Best Cities for Recent Grads 2016


College seniors are graduating to an improved jobs outlook: Employers plan to hire 11% more college graduates from the class of 2016 than they did for the class before, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

But location can play a huge role when these new graduates are ready to launch their careers. In some cases, they’ve got to be willing to move to a place where they have the best chance of snagging their dream job.

NerdWallet analyzed the 100 largest U.S. cities and ranked them according to the places that provide the best environments for college graduates who are just starting out. Our analysis focused on 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data covering job options, the age of the population, rent costs and median earnings, as well as December 2015 unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

NerdWallet’s analysis

Where are the jobs? Arlington, Virginia, stands out in our analysis because 67.1% of its workforce find jobs in management, business, science or the arts. These fields have the most jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Will you thrive or struggle to pay your bills? Our analysis favors cities where you can make a living without spending an outsized portion of your paycheck on rent. Minneapolis and Atlanta, for example, offer solid local economies and affordable housing. Even pricier cities such as Arlington, its neighbor Washington, D.C., and San Francisco made our top 10 list in part because median earnings in those areas are higher, which helps offset steep rents.

Where should you look for jobs? Don’t limit your search to the big cities on both coasts. Our analysis found that Austin, Texas, Madison, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis each had an unemployment rate of 3.1% in December 2015. That’s lower than other cities in the top 10 and well below the national average of 5% for the same month.

Best cities for recent grads 2016 — See # 5!

1. Arlington, Virginia

If you’re looking to live near other educated people, this Washington, D.C., suburb is the place to be. A whopping 71.5% of Arlington’s 25-and-older population holds at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest percentage on our list. Arlington also is tops for the number of jobs in management, business, science or arts occupations, as well as for salaries. The median annual earnings of $72,406 for a worker 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree is up from $64,957 in our 2015 analysis of the best cities for recent grads. However, if you move here, be ready to give up a big chunk of your salary for housing. The median rent is one of the highest among the 100 cities in our analysis, and it would take up nearly a third (31.4%) of that paycheck.

2. Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s capital is a place where new grads will be surrounded by peers. About a quarter of the population (24.7%) is in the 20- to 29-year-old range, likely thanks in part to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Of the 100 cities analyzed, only Norfolk, Virginia, and Boston have a higher percentage of 20-somethings, and only by a fraction of a percent. Madison has worked to attract these young people with a boom in high-density apartments downtown, according to the Capital Times.

3. Washington, D.C.

Here’s one reason the nation’s capital has made our list four years in a row: jobs. In Washington, D.C., 60.5% of the workforce found jobs in management, business, science or the arts. Of the 100 cities analyzed, this figure is third only to its neighbor, Arlington, and Irvine, California. About a quarter (26%) of employees work for the federal, state or local government, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

4. Boston

Boston residents ages 20-29 make up 24.8% of the population. Of the 100 cities analyzed, only Norfolk, Virginia, edges out Boston in the number of residents in this age group. The Boston area’s universities, such as MIT and Harvard, have an impact on the median age of the population and the local economy, since the academic institutions serve as employers and a source of talent for the city’s tech industry.

5. Minneapolis

Here’s one perk to choosing the Midwest over a coastal city: You get to hold onto more of your paycheck when it comes to rent. Of the cities in our top 10, Minneapolis residents pay the least in rent as a percentage of their income. Although the median annual earnings in Minneapolis ($46,837) are lower than in most other top 10 cities, median rent costs are also low — accounting for 22.4% of income. Minneapolis in December 2015 had a 3.1% unemployment rate, which is among the lowest in our analysis.

6. Seattle

New grads flocking to Seattle will likely meet plenty of other educated residents. Nearly 59% of Seattle’s 25-and-older age group holds at least a bachelor’s degree, third only to Arlington and Irvine in our 100-city analysis. Median earnings are around $57,000. The Puget Sound region, which is home to Amazon, Microsoft and smaller tech companies, could be the ideal spot to put your degree in engineering, computer science or a related field to use.

