Even the most tech-savvy students in the class of 2002 will need good marketing skills to land a job this year. In this slow economy, employers are selectively choosing their campus recruits including entry-level IT applicants, said Camille Luckenbaugh, employment information manager for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in Bethlehem, Pa.
“Recruiting for IT positions has diminished compared to previous years,” said Lonnie Dunlap, director of university career services at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Indeed, many firms are slashing their entry-level hires by 20 per cent this year compared with 2001, according to a NACE survey of 230 companies.
Employers want a range of IT skills, from Web development to software programming and mainframe experience. And as students compete for jobs with their peers as well as downsized IT workers they’ll also need good networking skills, relevant internships and smart job-hunting strategies.
Although IT spending has declined industrywide this year, companies still need “people to manage the systems and networks and develop applications in a company’s IT department,” said John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Challenger said hiring managers are looking for IT workers who can develop and manage enterprisewide e-commerce and customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
Helen Anderson, a computer consultant at American Management Systems Inc. in Fairfax, Va., who graduated in 2000 from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, agrees that experience working with Java and CRM applications is a big asset.
For its part, Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate Insurance Co. needs software developers who are proficient in C, C+ and C++, as well as COBOL programmers and systems analysts, said senior IT manager Lorraine Balun.
Charlottesville, Va.-based SNL Securities LLC will hire four or five entry-level IT graduates who have a mix of Web development, Web design and technical support skills, said Barbara Kessler, human resources director at the financial publishing firm. “Some accounting knowledge, such as a class or two,” is a big plus for someone who wants to work at a financial services firm, she said.
As companies extend fewer offers to computer science graduates this year, students with relevant internship experience will make a greater impression, employers said. A student applying for a position at Fairfax, Va.-based SRA International Inc. should ideally have had an internship at an IT consulting firm or a government contractor, said Amanda Schutz, college recruiting manager at SRA. The IT services firm provides systems integration and consulting services primarily to government agencies.
“If they liked [the internship], then there is a good chance they’ll like it at SRA,” she said.
Schutz said that SRA will hire 10 college graduates this year, compared with 20 last year. Most of these new recruits will be computer science, electrical engineering or information systems majors, said Schutz, who adds that her firm needs employees with well-rounded technology skills, including hands-on experience with several programming languages, such as Java and C++.
“Most of our contracts are with the government and involve a little bit of everything” in IT, she said, adding that new hires “start with one project and move around the company.”
Those students lucky enough to land job offers are seeing lower salaries and fewer perks compared with last year. According to NACE, the average salary offer for a computer science graduate has dropped 3.6 per cent this year in the U.S.
Lockheed Martin Corp. is “not losing as many students to inflated offers” from competitors this year, said Teri Matzkin, lead recruiter for the Bethesda, Md.-based aerospace and government contractor. While salaries remain “competitive,” the company doesn’t need to extend other perks such as signing bonuses to entice the engineering students it wants to hire, she said.
The economic slowdown forced the company to slash its original college hiring projection in the Washington metropolitan area by 40 per cent, from 227 students to 142, Matzkin said.
Students have been forced to become less picky about quality-of-life issues such as location. In the past, enticing entry-level IT graduates to move to Charlottesville was a problem for SNL, Kessler said. “For someone in a bigger city, coming to Charlottesville is not on their to-do list,” she said. And many graduates from the University of Virginia shunned the idea of remaining in the town of 40,000, she said.
But thanks to the soft labour market, SNL can now draw from a more talented pool of students, said Kessler, who recently waded through more than 100 r