College Game Plan

IBM, JP Morgan, Amazon and Tesla lead entry-level job applications from college students

Key Points
  • College students apply for more entry-level jobs at IBM, JP Morgan, Amazon and Tesla than at any other companies.
  • The annual study from Handshake shows the 25 companies that are doing the best in recruiting directly from university and college campuses.
  • It also found that college students are rewriting the rules on resumes, ditching references to traditional skills and emphasizing a new set of qualifications.

If you're a recent college graduate or headed into your senior year of school and wondering where your generation is looking for work, here's a tip: try IBM, JP Morgan Chase, Amazon, Tesla and Deloitte.

Those firms receive more entry-level job applications from college students than any other companies.

That's according to a new annual report from Handshake, a "LinkedIn" for colleges and universities. This online platform connects over 9 million students with 250,000 employers, from corporations to nonprofits and government institutions.

The data is based on 5.2 million applications that students and recent alumni across all 50 U.S. states submitted on Handshake over the past 12 months.

It may not comes as a surprise that these companies, and others like them in technology and financial services, are at the top of the list. But some other firms winning the battle for the attention of the next generation of workers aren't exactly household names.

Eighth among all companies receiving job applications for entry-level positions is Akuna Capital, a Chicago-based options trading firm.

Graduating students wait for the start of New York University's commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium, May 16, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Akuna has been recruiting beyond the traditional finance/business schools, and many of the hiring companies tapping talent through Handshake have found employees from schools such as San Jose State University, Colorado State University and the University of South Florida, according to Handshake officials. Akuna said these specific schools aren't ones that it has hired from, but it does believe in going beyond the resumé and considers candidates from a wide range of institutions.

"It's a smart recruiting tactic that allows them to find untapped talent who may not be able to attend a top business school like a Penn or a Villanova, but still has the same skill set and potential as an employee," Handshake CEO Garrett Lord said in an email.

"They get to avoid the recruiting battles that unfold between the Big 4 [consulting firms EY, PwC, Accenture and KPMG] and other large financial companies that compete for talent on top campuses," Lord added.

The Handshake data is limited to companies that participate on its platform, but with 250,000 employers including all of the Fortune 1000, Handshake says that the companies investing more time and effort in recruiting and engaging students coming onto the job market are reflected in the annual report.

"These companies are the ones that see the value of investing in strong entry-level talent recruitment and understand the long-term benefit engaging graduates who will hopefully grow with their company over time," Lord wrote.

Many of these firms have strong rotational programs for interns or campus partnerships that help boost their relationship with universities and build deeper ties with students, Lord said.

Handshake operates like a 'LinkedIn' for university and college students, offering a platform where 250,000 employers across the country, including corporations, governments and nonprofits, can perform outreach and recruit the next generation of workers.

One example is IBM, which partners with Handshake on virtual events to break down regional barriers in recruitment.

The platform is free to students and employers — companies are not charged to post a job or connect with a school. Handshake did launch a premium feature six months ago that allows employers to pay for additional outreach efforts and branding, but not for job postings or applications. Universities pay a low yearly fee to use Handshake.

4 new ways that students are tackling the job market

In addition to the top 25 firms (see full list below), the Handshake report revealed that the current generation of college students are rewriting the rules on resume writing, and seeking new types of jobs across an increasing number of cities.

1. Quantified skills are in, traditional soft skills are going away

These terms are all out in resumes: hard worker, organized, self-motivated, reliable, quick learned, responsible, dedicated, personable. All of these words have seen a decline of between 30 percent and 60 percent.

The keywords that are seeing huge growth in the past year, measured in hundreds of percent increases: creative problem solving, client relations, team lead, front-end, visualization, community engagement.

2. The job keywords that students are searching on more

The following work terms have been the most popular in student searches in the past year, also seeing increases measured in the hundreds of percent: Remote, work study, data analysis, politics, mental health and machine learning.

3. New York, Chicago and San Francisco are the top draws, but not the only ones

College students think regionally when it comes to jobs. In the West, they want to work in San Francisco; in the Northeast, they want to work in New York; in the Midwest, they want to work in Chicago; and in the Southeast, they want to work in Atlanta. These are also the top four cities for jobs overall.

But some cities are more than pulling their weight based on population: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (No. 14 among cities); Palo Alto, California (No. 15); Cambridge, Massachusetts; (No. 16); and Orlando, Florida (No. 22).

For three of those four cities, there is a correlation with the prominence of nearby institutions of higher education — Stanford (Palo Alto), MIT and Harvard (Cambridge) and Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh). However, Palo Alto, Cambridge, and Pittsburgh made the top 20 rank by omitting on-campus employment and university-roles, so these numbers don't include jobs at the actual local institution. And the numbers also reflect interest in jobs within these cities from around the country, not just candidates located nearby.

"It's notable because, while cities like New York and San Francisco are still some of the most popular with students, they're also becoming so expensive that it's difficult for most recent grads," said Lord. "It may be causing them to turn to less expensive cities like Pittsburgh or Orlando to start their career."

4. The public education sector is struggling

Only 8 percent of students applying to jobs through Handshake applied to jobs in K-12 education, by far the lowest among major hiring areas beyond the private corporate sector: nonprofits (40 percent of applicants); federal agencies (30 percent of applicants); and local government (22 percent of applicants).

These findings come at a time when teacher strikes across the country have highlighted the issues of public education pay and work conditions.

"The demand for teachers is greater than the supply of students looking to enter the teaching profession," said Lord.

25 Most-popular employers for recent college grads

  1. IBM
  2. JPMorgan Chase
  3. Amazon
  4. Tesla
  5. Deloitte
  6. EY
  7. DE Shaw
  8. Akuna Capital
  9. BlackRock
  10. Facebook
  11. Microsoft
  12. KPMG
  13. Morgan Stanley
  14. PwC
  15. Goldman Sachs
  16. Accenture
  17. Citigroup
  18. AlphaSights
  19. Apple
  20. McKinsey
  21. Wells Fargo
  22. Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  23. P&G
  24. Capital One
  25. Barclays

This story has been updated to reflect that Akuna Capital is an options trading firm which hires from a diverse range of educational institutions, but it has not hired from San Jose State University, Colorado State University and the University of South Florida.