Most colleges and universities have by now had commencement and released their graduates into the real world. For you grads, this means it’s time for career pursuit. For us employers, it’s time to remember that not all grads are created equal.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve been in hiring roles and have received thousands of resumes from new college graduates just like you. I’ve interviewed many and done my share of informational interviews – these are the interviews we do when you happen to be the child of a friend, colleague or customer who asks on your behalf. Sometimes I’ve hired people like you into entry-level positions. More often though, I haven’t.
Those who did not get the job were sometimes just not the right fit. Other times, they were trumped by a more impressive candidate or victim to some other random event mostly out of their control.
Too many of you had the skills and capabilities to make the cut or at least garner a second interview. Your disastrous interviewing skills brought you down. I don’t know if this is an indictment of your capabilities, your family support system, your school’s career services staff or something else. Whatever the reason, there are consistent themes as to why you didn’t get the job. I’m not the first to state these and won’t be the last, but as the class of 2012 flourishes shiny new resumes in front of prospective employers, here are my top reasons why I will never hire you.
- Your resume is longer than that of a 25-year professional. I appreciate your desire to showcase your class work, high school accomplishments, extracurricular endeavors and your three marketing projects. But I need to see clarity and definition in what you present. Make it relevant, make it concise, make it focused. This will likely be your first full-time job and an overly long resume does not impress me. (A ridiculously short resume is equally dangerous. Did you do anything besides attend class?)
- You didn’t prepare for our interview. You’re probably a better Internet surfer than I am, so why didn’t you spend a few minutes gathering intelligence about me or my business? You didn’t look at my website. You failed to check me out on LinkedIn or Twitter. You didn’t bother to think that I look for many things beyond the questions I ask when I’m interviewing you. Your ability to make eye contact. Your ability to converse. Your thoughtfulness in answering difficult questions (I’m not always concerned with your actual answer but rather your composure and thinking process when answering it). And, most importantly, the questions you brought for me. Look up questions to ask online – I just searched “questions grads should ask in an interview” and found 30 questions no one has ever asked me. I bet you could have found it even more quickly. Show me how you gather information. You’re talking to your first potential employer, a place where you will spend most of your waking hours for the next few years. Do you want me to think I’m going to have to do the work for you, or that you’ll show up prepared every day?
- You wrote a thank you note, and only used it to thank me. I also enjoyed our time together, so instead of just thanking me, add value. Use your note (email or note/card are all fine – nothing is not) to show your passion for this job, reflect upon what you learned in the interview and confirm why you’re the candidate of my dreams.
- You dressed for failure. My workplace is casual, at least most of the time. Many offices are these days. But you should not be for an interview. I won’t tell you what to wear, but jeans, chinos, t-shirts, sundresses and other clothing you may wear to a weekend cookout or a night club (even a nice one) won’t cut it. I want to know what you’ll look like when I take you to see a client. Show me that you understand this.
- You don’t know what you want to do. Really? Neither does most of America. But when you tell me that, you’re basically saying, “please invest loads of time and money into me, and maybe it will help me figure out that I want to do something else.” Good luck. Our conversation should convince me that you’ve been wanting to work here your whole life, your resume should reinforce it, and your follow-up note should hammer the point home. At HB, we are an integrated marketing firm. We have brand managers, interactive professionals, designers, PR pros and others. While you might think you can excel in any of those areas, the job posting was for a B2B technology PR account executive. So don’t tell me how you really love consumer product marketing or you’re not really into technology or not really sure if marketing is the right fit but you’re just looking for a job. Because I’m not really into candidates who won’t throw themselves 100 percent into the opportunity at hand.
- You don’t get social media (but think you do). I don’t expect you to be an expert in anything just getting out of school, but your resume claims social media expertise. Your eight tweets in the last six months are not signs of immersion. Your blank Pinterest page is less than compelling. Spelling Tumblr with an “e” says something – but not the right thing. Dabble in social while at school for sure. Tell me you have exposure to social networks. Just don’t try to impress me with “expertise” that does not exist yet.
- You couldn’t bother to proofread. If you can’t eliminate bad grammar or misspellings from your resume or cover letter, how can I expect you to write an error-free report for a client? And how do you think my clients feel when they get email that’s full of mistakes.
- You don’t have a LinkedIn profile. So you probably heard that your Facebook shouldn’t have inappropriate content. But LinkedIn is the place to showcase your professional skills, even if they are nascent. Set it up right (there are lots of tips online to help) and give it some love.
- Do an internship (or two or three). While this is more for those still in school than those just out, nothing makes you more attractive to me than knowing you’ve been exposed to a similar work environment. Internships also help you decide if my job represents the right structure for you – saving us both time and agony if it turns out you just don’t like what we do. I get 50-100 resumes each semester from new graduates. Those with internships sit well ahead of those without.
- Bonus reason: you lacked professional courtesy! You were two minutes late; you looked away when you shook my hand; I introduced you to my colleague and you didn’t even ask her what she does. Why would I want to expose you to my clients?
You and your family have invested vast amounts of time and money into getting your diploma. It’s a small bit of extra effort to make sure you don’t ruin your chances in the interview. I will hire someone – I just won’t hire you.
Mark O’Toole, managing director of public relations & content marketing at HB Agency, helps clients tell their stories and engage with their audiences using words, images, video and search.