7. Pittsburgh

Young adults make up 24% of the population in Steel City. According to New York Times research, Pittsburgh’s population of college graduates ages 25 to 34 grew 29% from 2000 to 2012. Compared with other cities on this top 10 list, Pittsburgh’s job market for degree holders isn’t as strong, with about 45% of jobs available in the fields of management, business, science or the arts. However, residents here benefit from a low cost of living. Rent, on average, in Pittsburgh is lower than in any other city in the top 10 and about $1,000 less per month than in Arlington.

8. Austin, Texas

Austin’s vibrant entertainment scene, hip vibe and University of Texas campus aren’t the only features luring new graduates to the city. Jobs help draw them in, too, and the Austin metropolitan area added 34,900 net new jobs from December 2014 to December 2015, according to the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a job growth rate of 3.8%, which is one of the highest among large metro areas, the Austin Chamber of Commerce reports. In December 2015, the unemployment rate in Austin was 3.1%, one of the lowest rates in our analysis — and below the 5% national average for that month.

9. Atlanta

College graduates in Atlanta, whether they’re newcomers or fresh from the city’s many universities, enjoy a lower cost of living than in most other cities on our list. Here, the median annual earnings for a resident 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree are $50,420, and rent runs at 22.9% of the median income, one of the lowest percentages in the top 10. In terms of jobs, recent grads may find opportunities at Atlanta’s 13 Fortune 500 headquarters, such as Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines. In 2015, Atlanta was home to the third-highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in a city.

10. San Francisco

This city’s relatively low unemployment rate (3.9% in December 2015) helped it make our list’s top 10. College graduates working in San Francisco make good money. The median annual earnings of residents age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree are $68,439, which is one of the highest of all cities in our analysis. Of course, living in San Francisco means a bigger portion of your paycheck will go to your landlord, with 27.8% of median earnings going to rent.

Advice for any place

Although the cities on our list stand out for opportunities for new graduates, they’re not the only places to find work. Make the most of wherever you call home, whether it’s a city of 5 million or town of 5,000.

“Almost every town has a Rotary Club or a similar professional club you can join where you can start making connections with business leaders and community leaders,” says Kat Clowes, author of “Put College to Work: How to Use College to the Fullest to Discover Your Strengths and Find a Job You Love Before You Graduate.”

Just about any location — large or small, urban or rural — offers opportunities for young professionals to volunteer, too. “You’ll never know who you’ll meet or what experiences you can add to your resume when you volunteer,” Clowes says.


We analyzed data for the 100 biggest cities in the U.S.

The unemployment rates for metropolitan areas are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for December 2015. This is 20% of the score.

The rest of the score includes data from the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey:

  1. Percentage of the population 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 15% of the score.
  2. Percentage of the population ages 20 to 29 is 30% of the score.
  3. Median earnings of residents 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree are 10% of the score.
  4. Jobs in management, business, science or arts occupations are 10% of the score.
  5. Rent as percentage of income is 15% of the score.

Sreekar Jasthi is a data analyst at NerdWallet. Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter:@lauraemcmullen.

Attend the 2016 Job and Internship Fair!

Get a chance to win a Surface 3 tablet, “Beats by Dr. Dre” Earphones or a $100 pre-loaded credit card!

Pre-register and attend the Fair for a chance to win an iPad mini!

This is an outstanding event for all students and alumni who are looking for an internship or employment. The event will be held from 11:00am – 3:00pm on February 26th at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center. For more updates and information, check your Career Center site:

This Fair’s going to be better than ever! This year:

  • We expect nearly 150 organizations in attendance and looking to hire!
  • You can register with a credit card!
  • You can ride free transportation from the Midway!
  • Take in an historic venue!
  • Have our free photographer take your picture for your LinkedIn profile
  • Enjoy a free lunch!

And, when you register and attend the Fair, you’ll be automatically registered for a chance to win:

  • A Microsoft Surface 3 tablet,
  • Beats by Dr. Dre Earphones or
  • A $100 Visa/Mastercard!
  • Exclusively for Metro Students, if you pre-register and attend the Fair, you will automatically get a chance to win an iPad mini!


