How to Get a Job: 3 Reasons you’re not getting those entry-level positions you’re totally qualified for [HorroR Stories] Jun25

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How to Get a Job: 3 Reasons you’re not getting those entry-level positions you’re totally qualified for [HorroR Stories]

HRS4Dear Madame HR,

I am a recent college graduate (1 month!) and I’m having trouble finding a job. I’ve had a bunch of interviews and I’ve heard nothing. I majored in Psychology and decided not to go further in my education but instead work for a few years and see how I feel. I worked while going to school doing clerical work in the Admissions office, and had a few office type temp jobs on summer breaks, so it’s not that I have no experience. However, I send out dozens of resumes and get a few calls, but then those interviews that I do get go nowhere. Is it my major? Any tips?

–Totally Employable

Dear Employable,

I’ve been writing this column now for, like, sixty years or so, and I can’t believe this is my first “how can I get a job” question. Considering all the doomsday hiring scenarios we’ve supposedly been living through lately, I would think that everyone is looking for a job right now. BTW, all of my 87 thousand close friends know that Madame HR tends toward the hyperbole. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take Madame HR seriously, despite the moniker (what was I thinking? Madame HR? Like I’m some sort of corporate brothel-ista or something. I should have gone with the HR-minator, or how about DJ HR Jiggy? Senora HR Love? Personally, I have always wanted a nickname with the word “jiggy” in it. I often feel rather jiggy, and think it should be recognized in some fashion).

First, a compliment: no, it’s not on the Psychology Degree (this said by a fellow person with a Psych degree), it’s the not rushing into the “grad school as the solution to all of your problems” plan. I commend that. No sense in delaying the inevitable descent into office job hell by racking up more student loan debt, especially if you can’t afford to go to Europe. That was my personal method of delaying the inevitable and I loved it! So if you can’t do that, working is good too. <thumbs up!>  <Go to Europe!> <Get a temp job for a few months and save up some money and go to Europe!> <I’m fine with South America too> <Or wherever is safe> <thumbs up!>

Also, just a side note, but it’s only been 1 month. That’s not that long. Patience my friend. They say it takes 1 month for every $10,000 of salary you are looking for to find a job. I don’t know who “they” are, but it’s “conventional wisdom” if you buy into such things.

I’m going to ignore all the obvious “resume tips” and “interviewing tips” that every other Yahoo! news story already covers. Nothing fills a content quota for a website like a totally generic list of ten totally obvious resume and interviewing tips. Check your spelling! Really? Are you serious? Be on time to your interview! <slaps forehead in surprise> I never would have thought of that!

Ok, Generation YZer or Zer or Millennial or whatever the fuck, I know it’s pretty shocking to you right now that all the hiring managers out there don’t have the same opinion of you that your helicopter Mommy does. (Wow, yes, I am a member of the financially and optimism-ally bankrupt Generation X, in case you couldn’t tell).

There is a difference between knowing how to type and being a person the company will hire to do their typing. You don’t mention above what types of jobs you are interviewing for, but from the examples of your experience, I’m guessing they are office jobs. So I will continue with that assumption unless I hear otherwise. As you may or may not remember, when I was discussing compensation a few weeks back, I talked about how employee expectations and employer expectations are like two parallel lines that never the ‘twain shall meet. And I think job hunting is similar.

The company I currently work for, which I shall not name, is hiring. Oh boy howdy are we hiring. And guess what? We have a heck of a time finding people to hire. And, for many of our positions, we are looking for entry level recent college graduates. We’ll get these awesome resumes from all sorts of fresh faced and recent massive debt acquirers of the old Bachelor’s Degree. And we don’t hire most of them, even though they tick a lot of the boxes: “fresh faced,” “speaks Swahili,” “knows how to type using other fingers than thumbs,” stuff like that. So why not? Hooray! Time for a numbered list:

1. They don’t know what they want.

I sure as heck ain’t going to figure that out for ‘em (I got all folksy there for a minute). I’m guessing, as a twenty-two year old (I’m going to be generous and assume you graduated in 4 years), you don’t really know what you want. You want this job, this one, right now that you are interviewing for. And tomorrow, you want the job that you’ll be interviewing for then. That’s fine, I’m just suggesting that you think about that for a minute.

