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New Research from The Rockefeller Foundation and Edelman Intelligence Highlights Sourcing Entry-Level Talent as a Top Challenge for Almost Half of Employers

Examines Potential Effectiveness of Impact Hiring on U.S. Youth Unemployment

New York, NY—Sourcing entry-level talent is a top challenge for nearly half of employers, according to new survey research from The Rockefeller Foundation and its grantee Edelman. The survey findings are detailed in the new report, “The State of Entry-Level Employment in the United States.” This study was conducted by the research firm Edelman Intelligence with support from The Rockefeller Foundation.

The research aimed to uncover entry-level hiring challenges for employers and youth; reveal perceptions about entry-level jobs; and identify solutions, like impact hiring, to address these challenges. Impact hiring provides employers with new approaches to talent practices—specifically related to recruitment, hiring, and retention—that address their entry-level talent challenges and improve employment outcomes for those who face barriers to opportunity, including disadvantaged youth.

The primary research findings indicate that employers are concerned with finding and keeping the right entry-level talent. The top hiring challenge cited among both C-suite and human resource professionals is retaining strong talent (61% and 69%, respectively), and nearly half of employers (43%) cite sourcing enough candidates as a top challenge when filling entry-level jobs—virtually all employers (97%) cite that entry-level jobs are important to their business performance. However, current talent practices—such as using a college degree and resume as a primary screening criteria for many entry-level jobs—are impeding employers’ abilities to find and keep the right candidates. In doing so, employers are overlooking opportunity youth— young people ages 18-24 who face barriers to economic participation—a large pool of untapped talent that may be well-suited for many of a company’s entry-level jobs.

“The results of this survey underscore the real opportunity that employers have to strengthen their talent pipelines and improve employment outcomes by broadening and diversifying their applicant pool,” said Abigail Carlton, managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “We hope this research will encourage employers to take a closer look at some of their existing HR practices and explore how impact hiring may help expand entry-level employment opportunities for underserved populations and deliver tangible business value.”

Other results of the study indicate that:

  • Screening for college degrees in the hiring process denies youth the opportunity to learn skills on the job. Half (49%) of employed recent college graduates aren’t using the skills they learned in college, but almost all feel they are learning skills on the job (90%). However, opportunity youth aren’t given the same opportunities for skill-building because they lack college degrees.
  • The top metric for evaluating the success of entry-level employees is how well the employee fits with company culture (57%), which can be a subjective and unscientific way of screening candidates. For this reason, most employers (69%) use college degrees as a requirement in the screening process—a blunt proxy for general skills because employers lack alternate tools or methods to predict candidates’ career success.
  • There is a disconnect between the benefits and supports employers think will matter to younger workers and those that truly matter to them. Most employers deliver on perks such as health care (73%) and retirement plans (70%). However, opportunity youth are more likely to find benefits such as a flexible schedule (91%) and adequate child care (54%) more important to staying in a job. To fully tap into the talent pool of opportunity youth, companies must recognize that opportunity youth have a different set of needs and priorities when looking for a job and adapt their offerings accordingly.

Data was collected using a quantitative study among 1,200 people in the U.S., including C-suite members, human resource professionals, recent college graduates, and opportunity youth. More than 1,000 youth and 200 employers participated in the study.

The full report can be found online.

Media Contacts

Edelman for The Rockefeller Foundation

(212) 277-3818

About The Rockefeller Foundation

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, The Rockefeller Foundation pursues this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, The Rockefeller Foundation works at the intersection of four focus areas—advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities—to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot—or will not. To learn more, please visit