What Recent College Graduates Are Looking For in Their First Job

July 13, 2015

If you want to attract recent college graduates to your company, new data shows the secret is selling them not so much on the job itself, but where that job can take them.

Put another way, young talent wants their first job to be a stepping-stone in their career, not just something that pays the bills.

Recently, LinkedIn surveyed 25,311 people and asked them what they cared most about when considering a job opportunity. Compensation was the top factor cited by the students and recent graduates surveyed, although it was cited less often in that group than it was within the overall workforce.

Meanwhile, college students and recent college graduates cared much more about how the job would advance their career and the development opportunities it offers than the average employee. Here are the full results of the survey:

what students are looking for in a job

As you see, compensation was cited by 61 percent of students and recent college graduates as a key factor to taking a job, but that was 6 percent lower than the average employee. Students and recent graduates also cared less about their contribution to the company and the vision that company has, compared to the general workforce.

Meanwhile, students and recent graduates cited career path 11 percent more often and development 9 percent more often as a key factor to taking a new job, when compared to the rest of the workforce.

How to use those results to inform your recruiting 

The results of the survey are logical. Generally, the lowest-paid position a person will have in their career is their first one out of college. What’s more valuable in the long run to them is learning skills in that first job that will lead to a higher-paying, higher-prestige position.

Of course, people will always care about what they are paid, their work-life balance and the culture of your organization. But if you don’t want to compete on salary (and you shouldn’t), a winning recruiting strategy is to show off the skills a young hire can learn at your organization.

Two strong examples of recruitment videos that sell career progression:


First off, this video is engaging, which is always a positive. Second, the video discusses fulfilling “unquestioned potential” by providing intense and challenge work for their new hires.

Overall, it makes for an inspirational recruitment pitch to recent grads.


GE, being one of the largest, most stable and most diverse companies in the world, takes advantage of that in this video. Here, they showcase how no matter what a person’s desires are, they can turn it into a career at GE.

This is very attractive for new graduates because of the comfort it provides. The overarching message is if a person joins GE out of college, they can stay at the company their whole career, and always be faced with new opportunities.

Take away

As recruiting guru Lou Adler has argued many times, you don’t want your main selling point in recruiting to be compensation. Instead, you want to sell the job itself, with the compensation being an additional bonus.

Of course, to execute that strategy, you need to understand what the person is looking for. In the case of recent college graduates, it’s really a position that will advance their career.

So when you’re building your college recruiting strategy, make sure there’s a clear story around how your company will help them years down the line. If it’s truly convincing, recent graduates will come to you not for the money, but for the opportunity.

Student Recruiting Ebook