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March 26, 2024

New research from Handshake and SHRM: Preparing the next generation of talent for the world of work

Handshake and SHRM conducted a joint study to explore how employers evaluate emerging talent and what students and new grads are looking for in an employer.

Setting students and new graduates up for success in their first jobs is a critical goal for every organization. Given this, SHRM and Handshake set out to explore the skills emerging professionals need, how employers evaluate emerging talent, and what emerging professionals are looking for in an employer.

Emerging professionals are individuals who are in the early stages of their career, typically with less than three years of experience in their chosen field. They include students about to graduate and recent graduates from university, college or another educational program.

Based on surveys of HR professionals, students and early-career employees, we identified the following bright spots and areas of opportunity:

  • Emerging professionals are generally well prepared for the workforce. Seventy percent of HR professionals say early-career hires are prepared to succeed in their organizations within the first year.
  • Adaptability and willingness to learn and data analysis skills are among emerging professionals’ key strengths. Almost 90% of HR professionals say their organization looks for adaptability and willingness to learn in early-career hires, and close to 70% say emerging professionals commonly exhibit these traits. Additionally, more than 70% of emerging professionals report at least some experience with data analysis, which is a skill that nearly 6 in 10 employers are seeking from this group.
  • Emerging professionals have an opportunity to demonstrate stronger work ethic and reliability. Despite nearly 2 in 3 emerging professionals saying they have extensive experience demonstrating a strong work ethic and reliability, only 1 in 4 HR professionals say emerging professionals applying to their company commonly have this skill.
  • Interview performance is the top factor organizations consider when hiring emerging professionals. Seventy-nine percent of HR professionals say interview performance is “very important” in hiring decisions for entry-level roles, while 75% rate relevant work experience as “very important.” By contrast, only 7% of HR professionals say an applicant’s school or alma mater is a very important factor.
  • Employers tend to underestimate the importance of job stability in attracting emerging professionals. When asked how important certain benefits are in evaluating a job opportunity, nearly 7 in 10 emerging professionals named guaranteed hours or job stability as a “very important” factor. Yet, only 7% of HR professionals think that job security is in the top three benefits emerging professionals value most when choosing a job.
  • Opportunities to learn and grow are crucial to retaining emerging professionals. About a third of emerging professionals expect to stay at their next or current job for four years or more, but twice that many would stay four years or more if given consistent opportunities to build in-demand skills.

Explore the full report below for a deep dive on these findings and our recommendations for employers and emerging professionals.

Download PDF ↗

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