Ya Wanna Know Why You’re a FAIL?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting and short article about today’s college seniors, the job market, and their prospects in it. It’s a brief piece that details the results of a survey of employers and college seniors applying for jobs after graduation that highlights just how disparate their views of the applicants are.

More than 60% of employers in the survey said applicants ought to be more familiar with the company and industry, and must ask better questions in interviews. Plus, those employers say, three out of four applicants fail to send thank-you notes after interviews.

The mismatch extends to hard skills, too. Engineering, business and computer science majors are in highest demand, with at least two-thirds of employers seeking graduates in those fields, according to NACE. But fewer than half of the students surveyed by iCIMS majored in those subjects.

College seniors feel good about their prospects: more than 90% of the students surveyed by iCIMS reported feeling confident about their interview skills. They also expect to earn over $53,000 in their first job, compared with average salary of $45,000 that recruiters expect to pay for those positions.

You have to wonder why students seem to be doing little to no market research. As I mentioned in a previous post, we have snowflakes who are incapable of functioning in the real world, because to their utter shock, that degree in feminist puppetry with a minor in tribal interpretive dance didn’t translate into a six-figure income job!

You know what employers want?

They want skills that will help the company produce and make profit.

They want skills that will allow the workplace to function and the business to create value.

They want someone with an understanding of how business and finance work.

They want someone with communications and people skills. That means someone who will respect the right of others to have dissenting views to their own, and who won’t be a chronic complainer about perceived slights and offenses at the office. Those things tend to impact morale.

They want someone who brings value to the table, but also realizes they have a lot to learn and is willing to learn it.

They want someone who understands that having graduated college doesn’t make them experts on anything – it mostly makes them newbs with some book smarts.

Look, I may come across as an uber bitch online, but I also understand this type of attitude won’t fly in all situations. No, I don’t curse up a storm at work, although depending on the frustrations of the day, some sort of F-bomb will fly out of my mouth on occasion. I know what I don’t know, even though I have a Master’s Degree and *mumblegrumble* years of experience, and I listen intently and take notes in meetings and briefings. I am certainly NOT entitled to a raise or a promotion, unless and until I prove myself worthy.

The snowflakes of today seem to be convinced that not only should they do what they love (I would never discourage that), but that they should get paid for it regardless of whether or not an employer needs skills in pussy hat knitting.

Today’s parents and high schools are doing young people a disservice by encouraging them to consider themselves and their needs superior to the employers’.

We hear the “do what you love” mantra coming from parents and educators on a regular basis, without any regard for the market and its demands. And because of this we have a bunch of kids who are graduating college with skills employers generally don’t value or want, but we found the curriculum exciting and fascinating. Exciting and fascinating is great, but it’s not going to pay the bills if there’s no demand.

Additionally, kids are being released into the world with an bloated sense of self-importance. What they want matters. Their opinion counts more than anyone’s. They’re important. They’re special. They’re entitled to the best. That kind of attitude translates to an unwillingness to consider what it is that actual employers seek, and what the market for their skills looks like. When you’ve been told your entire life that the only thing that matters is what you desire, you lack the ability to comprehend that there’s a whole world out there that may or may not match your needs and desires, and you can’t imagine why in the world what you love won’t pay the bills.

You want to be an artist? Great, be an artist. The world needs talented and creative people. But if you’re assuming that employers need your “Booger in Snowfall” wall art, and you are amazed why the green snot you placed on a white canvass won’t get you into an engineering or accounting job, you have no further to look than the nearest mirror. Study what you love, but be realistic about the job market, do your research, and have a fallback skill you can use while you’re creating that “Booger in Snowfall” masterpiece!

And then there’s the interview… Oh man!

In the survey two-thirds of employers noted that the applicant didn’t even bother sending a note thanking them for their time. Hate to tell you this, folks, but these are managers. They’re busy people, who have money to offer you for your skills, and who have taken the time out of their busy day to talk to you and perhaps offer you an opportunity. They’re not there to sell themselves to you, but quite the opposite. They are there to see if you – out of the hundreds of applicants for what may be a decent-paying, fascinating step in the door to an exciting career – might be a good fit. And yes, they offer money, benefits, and sometimes even catering, personal training, and beanbag chairs in exchange for the skills you bring to the table. They’ve got a ton of applicants who are competing for that position, so it would behoove you to 1) put your best foot forward, and 2) thank them for their time.

Research the job and about the company. Asking informed questions about the work, and not just about how much vacation time you’ll get and what your holiday bonus will look like, tells the employer that you’re interested in the actual… you know… work! It tells them you cared enough to do your homework, that you understand their mission, and that you are willing to learn to do the job right.

And ferpetessake, wear a damn suit!

