exceed any job offers they may receive. Excellent employees in some progressive companies are being offered a $5,000 bonus for every referral who is hired and stays.

In a breakout session, several recruiters talked about how graduates could better prepare for interviews and their careers. Some candidates are surprised and frustrated when asked about their greatest weakness, even though that remains a standard interview question. One recruiter likes to see how they handle confrontation by questioning them hard about a claim on their resume believing it to be an effective indicator of how they will handle inevitable conflicts in the workplace. Some accounting graduates who lack communication skills give the impression they don’t believe they are necessary to being an accountant, one said.

Other recruiters complained about deficient writing abilities. “If they’re dropping grammar bombs right and left, do we have to go back and teach remedial English?” he asked. Others lack basic Excel knowledge. Another said he’s not merely interested in whether a candidate knows a technical skill but also when to apply it. Surprisingly, resumes often lack any contact information or the information supplied is incorrect, several participants said.

This year’s Employer Retreat had almost a 36 percent increase in registered employers over last year for a total of 87, according to Dana McPherson, marketing and digital media manager for the CRC.

Randall Shiver, project engineer for the Harris Corp. in Melbourne, has attended the Employer Retreat program before.  Part of his job is to recruit new employees in engineering, finance and other fields from UF.

“We’ve gotten some really good students both because of the technical classes they have here as well as their research – they prepare them pretty well for the work we do – there is a machine intelligence lab that we get a lot of good candidates from,” Shiver said.  The company maintains relationships with student organizations in the various fields where they find students who are “both technically competent and professionally trained.”

UF students are asked to complete a survey upon graduation. Survey results show their post-graduate plans such as jobs or graduate school, their fields and pay. Results can be found at http://www.ir.ufl.edu/graduation_survey/.


About the Author

Ron Wayne is a communicator working with startups in the Gainesville region. He can be reached at [email protected]

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