Think about what wanting “this” job means. When they ask you, or you write your cover letter (useless obvious job hunting tip #3: write a goddamn cover letter already), or even before you send your resume. Think about it.

DJ HR Jiggy has applied for a few jobs in her day. When I am applying for a job, I read the job posting very carefully. Let’s say the job is particularly focused on benefits administration. I will revise my resume to HIGHLIGHT my benefits experience. Then, in my cover letter, I will again HIGHLIGHT my benefits experience. My objective on my resume is to blah, blah, blah BENEFITS blah blah. In the interview they ask, “what am I looking for?” I say “blah, blah, blah BENEFITS blah blah.” Hopefully at that point I have also done some research about the company and the culture at said company, so I can answer “blah, blah, blah BENEFITS in a company that has a ping pong table in the lobby.” You know something like that.

Here’s the important part: you don’t have to tell the TRUTH. You don’t have to say something like, “well, I’m just out of college and kind of drifting, pretty much throwing a lot of things at a wall and seeing what sticks. I couldn’t really afford to go to Europe, and I haven’t met that Dentist yet whom I’m going to marry, so I thought I’d try Benefits Administration.” The savvy Hiring Manager might know this, and you can wink at each other all you want, but I’m telling you to go in there with the best freaking lie you’ve ever told, and for those 30 minutes believe in it like you’ve never believed in anything in the whole wide world.

And since you are a Generation YZer or Zer or Millennial or whatever the fuck that should be easy. Try being born in the early seventies and believing in anything except the inevitable decline of civilization. Alien invasion or Zombie Apocalypse–and those are the good options, I’m telling you, it used to be nuclear bombs. If you don’t know what I’m talking about listen to The Smiths or watch some Hal Hartley movies

1. They don’t act like they want the job.  I’m telling it to you straight that I would hire a person with absolutely no experience but who seemed smart and had a lot of enthusiasm over someone with ten years experience but who could give a shit any damn day of the week. Effort counts. Also, notice how I said “seems smart,” yes, my friend, I know you’ve spent the last four years of your life acting like a moron and loving it, I’m here to tell you that that period in your life is now over

2. They have no “soft skills.” What are the soft skills that I, as the hiring manager, am looking for? Can you think? I’m telling you again, so you know I mean it, I will take someone with no experience but who can think over a dumbass PhD, who is chock full of book theories but hasn’t had a critical thought in his life any damn day of the week. How do you translate this in an interview? Well, slow down, take a deep breath. Listen to what the interviewers are asking you. If you don’t understand what they are asking, ask for clarification. Be thoughtful, practice your “looking thoughtful” expression in the mirror before you go. It should involve some wrinkling of the forehead. <Gasp!> I know, have some emergency moisturizer in your car for when you’re done.

3. They don’t ask me questions. This tells me that they aren’t engaging in a conversation with me about this job, they are viewing this as a necessary evil task that must be accomplished before the paychecks start coming in and they can “make it rain” at the Dave and Buster’s next Saturday night (arcade tokens hurt more on the way down then hundred dollar bills. I’m not telling you how I know that). What sort of questions should you ask? Well, if something didn’t come up in the course of the interview that you felt needed some clarification, you can go with my old standbys: “What is a typical day like for this position?” “What is your management style?” “How would you describe the culture of this company?” then, think about the answers, maybe you’ll have more questions.

Once the interview is done the Hiring Manager is thinking about things like: how is this person going to fit in? Will they be happy here and last longer than six months? Are they trainable? You can ask the same questions of yourself. Maybe you’re desperate, but hopefully not, hopefully if the environment or the culture or the manager seems horrific, you can walk away.

OK, now that that’s over with, allow me to make one suggestion. Have you tried staffing (aka temp) agencies? I’ve noticed, and my company is doing it too, that a lot of companies are doing the whole “try before you buy” thing. I got my first job out of college through a staffing agency. I also got my first HR job the same way. It’s great, usually you don’t have to have tons of experience and you can prove yourself on the job. So you just have to be competent, which might be a challenge for you as a Generation YZer or Zer or Millennial or whatever the fuck, but try. Put as much effort into it as you do the Facebook, or the Twitter, or whatever the heck you are pecking away at on your phone 24 hours a day. Good luck! I’ll be over here, if you need me, under my desk, waiting for the bombs to fall.

Good luck out there,


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