I once interviewed a guy who came in wearing khaki slacks that looked like he had just dragged them out of the laundry basket, a pink polo, and a wrinkled grey jacket. No tie. No energy. He mumbled his words, had no idea what our agency did, and didn’t even bother updating his resume with his most current job, even though we found out he had been working in a “new” position for a year and never bothered updating his CV with his current experience.

He also didn’t bother tailoring his experience to the kind of work we did, so we would know he had something to offer despite the fact that his actual work wasn’t a match.

“I noted that your office works on *insert issue here*. While I realize my previous experience and education aren’t an exact match, let me tell you how my schooling and the previous work I have done can actually be an asset in this environment!”

That tells me the applicant at least understands the mission of the office, and can think out of the box how his or her experience will help advance it.

In other words, no one owes you a job. No one owes you a huge salary out of the gate. Temper your expectations, and remember, you are the applicant. It’s up to you to prove yourself, and in order to do that, you need to do some work.

Failure to do so will more likely than not have you working the fast food counter.


23 responses

  1. When i interviewed at Raytheon in Tuscon *grumblegrumble* years ago, about 2/3rds of the interviewees had no clue what Raytheon was or exactly what that division was responsible for.

    (It was a large hiring/interview event)

    Ironically, most of the people who did know were vets, usually USAF and USN.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Not certain that older people have it any easier in interviewing. I bounced around through a lot of jobs immediately post-military-retirement, in spite of the fact that I had a detailed and up-to-date resume and years of administrative and clerical experience … in fact, I got a couple of interviews just because the company owner wanted to meet the person with that resume. Eventually I landed a series of jobs through a temp agency – but all the good jobs that I got and kept – were through networking. Friends of friends saying – she’s got this skill, or you’d be a perfect fit for this place…

    The one interview which stands out in my memory – and it was one that I went to wearing the full skirt-suit-stockings-interview-drag … turned out it was in an industrial park about twenty minutes farther than I was willing to commute. As soon as I pulled i, I figured that I was over-dressed. Left the suit jacket in the car, and tied the scarf around my neck.
    It was a tech start up, needing an administrative admin for the boss. Right up my alley – but, oh, what a ghastly pit. Leak marks in the ceiling, all kinds of fluff and crud on the carpet. At the end of it, the boss asked me, “Well, what would you do for this company, first?” I said, “Get the office organized, and bring the Hoover from home and vacuum this place.”
    Didn’t get that job, didn’t really want it anyway. Remember – Semper Gumby: Always Flexible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think older people face different types of challenges. Many times they won’t be the cheapest hire, so that affects it. Also they’re perceived as too old to change and adapt, unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was one of the received wisdoms in San Antonio, that a lot of the local economy was and is underwritten by military pensions. Retirees could afford to take jobs paying a bit less under fair market value because of the pension. Certainly true in my case. For a while, I had four different part-time gigs. I once brought in four pay checks and a check for doing some voice work, to my local bank, and the cashier looked at me and said, “Lady, is there a place in town that you DON’T work for?”

        Liked by 3 people

        1. “This bank, but only because I’ve run out of hours in the day.”


  3. > three out of four applicants fail to send thank-you notes after interviews.

    I have to say the idea not only never occurred to me, though I find it ROFL funny.

    I did send a company a bill for “evaluation of HR processes” once, after spending half a day interviewing, only to be told they weren’t actually hiring, they were “just checking to see what’s out there.” The mind, she boggle. Cheap bastards never paid, either.


    1. The thank you note is a bit of a surprise to me, personally. It might be a cultural thing, but sending the note seemed to waste time on both ends. I tended to thank the interviewer at the end of the interview, for the time they took.


  4. I’ve been known to tell my boss “I’m about to make a career-limiting remark here” before explaining the utter stupidity of either our vendors or our end-users using a variety of 4-letter words. Fortunately I have a boss who finds this (a) amusing and (b) accurate.

    He also understands that I only joke about serious stuff. Furthermore, he’s why I’m not looking for another job, even though I’m long overdue for a change.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Question, do you feel that college is worth it? I kinda feel like it isn’t at this point. I mean outside of two career choices that interest me, there’s nothing for me at college. And with all the insanity and false sexual harassment charges, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth it


    1. I do. At the very least, you have that diploma in hand, which does open doors. At best, it will help you with cognitive processes, organizational skills, and logical argumentation.


      1. Well i still got some time to think about it, though i’m still leaning toward Electrician at the moment. But criminal justice and medical were the two others i was interested in.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Before you major in CJ, *look* at what jobs you would actually want pay, and look at what, say, a corrections officer actually has to endure in their job. Take a tour of your local jail if you can (many do offer them). Get a ride-along with the cops. Not trying to discourage you, but it’s a tough field.


