More than half of recent college graduates are not considering a job within the Federal government, according to a new study from Qualtrics based on survey data from April 2022.

The survey found that out of over 1,000 students who recently graduated from a post-secondary school, 56 percent would not consider Federal employment due to a complicated hiring process (30 percent) and a lack of awareness of open government jobs (20 percent).

Helping to drive that trend is an apparent disconnect between skills required for some of the most in-demand Federal jobs, versus the perception of required skill levels by job seekers.

Despite 70 percent of Federal jobs not requiring a degree, the biggest perceived barrier from the recent college graduates was feeling under-qualified for Federal employment (36 percent).

“[R]ecruitment efforts and job opportunity announcements should clarify the skills being sought rather than credentials,” the study says. “As a growing number of federal jobs, such as those in IT and cyber, rely on skills that can be successfully cultivated in certification programs, effective recruitment requires broadening the selection criteria beyond traditional degree requirements.”

The Qualtrics study also found that minority graduates feel even less compelled to work for the Federal government: 60 percent of the recent graduates said they would not apply. The study recommends that agencies recruit a “diverse pool of early career talent,” and says the best way to do this is by “understanding the root causes of [minority graduates’] declining interests.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 85,000 job openings across the Federal government, with the number of Federal employees who quit their job rising by 10 percent in 2021.

“In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is growing evidence that jobseekers are reassessing what they want to do, and how and where they want to work and live,” the study says. “For graduates in particular, flexible work arrangements, including remote and hybrid opportunities, were a key factor in their decision to pursue a job.”

Recent graduates are in pursuit of a flexible work-life balance (40 percent), good compensation (39 percent) and the opportunity to do meaningful work (28 percent), which Qualtrics suggests Federal government recruiters highlight in their job advertisements.

The study left Federal government agencies with four key recommendations to hiring and retaining recent graduates:

  • Design career ladder positions that capture potential and enable learning on the job;
  • Advertise jobs by skills, not degrees or years of experience;
  • Meet potential applicants and employees where they are in their life and career; and
  • Help people see themselves reflected in the diversity of the Federal government.
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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.