The Class of 2024 is Getting Long-Awaited Stability in the Current U.S. Job Market, but Are They Betting All of their Cards on It? New iCIMS Research Reveals College Graduates Are Taking Control of their Post-Grad Narrative

iCIMS data underscores Gen Z is taking notes from past pandemic era-graduates and rewriting their employer wish list

Following four years of pandemic-induced entry-level hiring volatility, including mass-layoffs, tough competition and fluctuating hiring rates, the Class of 2024 is refusing to repeat the patterns of their predecessors and doing what they can to guarantee a successful post-grad experience. A new iCIMS report reveals that while the see-saw the market rode last year has leveled off, the newest class of talent is cautiously optimistic.

Informed by iCIMS data from more than 200M applications and 5.5M hires annually and sentiment from more than 500+ U.S. college seniors/recent graduates, the iCIMS Insights June Workforce Report (“Class of 2024 Report”) examines Gen Z’s expectations and preferences as they enter the workforce. It covers salary expectations, employer “must-haves,” long-term intentions and alternative options.

“Employers are showing continued confidence in the labor market, with hires and openings up for the third consecutive month, but the Class of 2024 is smart to remain cautious,” said Rhea Moss, head of global workforce and customer insights, iCIMS. “While this class has been craving stability, they aren’t sold yet. Employers should heed their hesitation as a call-to-action to not only build more trust with entry-level talent but create experiences that keep them engaged before and after they’re hired.”

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The Class of 2024’s Labor Market Outlook

  • No cap, the competition is heating up: Job openings for the overall labor market are up 5% from January 2023, indicating increased opportunity candidates, but applications have also risen by 4%. While this is good news for employers, the Class of 2024 is facing more competition than last year’s crop of graduates. Applicants per opening (APO) for entry-level roles increased from 27 to 30 year-over-year, a 13% change.
  • Respect the job application hustle. The newest members of the workforce are open to doing what is necessary to find financial security, with cost-of-living being a top driver for career decisions. Gen Z candidates are considering applying to more jobs, applying to a wider variety of industries, taking an hourly job, a job in the gig economy or a job unrelated to their university degree.

The Class of 2024’s Wish List

  • Stability is the GOAT. The flashy benefits that may have wowed entry-level talent in the past are no longer priorities for today’s graduates. The top three drivers in application decisions for the Class of 2024 are company stability and job security opportunities for growth or advancement and a sense of purpose in their role.
  • Gen Z is in their commitment era. Many new grads are in it for the long haul, with 43% looking for a long-term career path with an employer that offers opportunity for them to grow. But employers beware, as 26% revealed they wouldn’t care how long they stay with an employer and are willing to jump around, if better opportunities arise.
  • Tell me you want more money without telling me you want more money. The Class of 2024 is expecting to make ~$63,000 in their first full-time job, under the Class of 2023’s expected salary (~$66,000) and well below the Class of 2022’s ($70,000). iCIMS data shows 42% of entry-level job applications in 2024 so far were for jobs with salaries under $50,000, 46% were for jobs between $50-100,000 and 12% were for jobs with a salary of $100,000 and higher.
  • STEM roles slay. Sales? Not so much. The occupations seeing the highest growth in entry-level applications from last May are healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (+16%), business and financial operations (+15%) and computer and mathematical occupations (+15%). Office and administrative support (-12%) and sales and related occupations (-11%) saw the biggest decrease in entry-level applications.
  • An easy, transparent application process hits different. A clear salary range in the job description (54%), positive reviews (51%), a quick and easy application experience, such as via text message and one-click to apply (50%), self-scheduling interview tools (40%) and a virtual interview process (30%) make Gen Z candidates more inclined to apply. Nearly 60% say it is unlikely they will apply to a position that does not include salary in the job description.
  • AI during the job application and interview process? Say less. Gen Z is embracing AI and using it to prepare for interviews, write and proofread their resume and cover letter and draft responses to application questions. About 1 in 5 (22%) claim they would consider using an AI bot to answer a hiring manager’s questions during an interview.

Talent leaders who are getting ready to ramp up early career hiring can download the iCIMS Insights June Workforce Report for more insight into the latest labor market and Gen Z hiring trends. U.K-based leaders can visit iCIMS at RecFest in Knebworth Park, Stevenage on 11 July and learn how iCIMS, a headline sponsor, can help create better recruiting experiences for Gen Z talent and beyond.

iCIMS is a leading provider of talent acquisition technology that enables organizations everywhere to build winning workforces. For over 20 years, iCIMS has been at the forefront of talent acquisition transformation. iCIMS empowers thousands of organizations worldwide with the right tools to meet their evolving needs across the talent journey and drive business success. Its AI-powered hiring platform is designed to improve efficiency, cut recruiting costs and build exceptional experiences for candidates and recruiters.

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