New iCIMS Research on the Class of 2023 Uncovers Economic Anxieties Reminiscent of the Early Aughts

As college seniors recalibrate their dream job, iCIMS data reveals positive outlook for entry-level jobs 

HOLMDEL, N.J. [May 2, 2023] – Over the past year, job openings and hires yo-yoed across industries, creating a sense of whiplash and anxiety for graduates of the Class of 2023. After witnessing the class above them enter a job market of inflated salaries and extraordinary perks, 2023 graduates are resetting their expectations. They’re widening their horizons and looking to the past for guidance as they prepare to start their careers in an uncertain economy. Yet, these worries may not be necessary, as iCIMS data reveals encouraging opportunity for this incoming class, with rising entry-level job openings.   

Today, iCIMS published its eighth annual “Class of” report to uncover how college graduates’ career expectations meld with HR professionals’ hiring plans. Informed by employer and job seeker trends from the iCIMS platform and surveys, the report reveals that just as in the early aughts — when these soon-to-be grads were born — an uncertain economy is again making college seniors wary. Nearly all college seniors (97%) are considering alternative job options like taking a job outside their major, performing hourly or gig work, or pursuing graduate school to cushion their entrance. 

“This is the first class born in the millennium to hit the workforce, and they are doing so amid a challenging macroeconomic environment with the noise of layoffs after spending the majority of their college years in a pandemic. It’s no wonder they crave stability from their employers,” said Laura Coccaro, chief people officer, iCIMS. “While these concerns are valid, it’s not all doom and gloom. Our data shows employers are hiring for entry-level roles at a steady rate, and more than half of HR pros surveyed plan to increase entry-level hiring this year. While ‘dream jobs’ may look a little different today, many are out there and within reach.” 

How to Lose a Candidate in Ten Days
While this class is anxious and eager to land a job, they’re rewriting the rules of what they want in their careers. New rules for engagement include: 

  • Show me the money: 43% of entry-level applicants claim they would not apply for a job if the salary range was not included in the posting. This is especially critical for women and minority applicants who historically experience pay disparities in the workplace. Almost half (48%) of women noted they wouldn’t apply for a role that doesn’t include the salary range. Similarly, Black students are almost twice as likely not to apply as white students if the salary is not listed.  
  • Money is not the end-all-be-all: More than half (54%) selected flexible work as a top perk, and more than 40% expect mental health support from their employer. Other than salary, the top two criteria when considering whether or not to apply to an employer include company stability/job security and opportunities for growth and advancement. 
  • The search for stability: This class is not interested in any bad breakups – more than half (52%) said that news of layoffs in a company they are interested in would make them less likely to apply. Once they land a role, they’d like to put down roots and grow, as 65% care how long they stay with an employer.  
  • Long application process? As if! Two-thirds of the college seniors (64%) expect the entire job application process to last three weeks or less, from applying for a position to receiving an offer. Yet, the overall time to fill entry-level jobs is about double that. And candidates say the ideal number of interviews for a job is three – anything more, and job seekers become frustrated with the process.   
  • COVID changed career aspirations: Job seekers across all generations are least interested in working in healthcare, retail and education. More than 60% said they were more inclined to work in healthcare in 2019 (pre-pandemic) than today. Applications to entry-level jobs in healthcare declined 9% between March 2019 and March 2023.  

Almost Famous Employed
The interview process is a two-way street, and new graduates are recalibrating what their dream job may look like in 2023. Here is what else is driving Gen Z job applications: 

  • Seeing is believing: When it comes to a company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), they are looking at all aspects of the process – words on a screen aren’t enough. They are evaluating the diversity in their interviews and how they respond to DEI questions. They are also checking for diversity among company leaders, looking at employee photos, reviews, awards and certifications, employee resource groups and more.  
  • Salary expectations fell (slightly) back to earth: College seniors expect to secure an average salary of just over $66,000 (compared to more than $70,000 in 2022), but this is approximately $8,000 more than employers expect to pay them. Female students in the class of 2023 expect to earn around $5,500 less a year than their male counterparts, but they also want to see more benefits tied to long-term financial security.  
  • ChatGPT is so fetch: The buzz of AI and ChatGPT is seeping into the job application process – for better or worse. Almost half (47%) of college seniors are interested in using ChatGPT or other AI bots to write their resumes or cover letters, and 25% of Gen Z already use an AI bot to help write their resumes or cover letters. But they should proceed with caution, as nearly 40% of HR professionals say using ChatGPT/AI bots during the hiring process is a definite deal breaker.  
  • Careers go viral: Gen Z is the first digitally native generation, and they’re using social media to level up their careers. They’re leading TikTok trends like ‘rage applying’ and turning to that platform to find job opportunities. Their top sources for job market news and trends include TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.   

“As this cohort of talent hedges their bets, hiring teams will need to reframe what it means to attract, retain and grow talent,” Coccaro added. 

Download the iCIMS Class of 2023 report for more insights and advice on attracting and retaining the newest entrants to the workforce. Join iCIMS’ live-streamed conference, INSPIRE, on May 9 to learn transformational talent strategies from industry leaders. 

About iCIMS

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. For more information, visit