african american male  graduateIf donning a very fashionable cap and gown, listening to lengthy commencement speeches and making it through a graduation party where the most common phrase is “Have you found a job yet?” sounds like a less than ideal way to end your college career, at least you have this to look forward to: 57 percent of employers say they plan to hire new college graduates, up from 53 percent last year and up significantly from 44 percent in 2010, according to a new CareerBuilder and study.

But if you’re wondering why 100 percent of employers aren’t frantically emailing you job offers, it’s time to get wise about some of the hiring concerns related to recent grads. “Education plays a critical role in bridging the skills gap and fostering a capable and productive workforce,” says Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America. “The vast majority of employers feel that the skills and knowledge base students gain at academic institutions are aligned with their company needs, but nearly one in four sense a disconnect. As roles within organizations grow more complex and demand for certain degrees outpaces graduation rates, there is an opportunity for employers to work more closely with schools to help guide learning experiences for the next generation of workers.”

Read on to learn about your job prospects, what kind of pay you might expect and how you can make employers see you’re the right person for their team.

Which majors are most in demand?
As with years past, demand for business and technical majors remains high. The most sought-after majors this year include:

  • Business – 39 percent
  • Computer and information sciences – 28 percent
  • Engineering – 18 percent
  • Math and statistics – 14 percent
  • Health professions and related clinical sciences – 14 percent
  • Communications technologies – 12 percent
  • Engineering technologies – 11 percent
  • Education – 7 percent
  • Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities – 10 percent
  • Science technologies – 7 percent
  • Communication and journalism – 7 percent

However, remember that just because you got the degree, it doesn’t mean that you’ve got the job yet. Employers expect to see proof that you’ll be ready to apply your learning to their company. Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, in an interview for USA Today, voices the concerns employers may have: “These companies may think the graduates are academically strong, but they aren’t sure they are prepared for the complexity of today’s jobs. Companies are asking these questions about graduates: Are they just book smart? Or will they have street smarts as well? The marketplace is evolving at a faster pace than it did in the past, and academia may not be keeping pace with technology that businesses need.”

Put these employer concerns to rest
To avoid getting passed over for more experienced candidates, be sure to address the concerns of employers in your application materials. Point to examples in your course work, internships, volunteer experiences and personal projects that demonstrate just how qualified and capable you are.

The most common concerns employers have that recent grads may not be ready include:

  • Too much emphasis on book learning instead of real world learning – 53 percent
  • My company needs a blend of technical skills and soft skills gained from liberal arts – 35 percent
  • Entry level roles are growing more complex – 26 percent
  • Not enough focus on internships/apprenticeships – 16 percent
  • Technology is changing too quickly for academics to keep up – 16 percent
  • Not enough students are graduating with the degrees my company needs – 10 percent

And be even more aware if you’re applying for the following positions, as employers are most concerned about roles tied to customer service (41 percent), public relations/communications (22 percent), business development (21 percent), sales (21 percent), general office functions (20 percent), and IT (18 percent). These are some of the more competitive fields that employers don’t want to risk adding a bad hire to, so quell their concerns and prove you’ve got what it takes to keep up.

What kind of paycheck can you expect?
Your pay will largely depend on what field you enter and the size and success of the organization, as well as what negotiation skills you bring to the table. But according to the survey results, employers are expected to offer new graduates the same starting salaries they did last year and nearly one-third (30 percent) say they expect their initial offers to increase.

Expected starting salaries for recent graduates break down as follows:

  • Under $30,000 – 26 percent
  • $30,000 to less than $40,000 – 30 percent
  • $40,000 to less than $50,000 – 20 percent
  • $50,000 and higher – 24 percent

In order to compete for the best pay, learn from one of the take-away messages of the survey: Employers are expecting more of their employees in entry-level jobs, says Prasanna Tambe, an assistant professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, and one of the authors of “The Talent Equation”. “Those first jobs are more complex than they used to be, requiring more industry acumen and technical skills. In fact, for many jobs today, it’s important to have a blend of interpersonal and technical skills. It’s hard to get all that from classes in college. A lot comes from hands-on work experience.”