Toptal Survey: Recent Grads Care More About Money than Using their Degree—or Job Flexibility

Survey also reveals that recent grads prefer to work in an office than at home; fewer than one-third want to travel.

San Francisco, CA, May 24, 2016 — Toptal, the world’s leading network of elite freelance software engineers and designers, today released the findings of its annual Recent Grad Survey, which examines the behavior of 1,000 recent college grads when it comes to finding jobs. This year’s survey focused on what American grads prioritize when job hunting and what behaviors they most dislike in potential employers, as well as how they feel about the possibility of freelancing full time.

Grads Want Money, Not Experience

When it comes to what grads are looking for right out of college, almost two-thirds admitted that they prioritize salary (62 percent) above all else, followed by:

  • Flexible work schedule—46 percent
  • Using my degree or skills—37 percent
  • Ability to travel—31 percent
  • Work from home option—30 percent
  • Ability to gain quick experience—24 percent

It turns out that grads don’t care too much about getting a quick promotion, with that being the most unpopular choice for recent grads (15 percent).

Working 9-to-5

When asked which office environment recent grads would most prefer, office jobs were the most popular, with 38 percent choosing to have flexible work hours, but in an office, followed by a traditional 9-to-5 office job (35 percent). Other choices include:

  • A salaried position—33 percent
  • Flexible work hours, working at home—29 percent
  • Open office environment—25 percent
  • A 9-to-5 job, but working at home—21 percent
  • Private office environment—18 percent

Some grads prefer an hourly position (16 percent)—and a small percentage even prefer cubicles (10 percent)!

However, when asked how they felt about freelancing, 73 percent of recent grads said they view it as a good way to make money in addition to their full-time job; 87 percent say they plan to eventually freelance full-time.

Looking for the Right Fit, Right Now

The majority of recent grads – 59 percent – say they plan to begin job-hunting immediately, as opposed to taking a gap year (21 percent) or going to grad school (14 percent). One in five grads are going to enjoy their summer break before job hunting (20 percent), or are already employed and won’t be looking for new jobs (18 percent).

The majority of recent grads conduct their job searches online using a job search engine (58 percent), but 32 percent prefer job fairs and 25 percent still check the newspaper classifieds.

Transparency is Key

When it comes to the hiring and interview process, new grads most wish employers would: be more transparent about the hiring process and status of their application (48 percent), inform applicants as soon as possible if they do not get the position (46 percent) and disclose the salary range for the position (44 percent).

Job seekers also prefer face-to-face meetings, with 78 percent of recent grads saying they prefer an in-person interview to a phone interview (40 percent), email (22 percent) or Skype (22 percent) interview.

As for which part of the job application process is most challenging, new grads say it’s finding the right positions (41 percent) and making themselves stand out to employers (43 percent). They believe that employers are looking for experience (62 percent), confidence (50 percent) and education (50 percent).

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by SSI on behalf of Toptal from May 4-6, 2016, among 1,000 American recent grads. This online survey is not based on a probability sample, and, therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact

About Toptal

Founded in 2010, Toptal is one the fastest-growing and most innovative companies to emerge from Silicon Valley. With backing from Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley’s famed venture capital firm, Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora, Ryan Rockefeller, and other investors, Toptal today connects thousands of elite freelance software engineers and designers from around the world to over 2,000 blue chips such as J.P. Morgan and Pfizer, tech companies such as Airbnb and Zendesk, and numerous startups to provide world-class solutions that meet the most complex and challenging requirements. Toptal’s rapid growth is testimony to exploding client demand and the unmatched quality and reliability of the company’s services.

Media Inquiries

Joellen Ferrer
Toptal, LLC
+1 (415) 308-8209

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“…If you want a good job when you graduate college, you should spend time freelancing or getting a position at a start-up.”
Taso Du Val Co-Founder and CEO Share on Twitter