JOB AND INTERNSHIP FAIR 2016: Essential Facts

Date: ………….  Friday, February 26
Place: …………  Earle Brown Heritage Center
Address: …….. 6155 Earle Brown Drive, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430
Hours: ………..  11:00am – 3:00pm
Register Now:  Through Handshake – log in to Handshake and register
Price: …………   $20 early registration fee before 12:00 midnight on Sunday, February 21
…………………..   $40 at the door

Pre-register and attend the Fair for a chance to win an iPad mini! This is an exclusive offer for Metro State alumni and current Metro State students. However, the Job and Internship Fair is open to all students and alumni from the seven state universities: Metro State, Mankato, Bemidji, Moorhead, Southwest, St. Cloud, and Winona.


Tips for Preparation

Prepare for your Interviews: Check out our Career Spot Videos! We recommend: 

  • The Elevator Pitch
  • Make Your Resume Pop
  • Career Fair Success
  • 7 Tips for Researching Companies
  • The Interview
  • Interview Dress
  • 10 Top Interview Mistakes
  • The Salary Question
  • Follow-up with an Employer


Plan your Employers and Resumes

  • The first and most effective way is by contacting the employer in advance. To enhance your chance of an interview at the Fair, research the employers who will be attending (find contact information at and then simply e-mail the employers directly attaching a resume and cover letter. In your letter mention that you will be attending the Job Fair and will stop by and introduce yourself. If the employer indicates that they are interviewing at the fair you can ask for an interview in your letter.
  • The second way to get an interview is by meeting with the employer the day of the event.
  • The third way is to upload your resume to the Job and Internship Fair database prior to the event. Go to, then under candidates, click on “Post Resume Online.”

Remember this about Employers and Resumes:

Many employers may choose not to pre-schedule interviews. If you do not hear from an employer prior to the event, make sure you visit their booth at the fair. Some employers may not even accept resumes at the fair but may want you to upload your resume prior to the event onto their company website. It is still important to stop by, introduce yourself to these employers, and mention that you have already uploaded your resume to their site.

Research the employers prior to the event

It is important to research employers prior to applying for positions and attending the Fair. Employers like candidates who do their homework! A list of the anticipated employers attending and positions for which they are seeking candidates can be found on Job Fair site:


Plan your Transportation

The Career Center will be providing transportation for pre-registered students and alumni to and from the Job Fair. Limited free shuttle service available for the first 56 people to register. You must be registered for the Fair to ride the bus. (NOTE: 10:30am depart from Midway and 2:30pm arrive back to Midway). Students may also drive or arrange their own transportation. Map online at: Directions listed below:

From the West – Plymouth, Maple Grove, St. Cloud
Take I-94 East and I-694 East. Follow I-94 to Shingle Creek Parkway exit #34, follow Cloverleaf around, turn left onto Shingle Creek Parkway, left at stoplight (Summit Drive North), left again one block at Earle Brown Drive (first turn), follow around to the main entrance.

From the East – Minneapolis, St. Paul
Take I-94 West and I-694 West to Shingle Creek Parkway exit #34, follow Cloverleaf around, turn right onto Shingle Creek, left at second stoplight (Summit Drive North), left again one block at Earle Brown Drive, follow around to the main entrance.

From the South – Airport, Bloomington, Richfield
Take I-494 West to Hwy. 100 North, exit at John Martin Drive. Cross through intersection 57th Avenue North to John Martin Drive, turn left, continue to first stop sign, turn right onto Earle Brown Drive, continue on and watch for the main entrance on your left.

From the North – Duluth, Forest Lake
Take I-35 South to I-694 West, then to Shingle Creek Parkway exit, follow Cloverleaf around, left at stoplight (Summit Drive North), left again one block at Earle Brown Drive (first turn), follow around to the main entrance.