    2. My degree came in handy, even though physics really isn’t the best degree for my current job. I think the best advice is from Mark Twain: “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”


    3. Community college seems to be okay, or technical ones. At least, from what I hear about over there.


  6. Another helpful hint: don’t take job-seeking advice from me. I always get it backwards.
    Step 1: Get the job, through social contacts, reputation, etc.
    Step 2: Have the interview.
    Step 3: Submit a resume to stop HR squawking about an empty employee file.
    The one time I had a job interview with a largish (~200 employees) company, I thought I was there for an after-hours social visit and tour, and dressed accordingly. After chatting about technical issues with a few people, I started getting suspicious. And, yes, they were checking me out as a prospective employee, and it did turn into a job.
    I don’t think I’d ever get hired the usual way; I don’t match what an HR department would be looking for, and they’d most likely circular-file my resume. Got to sneak past them and get the attention of the engineering department. If the manager who needs me can’t override HR, I don’t want to work there anyway.
    None of this will work for a recent grad, absent some unusual early work experience, so don’t bother trying it.


  7. Wow…i have to admit the graph suprises me.
    Ok, a little side theme….. I do not have a wall-street journal subscription, so i cannot acess the methodology of the survey but…are health sciences really THIS out of demand in the U.S.? I obviously mostly researched the european market when i started my study, which, given that we mostly have state-run systems is not comparable, but is there really less of a market for M.D.s and nurses than for humanities students?


    1. Health sciences are in demand in the health science profession, which is fairly small outside the medical field. Also, you have to remember that this is undergrad. Those who go on to med school are going to be in demand – obviously.


      1. Ah….now i get it. Thanks. i have to admit my knowlegde of the specifics of the U.S. Higher education system are murky in several places.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never heard of sending a thank you after an interview, and I’ve interviewed a bunch of times with a fair bit of success.
    Is a degree worth it? The answer is … it depends. A degree from a big name, expensive school isn’t worth it unless you can get massive aid AND it will get you into a very high paying job – e.g. some wall street firms only hire from certain Ivy League schools
    But for the rest of us, a state school degree will do you as well as a big name school at much less cost, and as TXRed said, a degree is the way to get a foot in the door at many jobs, needed or not – for example, where I work the new secretary positions require a degree to be considered.

    Look at costs compared to income – I graduated a decade ago and within 3 years I was making the dollar value of my total school costs each year. For me, college was worth it – but for some positions and some people it isn’t. If you are unsure, look at technical programs locally; building trades, mechanics, etc are in demand most places and pay well in only a few years.

    Also, look closely at reasonable school options and choose the toughest program you can hack – I started at a well regarded private school and then transferred to a state school you have heard of. I have the big name degree, but was disappointed to find that the private school had MUCH better academics and prepared me for the real world better than the state school did (and it was 30% cheaper too!). Just because you’ve heard of the school doesn’t mean they have the best program or the lowest costs.


    1. Seriously??? You’ve never heard of sending a “thank you” note? I was always taught this was standard, and everywhere I’ve worked it’s expected. It is polite. It is also strategically smart, because it keeps you at the forefront of the employer’s mind.


      1. I think it’d depend on industry and culture. What would be considered acceptable business attire in the US (which I tended to wear) was considered exceedingly formal to the point of being ostentatious where I came from. There was a point where I actually got yelled at for wearing black work jackets and white button down shirts by the call center floor manager because I was, to her perception, trying to ‘make myself better’ than everyone else by not dressing down to ‘business casual’ like everyone else. I replied that that was not my intent, but rather the jacket was because I was cold, given that I was usually assigned to a cubicle right under an airconditioning vent, and black and white was easy to pair together no matter how sleepy I was. The argument was overheard by the guy who ran the call center, who looked at me and said “Her clothes fall within the acceptable business casual standards, and her point about the jacket makes sense.”

        The Intern (a movie) takes pains show a gap of perception of professional acceptability as part of it’s minor plot points.

        I had serious problems trying to fit into Filipino work culture. There was a lot of currying favor – the supervisor I worked under liked to hold ‘team building sessions’ in really expensive districts and have daily post-work drinking sessions. I didn’t have juicy gossip and didn’t carry rumors, and I had no interest in sleeping with him so I wasn’t someone he wanted to keep around. I found out later he was deliberately turning the floor manager against me by reporting I had no ‘team spirit’ and playing on her insecurities. I found out from someone else that this meant enduring his sexual harassment, which was all verbal. I didn’t act like prey. I just wanted to work and go home.

        Working from home was better. All that mattered was my output and doing my job well.


  9. I’ve worked in Human Resources for the better part of the last two decades. I could tell you stories about some of our applicants that would curl your hair….


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