Finding jobs in 2021: CAPD’s guide to the current state of recruiting

After the last eighteen months, it comes as no surprise that the recruiting landscape has seen a major shift to virtual recruiting  and an emphasis on improving company culture and inclusivity. However, there’s plenty about fall 2021’s recruiting cycle that defies expectation; for example, despite the economic challenges of 2020, MIT average salaries for undergraduates and graduate students continues to be far above the national averages (formal salary report data coming soon), and increasing at rates in line with the national trend for university graduates.  

Whether you’re seeking a job, internship, planning to explore career options, or supporting MIT community members as they prepare to find opportunities, Career Advising and Professional Development’s (CAPD) Francis Borrego, Deborah Liverman, and Tamara Menghi have compiled the essential information for you to know this semester. 

Virtual recruiting becomes a fixture 

According to a NACE poll, 83% of employers plan to increase virtual recruiting in fall 2021. In line with the national trends and with an eye towards campus safety, CAPD-facilitated employer recruiting activities will continue to take place virtually throughout the fall semester, including career fairs, employer information sessions and programs, and interviews facilitated through CAPD. In September, that event lineup includes more than 250 virtual programs featuring more than 100 unique employers.  

While virtual recruiting keeps jobseekers and employers safe, it also provides a greater level of flexibility, ensuring that all can participate. The same NACE poll showed that virtual recruiting is also a key facet of employers’ strategy for recruiting historically marginalized candidates. 

Virtual career fair platforms improve 

Once again, the student-run Fall Career Fair series, with CAPD oversight, will take place virtually on Sept. 24Sept. 28, and Oct. 6, featuring more than 250 employers across the events. This year, however, both platforms and organizers have more experience with the virtual model. For the Fall Career Fair series, attendees will be able to pre-schedule chats with employers to use their time more efficiently, and each of the three fairs will support a broader swath of industries. 

Job postings increase 

This fall, even more employers are looking to engage with MIT talent. As of early September, there are  more than 10,000 active full-time employment opportunities in Handshake, MIT’s online career management system — doubling last year’s ~5,000. Internships jumped to over 2,500, an increase of 700+ in comparison to 2020. 

The shift to virtual recruitment opportunities plays a role in that increase, but so does the growth of mid-sized and startup companies added to Handshake. With venture capital funneling into startups, innovation remains a driving force in the economy — which makes MIT experience all the more valued. 

A longer recruiting cycle 

Many employers are moving away from their fixed recruitment deadlines and beginning to hire in waves throughout the year for both full-time positions and internships. Early recruitment increased in the summer; a second hiring wave is taking place now; and there will likely be a third wave in winter going into the spring. These extended timelines also make employers more accessible to candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, as they allow more time to prepare application materials.  

Exact hiring trends are industry-dependent, so it’s a good idea to connect with CAPD, view our Career Interest pages organized by industry clusters, and chat with industry alumni through the MIT Advisors Hub to learn more about specific fields. However, this means that a career fair isn’t the only way to secure an opportunity. 

Deferring job offers for graduate school 

Many seniors spend their fall semester waiting on graduate or professional school decisions — which CAPD anticipates will be just as competitive as last year. While MIT students are competitive candidates for programs, it’s wise to prepare for alternatives in case plans for attending a top-choice graduate school fall through. 

Despite this change in the recruiting cycle, some industries will still perform the majority of their hiring in the fall semester, meaning that seniors may not be able to hold off on applying to jobs until they’ve received their decisions. CAPD recommends talking about interest in graduate or professional school with employers at career fairs and info sessions, and listen to what options or insight they can provide. 

Students can also consider graduate programs that allow them to work while completing their next degree, like Harvard’s 2+2 program. 

If a student is torn between two interests that don’t share a common thread or recruiting timeline, such as a public relations job and an aeronautics PhD, CAPD recommends that they talk to a CAPD career advisor to work through their interests and future plan. 

What jobseekers need to know 

With these trends in mind, CAPD has actionable advice for job and internship seekers in the MIT community: 

Use Handshake to your advantage. 

The online career management platform gets to know your preferences the more that you use it, giving you better results over time — which saves you time. Complete your profile and use it as a hub for opportunities that are specifically seeking MIT community members. 

Prepare to get an offer.

Before you start applying, it’s important to reflect on what you want, and avoid putting out filler applications for roles that aren’t a fit for you. Ask yourself, “What opportunities would be in my best interest, in the short-term and the long-term? What will make me successful? What kind of environment do I want to work in? What kind of job offer would make me stop applying anywhere else?” Anticipate the offer, and don’t wait when it comes. In this market, you can’t defer. 

Don’t let fear hold you back. 

If you wait too long to apply, you might miss out on opportunities.  

Ask what the workspace will be like. 

It’s okay to ask — kindly and professionally, but ask. You can start learning about company culture and work style, such as in-person or remote, even before you apply for a role. Connect with employers at info sessions or career fairs, and see if there are MIT alumni available for informational interviews. While you’re in the interview process, you can even ask if there are good people in the organization that you could talk to about their experience. 

Be open to opportunities. 

An organization may have lower brand recognition, but be a great place to work. Do your homework, research the organization online, and use informational interviews to your advantage. 

Prepare to accept an offer and cease your search at that point. 

This is an exciting moment for you — be confident and enthusiastic with your decision! 

Seek CAPD assistance if you have questions. 

Every jobseeker is unique and comes from a set of different circumstances. Having a career advisor walk you through the process and anticipate next steps will help you make an informed decision about whether or not this is the right opportunity for you.  

By Lydia Huth
Lydia Huth Communications Specialist