It goes with the cap and gown, that much-dreaded annual ritual called "the job hunt." But this year, the rules and rhythm of the job search game for new college graduates are ever-so-slightly changing.
For starters, job-hungry liberal arts graduates who worry that they will wind up pumping gas are likely instead to find that demand is up for their talents.
At the same time, large manufacturers and other big companies are doing less recruiting on campus, while small, entrepreneurial firms and service sector businesses snap up more graduates.
And job seekers are more likely than ever to go through pre-employment screening, particularly drug testing.
Nationally, placement officials said this year's job market for new graduates overall is either stagnant or down slightly.
"It's going to be a tougher year this year," said John D. Shingleton, director of placement at Michigan State University. Among 761 employers surveyed by Michigan State, hiring of new graduates is expected to fall 2.4% from 1986.
On the other hand, a survey conducted by Northwestern University of 230 companies found the market little changed from last year but still "healthy and very competitive."
Locally, universities report that the number of recruiters on campus is equal to or even up a bit from last year.
As usual, top technical and business graduates will have no trouble finding employment, even though university placement officials note that demand is down for technical graduates such as many types of engineers.
In some of this year's "hot" majors--among them, sales and marketing, computer science, finance, chemistry and accounting--recruiting has been heavy.
For Dan Goldstein, an accounting major on the verge of graduating from California State University, Northridge, the job hunt was "kind of easy."
Goldstein, who has received four job offers, noted that accounting firms have been courting students for months, even years, before graduation with tickets to ballgames, days at the horse races and parties at partners' homes.
"Most people get the jobs that they want in accounting," Goldstein said. "The ones that don't--it's because of their personality or they don't know how to wash their hair."
For years, the glut of liberal arts graduates--with majors such as English, languages and philosophy--have not attracted eager recruiters. Now, however, college placement officials are discovering a growing interest in the well-rounded liberal arts graduate.
Victor R. Lindquist, director of placement at Northwestern, said businesses are finding that liberal arts graduates may outperform their business school counterparts in the long run because of their broader course of study.
Employers surveyed by Michigan State indicated that 12.8% of their positions might be filled by liberal arts graduates, up from 9.4% last year.
Security Pacific Corp. has always hired a large number of liberal arts graduates for its branch office operations training programs, said Irving Margol, executive vice president of human resources.
"We wanted people with a well-balanced outlook on life" who can work well with customers, he said. "The key, as far as we're concerned, is to look at the job and to ask what knowledge, skills and abilities does it call for."
But the increased demand for liberal arts graduates doesn't mean they will all get the job of their dreams--simply because of their large numbers.
"As far as I'm concerned, the technical graduates' offers have declined, but the techs are still going to get their jobs," Shingleton said. "In the liberal arts, not all of them got jobs last year, and not all of them are going to get jobs this year."
Campus placement officials report that big companies are recruiting less. The reasons include mergers, corporate retrenchment, technological changes, global competition and a slowing economy, Lindquist said.
"In the Fortune 500, it seems to be a disease. There's a continuing attitude that pervades these companies," Shingleton said. "They have all decided that they're too fat and they're downsizing."
Small, entrepreneurial companies are hiring more, but many of those firms don't come to college campuses to recruit, placement officials said.
Charles Sundberg, director of UCLA's Placement and Career Planning Center, said the university tries to make students aware of the job possibilities at small organizations and coaches them to find those positions.
For recent graduates who get serious feelers from potential employers, drug tests and other types of pre-employment screening will be more and more common. Northwestern found that 19% of the firms it surveyed said they intend to add drug testing in 1987. A third of the firms already required some form of drug test for employees, a 136% increase from a year ago, the study found.
Other increasingly used employment screening practices include verification of education (81% of the firms surveyed now require it), past employment verification (79%), pre-employment physicals (57%), personal references (52%) and faculty references (39%). Some more unusual tests are personality or psychological testing (17%), credit bureau check (13%), polygraph testing (2%) and voice print analysis (2%).
Only 2% of the firms said they conduct AIDS testing, but 5% said they plan to add it in 1987.