Plan your Day

Arrival at the Fair: Learn to navigate these four crucial Fair areas at the Earle Brown Heritage Center:

  • Check-in: if you are not taking the shuttle, you may want to arrive between 10:30-11:00am. Free parking is available at the Earle Brown Heritage Center. The students’ entrance is Door #4. The Fair officially starts at 11:00am and employer booths close at 3:00pm. Check in at the Metro State table to pick up your name badge — please wear it at all times – and your lunch voucher ($10 value) for the concession stand right at the Fair. Spouses or guests will be not allowed to enter the Fair. For a fee, coats may be checked at the coat check in the lobby. No bags will be accepted at the coat check.
  • Lounge and Lunch: there will be complimentary coffee, tea, and apple cider waiting for you to begin your morning near the concession stand. Also, as an added benefit to students, Hire Wire will be on hand outside the Captain’s Room to take a FREE professional photo for your LinkedIn profile.
  • Employer Tables: Carriage Hall A & B, the Captains Room, the Harvest Room and the Garden City Ballroom.
  • Interview Area: located downstairs in the Morgan Room. Dress appropriately and be ready for the possibility of an interview. Suits for both men and women are suggested. You want to make your best impression!


Plan your Follow-up

After The Fair: Follow up on any commitments you made.

  • Write thank you letters to each employer with whom you interviewed within 24 hours. Also, write to employers who sparked your interest, whether or not you interviewed that day. Thank them for participating in the Fair and express your interest in any openings.
  • Notify the Career Center of any job offers you received. Many students have received job offers as a result of attending the Fair. Although attending the Fair does not guarantee you will receive an offer, your chances will be greatly increased. Employers have also contacted students after the event as openings have developed.


We hope you have a great experience. Good luck with your job search!

You’ve Been to the Job Fair – Now Don’t Forget the Thank-You Note

Posted on November 18, 2015 at 4:00 PM


What is the purpose of a thank-you note? When should I send one?

When writing a thank-you note to a potential employer, remember there is more to the art form than just acknowledging the time spent with you. Take a more thoughtful approach.

When should I send a thank-you note?

Send thank-you notes to:

  • Reaffirm your interest in the company or employer.
  • Jog the memory of the employer’s representative you spoke with at the career fair and to remind them of your conversation.
  • Show that you are courteous and professional.
  • Mention something relevant that you may have forgotten during the career fair event.

When are thank-you notes appropriate?

Thank-you notes are appropriate after the following occasions:

  • After someone has helped you with your job search process. (For example, if the employer’s representative referred your resume to someone else in the business or offered you contact information)
  • Job interviews (both in-person and phone interviews).
  • Informational interviews.

How do I write a thank-you note?

Thank-you notes should:

  • Be short, concise, to the point and free from errors.
  • Express gratitude for the chance to interview or for job search assistance.
  • Mention aspects of the interview or conversation that were of particular interest to you.
  • Give you the opportunity to add something that you may not have mentioned during the interview or career fair-held conversation that is relevant to your job search or application.

How should a thank-you note be sent?

If the employer has contacted you via email, send your thank-you note the same way. If you expect to learn of a job decision quickly, send your note immediately. Always send your thank-you note within 24 hours of your interview or conversation. Either way, whether electronically, by post, or hand-delivered to the employer’s reception desk, be formal and professional in your communications.

Here’s a sample of a thank-you note.

Five Things Employers Want to Know About You

Posted by Catherine Byers Breet at on January 20, 2016

“If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” a hiring manager asked Joe during a job interview.

Poor Joe. He almost blurted out “Are you kidding me?! What kind of ridiculous question is that?”

Instead, he took a deep breath and replied “Well, that’s an interesting question. Why do you ask?”

The hiring manager smiled and said, “I’m trying to figure out if you’ll fit in with my team. If you told me you’d want to be a Labrador Retriever, I’d be concerned. You’ll be replacing a manager who is the nicest doggone man you’ll ever meet, but he couldn’t get the job done. He’s too afraid to deliver the tough news, or douse a flame before it becomes a five-alarm fire. I need a manager who can lead fearlessly – even when it hurts. Can you do that?”

