As of mid-February 2022, the acceptance rate of full-time job offers was up 20% among graduate business students from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business compared to the same time last year. Though there are several global financial and current events that could impact the economy moving forward, the current job market is hot, and graduate business students are capitalizing.
But the hiring process does not happen in a vacuum. It takes a core team of experts to support students as they navigate different opportunities, companies, and circumstances. Over the last two years, specifically, new technologies have changed the job search landscape and market demand has impacted the way businesses look at employee incentives and corporate initiatives to attract the best talent.
The Mason School has deftly adapted to these changes, and the dedicated professionals from the Graduate Career Management Center (GCMC) have kept a pulse on industry through numerous corporate partnerships to best prepare students to be successful as they search for employment post-graduation.
“Our students are hearing this is the best job market in 20 years but it doesn’t mean they’ll be hired in a week’s time. They have to put in the time and energy into their resume and work with somebody on that,” said Patrice Lincoln, Director of Graduate Career Advising and Education. “Companies are pushing to get students in early, have them sign on the dotted line, and secure full-time and internship opportunities but there are several contributing factors to those efforts.”
Lincoln explained that the high levels of acceptance for Mason School students are attributed to an industry-led increase in the types of jobs students are seeking, implementing new tools and technologies to connect with the right opportunities, encouraging students to apply old-fashioned networking skills to their search, and maintaining resilience throughout the process.
Flexibility, Social Impact, and Sustainability
Flexibility is the most important thing to people actively looking for new employment opportunities. Professionals are demanding employers offer work-from-home or hybrid schedules, especially those that have small children or are caring for an elder.
“They really need that flexibility to work on their own terms and work the hours they need to work,” Lincoln said.
Companies are listening.
“Many of our corporate partners are now offering remote work options given employees can often work at home without impacting productivity. This has been a key recruiting lever for companies such as PwC which offers their employees the flexibility to work anywhere they want, and has allowed them to compete for top talent,” said Mike Ryan, Director of Corporate Relations & Employer Engagement.
The pandemic caused workers to experience burnout at higher rates which led to people assessing what really matters to them the most. So in addition to flexibility, professionals are looking for opportunities that offer more vacation time and access to mental health resources. Current students are also looking for companies with strong social impact and sustainability initiatives.
“They want to feel good about the company they work for. They want to feel good about their leadership. They want to know that their employer is doing good for the world, whether it’s environmental, equity and inclusion, or corporate social responsibility,” said Lincoln.
And the market is responding favorably.
“Companies are looking for ways to do things differently and our students are able to find jobs in those areas easier. Years before, there were no jobs available to graduate students right out of school that serve those functions, but now companies are creating Executive Director- or Director-level roles in corporate social responsibility, in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and we have a lot of students entering those spaces,” Lincoln explained.
Technology: from Foe to Friend
Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS are software applications that enable the electronic, and automated, handling of recruitment and hiring needs by using a database to organize, search, and communicate with groups of applicants. Companies originally implemented the technology to help human resources departments manage the sheer volume of applications tied to one job announcement.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is incorporated into ATS applications to vet resumes for key words but the models are not smart enough yet to identify synonymous references that are not a 100% match. For example, an ATS may not recognize a job title of “project manager” as the same as a candidate having “project management” experience listed in an executive summary or a work experience bullet, so the system may pass over that resume.
“We spend time with our students on the particular job descriptions and we try to avoid “quick applies” because the success rate is lower because we’re not tailoring their resumes,” Lincoln said. “It’s the age-old philosophy of quality over quantity.”
The GCMC has preliminarily adopted some new tools like “Job Scan” which cross references a company with which ATS they’re using and tips about that particular system. The graduate advisors are also ensuring students highlight the trending soft skills recruiters are looking for in their candidates.
A recent Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Recruiter survey found 73% of recruiters are looking for versatility in skills. Communication is the top skill in demand and since the pandemic, digital savviness rose to the top of the list. Strategic thinking and how candidates can drive change in an organization is another top quality recruiters are looking for from graduates.
Networking Gives a Leg Up
According to Lincoln, the greatest successes Mason School students have experienced in their job searches are as a result of old-fashioned networking.
“About two percent of the class will tell me they love networking, but the likeability factor is huge when you’re applying to a company. Likeability isn’t something that can be conveyed through an ATS. When you have a hiring manager walking your resume down to HR versus the machine saying whether you’re a good fit, that makes a world a difference,” she said.
Mason School graduate students have ample opportunities to grow their network and communicate with talent managers and human resources professionals at companies across many different industries and functions through recruiting events held on campus throughout the academic year including Tech Day, Meet the Firms Friday, DoG Street to Wall Street, and other job fairs, information sessions, and on-campus interviews. The pandemic also created opportunities for new partnerships through both virtual and hybrid communications models, which students have been able to take advantage of as well.
“For William & Mary, the virtual shift has had its advantages given many top companies moved away from traditional on-campus recruiting and saw this as an opportunity to explore connecting with new schools virtually through Zoom and Teams where travel and recruiting budgets may have been a roadblock in the past,” said Ryan. “Due to this, we have opened new doors with employers for virtual sessions, thought leadership panels, and even connections through our Handshake career services platform.”
Graduate students may also attend career fairs off-campus with on-site support from GCMC advisors like the National Black MBA conference. And the GCMC staff is continuously connecting current students with Tribe alumni across the globe who work in companies or organizations of interest.
“I can’t say enough about networking,” said Lincoln. “When our students find a company they love, we encourage them to reach out to people for informational interviews even if there’s no connection so they can gain a better understanding of what the company culture is like and if it really is a good fit for them. The job search process is a tough process to go through in any market but it’s about having resilience and confidence in yourself and your skill set, what you’ve acquired throughout your time as a student, and accessing support when you need it.”