A new crop of college graduates is entering the job market, and they have optimistic expectations for workplace flexibility and pay.

That’s according to a survey of new college grads by online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter, which found the latest group of graduates is bullish about their job prospects, despite signs that employers are regaining leverage in the hiring market.

That being said, the survey suggests some graduates may be in for a rude awakening when it comes to pay and some of their other expectations.

ZipRecruiter’s survey found 85% of graduates say they have already been recruited, and 70% expect to land a full-time job in the coming year.

Ian Siegel, ZipRecruiter co-founder and CEO, said the optimism is well-founded, despite short-term economic uncertainty — at least when it comes to landing a job.

In this hiring market, Siegel said employers are putting a premium on trainability and soft skills. That is creating opportunities for new graduates.

“The way companies work is changing at a blistering pace,” Siegel said.

Graduates looking for flexibility:

About 44% of graduates want a hybrid work arrangement, while 33% want to be fully remote. Recruiters have told The Playbook that jobs offering fully remote work are getting tougher to come by, and many companies are pulling back on their hybrid models.

That suggests a rude awakening could be on the horizon. Only 23% of new graduates said they want to be in the office every day.

But a recent analysis of job postings by Lightcast found the percentage of postings advertising remote work is trending down — falling from 8.9% in October 2022 to 6.4% in March. The percentage remains above pre-pandemic levels but is another example of employers regaining leverage in the hiring market.

“We’re seeing the push-and-pull between remote work and back-to-the-office play out in job postings. Remote work is here to stay. But some companies want employees to resume working in person and are willing to pay to relocate talent to fill those in-person positions,” said Lightcast Senior Economist Layla O’Kane. 

What new graduates expect for starting salaries:

While flexibility remains important, it’s not one of the top three factors new grads are looking for. The top three are advancement opportunities, pay and job security.

The average pay expectation is $69,200 for women and $71,900 for men.

But the expectation drops among students who have already begun their search, with pay expectations among that group averaging $8,300 less — suggesting that many grads have unrealistic expectations about what they might get at a time when many employers are tweaking their pay strategies after two years of aggressive raises and signing bonuses.

In March, starting pay among newly hired workers at small and midsized businesses was 7.5% lower than pay for those hired last year, according to data from payroll and benefits provider Gusto Inc.

ZipRecruiter’s survey found inflation is weighing on the minds of new grads, with 90% of respondents expecting to offset rising costs by taking on a side hustle, moving to an economically friendly city, living with their families or finding a roommate.

They are also being more flexible with how they think about their careers.

“In an economy defined by a constant drumbeat of disruptive innovations, new graduates are less likely to have predictable and linear careers. Embracing change and remaining open to new opportunities is critical in the near-term labor market,” Siegel said.

The metros where Gen Z could be a particularly tough challenge:

A separate survey of 500 soon-to-be college grads conducted earlier this year on behalf of A. Team, a company that connects builders and firms, found 33% said the ability to work remote was the most important factor in their job search, followed by pay at 21%.

About 58% said they would look for a new job if their employer required them to be in the office five days a week.

Despite a tight labor market over the last few years, early retirements and other demographic changes, the job market is starting to show signs of weakening under the weight of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to tamp down inflation with rising interest rates.

The number of job openings fell to 9.6 million on the last day in March, the lowest in nearly two years — although still higher than before the pandemic, according to the newest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, layoffs creeped up to 1.2% as many companies cut back. The quit rate ticked down to 2.5%, the lowest since the pandemic began, showing fewer workers willing to leave their job.

Despite high-profile layoffs at big tech and consulting companies and overall national economic growth slowing in the most recent quarter, small-business owners are optimistic about their fortunes — and they are hiring or at least trying to.

New graduates will be a critical component of that effort, as experts say retaining and recruiting Gen Z workers should be a top priority for businesses because the generation is smaller than prior generations — meaning employers are likely to face a tight talent market even if the economy struggles.

Written by Andy Medici