If every hiring manager were as open and honest as she was, getting a job would be a piece of cake! Unfortunately, most of them are not.

So, Why the Ridiculous Questions?

There are a number of reasons why employers ask silly interview questions:

  1. The boss made them do it. As a rookie recruiter, I was required to ask questions like that. Once I found the confidence (and had proven myself), I pushed back and rewrote the interview guide. Until then, my choice was to ask the questions or get fired.
  2. It’s what they’ve always done. And it’s worked just fine for them in the past.
  3. They’re trying to make a great hiring decision. Their silly questions have a purpose behind them – and that’s to learn more about you.

The Five Things They Really Want to Know About You

In the beginning of my recruiting career, I watched a lot of great candidates get bumped because I didn’t know how to prep them effectively. I didn’t understand what managers were looking for! One day, it finally clicked for me and my close ratio (interview-to-hire ratio) went through the roof. No matter what question they ask you, they are trying to figure out one of five things:

  1. Can you do the job? “Why do you think you’re a good fit for this position?” and “Why should I hire you?” are typical questions. They want to know if you have the skills, experience and education to get the job done.
  2. Do you understand the job? “What do you think will be your biggest challenge stepping into this role?” and “What do you see as your biggest gaps?” are common questions. Employers want to make sure you understand what the job entails, how it differs from your past experiences and what your skill gaps are. Operations at a huge health insurance company are different from operations at a small financial services firm. Many of your skills are transferable, but your blind spots will get you if you’re not aware of them (or unwilling to admit them).
  3. Are you at the right price? “How much money do you want to make?” Can they afford you? Will you be happy with the pay? Paying someone less than they are worth (or think they are worth) is dangerous, and managers know it. Chances are very good that person will leave or worse, stay as a very disgruntled employee.
  4. Will you fit in with the team? “What kind of animal would you be?” is one of these questions. More common inquiries are “Tell me about your biggest failure;” “Why did you leave your last job?” and “Tell me about your favorite boss.” Few people fail at work because they can’t do the technical side of the job. Most fail (or quit) because of a culture clash. The most common problems occur because of values, communication styles, leadership styles and corporate culture. Smart managers know this. And their job is to try to figure out if you will be happy and productive at work.
  5. Do you want the job? They might also ask you “How do we compare to other opportunities you’re looking at right now?” or “Why do you want to work for us?” They know you want a job and a paycheck, but do you really want their job? Will you be happy? Will you stick around when the going gets tough, or will you jump ship soon for a shorter commute, more money or something else? Just because you showed up for the interview does not mean you want their job. They know that.

Can you answer these five questions with confidence and clarity in 30 seconds or less? If so, then you’re ready for your next interview! If not, you’ve got a little homework to do. To tell you the truth, your answers will change depending on the people, company and position you are considering.

Two Ways to Use These Five Questions

  1. To prepare for your next interview. Practice answering every one of these questions until you can do it in 30 seconds or less.
  2. To use as a tool during your interviews. Print them out and take them with you to your next interview.  (Tuck them into your portfolio.) Glance at them next time you get asked a confusing or silly question.

What to Do Next Time You Get a Ridiculous Question

  1. Breathe.
  2. Smile.
  3. Assume that they have good intentions. (They aren’t just trying to make you sweat!)
  4. Do what Joe did. Ask them to clarify, elaborate, or explain why they’re asking that question. For example: “Gee, that’s an interesting question. Why do you ask?”

These five questions changed everything for me as a recruiter. I still use them today as I’m out looking for my next job (talking with prospective clients). I hope you find them to be as helpful as they’ve been to me.

About the Blogger

Catherine Byers Breet spent 15-plus years hiring for companies ranging in size from 3M and UnitedHealth Group to startups in the health care, manufacturing, finance, medical device, retail, marketing and technology industries. Since launching ARBEZ ( in 2006, she has helped over 50,000 job seekers to do what they love for a living. She’ll speak on the hiring process and interviewing at the Minnesota WorkForce Center-Hennepin South on Jan. 25.