Employers in the U.S. worried about competing with large international companies for the best graduate talent can take heart form a new survey which found that seven out of 10 graduate job-seekers would prefer to work for a medium or small employer.
The poll by CollegeGrad.com found that students and recent graduates no longer consider employer name recognition as their primary criterion. They are far more interested in companies that will invest in them and provide growth opportunities.
Overall, only three out of 10 said they would prefer working for a large corporation.
"This feedback is contrary to the generally held view that college graduates only want to work for Fortune 500 or Global 1000 companies," said Brian Krueger, president of CollegeGrad.com.
"Not only are college grads interested in small and medium size companies, they prefer them."
The reasons for this shift away from big name employers are varied. But as Steven Jungman, Division Director for ChaseSource, LP, a Texas-based recruiter pointed out, graduates have grown increasingly cynical and suspicious of big employers following years of corporate reorganisation, downsizing and cost-cutting.
"Graduates have seen the cyclical nature of the global and national economies," he said. "Terms like 'downsizing,' 'furloughs,' and 'mass-layoffs' are now a part of everyone's vocabulary and are typically associated with larger firms."
Graduate job seekers want a more personal work experience. They want to be names, not just numbers on a spreadsheet. They want opportunities to have a positive impact on their company, and to see the results.
And instead of only chasing a big paycheck, graduates are also opting for jobs with growing companies who can offer competitive benefits and, in particular, better work-life balance.
Despite the increasing acceptance of flexible working policies in Europe, many employers in the U.S. still view flexibility as a special benefit or exception for particular employees.
But as the recent MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study revealed, gone are the days when entry-level employees in the U.S. viewed long hours and seven-day-work-weeks as the price of admission to the executive suite.
Instead, the survey found that a good work-life balance has become the single most important consideration among employees aged between 21 and 30 when deciding whether to join or remain with an employer, surpassing financial considerations and advancement or skill building and professional growth.
According to CollegeGrad.com, many smaller organisations are prepared to offer the sort of flexible working, volunteer incentive programs and other unique benefits that are increasingly viewed as 'must-haves' by the current crop of college graduates.
But some larger firms are also adjusting their recruiting style in response to the changing demands and aspirations of younger workers.
Maureen Crawford Hentz, Diversity Recruiter for Osram Sylvania explains. "It's a whole new ball game in terms of landing our top candidates. We spend a lot of time emphasizing our smaller working groups, individual professional development and the ability to move up within the company."
But Brian Krueger added, "if you are a medium or small employer, wondering if you can compete at the entry level with the large employers, the answer is a resounding yes."