Expectations

I was listening to the radio this morning and the topic was the expectations of new college graduates. In essence, their excessive expectations. The conversation started with a report, a complaint, from a recent graduate. He couldn’t find a job!

No, that’s not right. He had a number of interviews, he couldn’t get hired. There’s a difference.

The grad’s expectation, fed by his school, was that all the grad needed to do was to wave his degree in the face of interviewers and he’d magically get hired.  Surprise! Surprise! Real world intervenes.

I worked for a large telecommunications provider, first as a team leader, then a manager, later as a design engineer and project manager. I was as high as I could go in the company without being an executive. During that time, I interviewed prospective employees, hired some and had to fire some as well. One of the activities I liked was screening college students who recently graduated or would be graduating within months.  Most were bright, knowledgeable and eager to commence their post-school  real-world life.

Then there were the others.

A tactic my employer used was called the “carousel.” Prospective employees would arrive enmass. They were given a stanard benefit package and then sent, in sequence, to managers and engineers for interviews. That allowed each potential employee to be interviewed by a half-dozen managers and engineers. At the end of the day, we interviewers met and discussed the applicants, selecting those for the next round of follow-up interview.

Those meetings were instructive. Some of the applicants would be very surprised with their impression on potential employers.

Case in point: one applicant that I still remember. You could say he did everything to not get hired. We received his resume some days earlier to allow us to be prepared for the interview. From this applicants resume and transcript, I noticed that he attended a number of universities—six as I remember. He had been in school eight years starting at age 19. He had changed majors at least three times.

He arrived in my office wearing jeans, sneakers—no socks, a pullover shirt, and a wrinkled sportcoat. We reviewed his resume and I asked my usual questions to determine what he’d learned in school. “What projects did you complete? What extra-curricular activities were you involved in? What were your priorities in school?”

The job slots open were for entry-level engineers. Instead of answering my questions with engineering examples, he spoke of all his “social awareness” activities.

Apparently, he was anti-war. 9/11 had occurred only months previously. He was against retaliation—“violence never solved anything!” was his response as I remember. I controlled my usual response to such inanities by reminding him of Rome and the Carthaginians. Rome still exists. Carthage doesn’t.

I asked him what he brought to the table that would be an asset to the company. I received a lecture on fairness, the evils of capitalism and the “banker’s cabal.”

At the end of the day when we reviewed the applicants, this character was on the bottom of the pile. We ordered the applicants in order of preference, the best on top. When his name finally appeared, the lead reviewer asked for comments. Silence. No one spoke. Finally, one reviewer ventured, “he has a heightened awareness for politics.” Translation: troublemaker. He wasn’t hired.

Flash forward to the present day. I listen to comments from present day graduates. They are being taught to…fail. Reading comprehension is low. Universities are teaching at a high-school level. The educational curricula has been trimmed to a point of being useless. But applicants are still being told that jobs will miraculously appear by waving a degree before the interviewer.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What graduates should be taught is that the job market is for buyers, not for sellers. Applicants need to impress employers. The first opportunity to impress is the applicant’s initial image. Yes, first impressions are important.

When coming to an interview, be prepared. Get a haircut. Shave. Wear a suit, or at least a sportcoat and tie. Be neat. If you don’t have a suit, there are many thrift stores that have good, well care for suits at a low price. At least do your best with what you have. If you arrive with a scraggly beard, tattoos all over, you will not be hired. Your freedom to acquire tattoos and piercings doesn’t extend to your prospective employer. You can not force him to accept your lifestyle. 

Ladies, don’t come to an interview wearing a top that is open to your navel. Don’t wear shorts or skirts so high that you can’t sit without exposing yourself. The interest you elicit will not get you hired. Not fair? Well, it’s time you learned the world is not fair. Live with it.

Bring copies of your resume and school transcripts. You resume MUST be accurate, clearly written without typos and misspellings. Your history WILL be verified. There are companies out there whose business it is to verify resumes and transcripts. Most importantly, don’t lie on your resume. You will be found out.

If you have a police record, don’t bother applying to any position that requires you to handle or manage cash nor any position that requires a security clearance or a bond. That includes the military as well.

The last point for an applicant to remember is this: your expectations are worthless if you can’t fulfill the expectations of your employer. You must work to meet his expectations. If you don’t fulfill his expectations, he can easily find someone who will, who can fill your vacant slot.

If you have interviews but can’t get hired. Look in the mirror. That’s where you’ll find the problem.