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What College Graduates Are Looking for in Employers (From a Recent Graduate!) 

Graduation caps thrown in the air

During a job search, it is important to think about what employers are looking for in candidates. Tailoring resumes according to different positions and companies can help job seekers to stand out in the crowd. Can employers do the same?  

Let’s discuss another equally important part of the hiring process: knowing what candidates are looking for from employers. Understanding the key priorities and long-term happiness factors for potential hires is essential for making successful recruitment decisions. Without this insight, it is challenging to attract and retain top talent. With it, employers can tailor their recruitment strategies and workplace offerings to appeal to college graduates. 


We spoke to two recent graduates at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. When asked, “What are you looking for in an organization?” they said: 


  • “A friendly and open work culture with the people I will be working with. It’s important for me to find a team where everyone is approachable and makes work more enjoyable.” 


  • “I am looking for a company where there is room for growth. I’d like to work my way up and be a part of a company that allows me to do this. A positive work culture is important as well.” 


Overall, we have found that what college graduates are looking for in an employer is opportunities for growth, a strong work environment, work-life balance, good pay, and being valued. 

  1. If there’s one thing about this new class of graduates, it’s that they want to learn! These candidates are eager to climb the ladder. They want a job where they can continue to learn and develop their skill set, and an organization that has room for growth. It is very appealing for a candidate to know that there’s an opportunity to grow within the company. This allows them to see a real future there. 

  2. This generation (along with everyone else already in the workforce!) is looking for a workplace that has a good environment and culture. We spend a lot, some might say the majority, of our time at work, and no one wants to spend it feeling unhappy or outcasted. A good work culture can take time to cultivate depending on where you’re starting from. Set specific goals and plans for how you’ll reach these goals. Make it known so that all team members are excited and on board. During the hiring process, not only can you preach about your amazing work culture, but you can hire those who will fit the work culture and continue to make it better. 

  3. Many recent graduates went through the COVID-19 pandemic during school. They quickly became accustomed to working remotely and online. The pandemic also opened the doors for remote working, making it common in today's work world. There will be some graduates who want to work fully online, and there will be some who will want to work in the office. But most graduates will expect flexibility. Not just with remote work, but also with life in general! Workers want to know that if things come up, their employers will be flexible with them. They gravitate towards companies that foster a culture of respect for boundaries. Recognizing the importance of mental health and personal well-being, recent graduates are drawn to organizations that prioritize work-life balance.

  4. It is not easy out there for recent graduates. Life is expensive! Many recent graduates are moving out of their college towns and taking on the world more independently. They will need reasonable pay and benefits so that they can live comfortably. While seeking entry-level positions, they are not expecting to make a fortune in their first role, but make sure your salaries align with market rates and are competitive for these upcoming candidates.  

  5. Feeling valued comes by acts of recognition, but also through adding value to their work. Firstly, incoming graduate employees want to feel appreciated by their leaders. Keeping in contact by checking in provides encouragement and motivation to those in any position, but especially those in a new role. These incoming graduates also want their work to have value. Ensure that all employees know how their part contributes to the organization's final goal. Seeing the bigger picture helps employees see how they’re making a difference!.


Remember, making successful hires is all about satisfying both sides. Hire those who will fit in with your organization and make it a better place, and make your company a place where employees want to be. For these recent graduates, that means having a workplace filled with continuous learning, a good work culture, work-life balance, good benefits, and the feeling of being valued.  

Kathy Panaro, Founder and CEO of The Panaro Group LLCKathy Panaro, Founder and CEO of The Panaro Group LLC
Kathy Panaro, Founder and CEO of The Panaro Group LLC

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