why don’t hiring managers look for potential in people?

This was originally published on October 26, 2012.

A reader writes:

In November, it will be 5 years since I graduated, with a Bachelor of Science degree and a 4.0 GPA. I have experience, though most of it has been volunteer, trying to get more experience as I don’t know what else to do.

Regardless, my experience has been in my field, and paid experience in other fields. I have been able to complete advanced training in my field. Not to mention the international experience, broad knowledge base, wide range of interests and abilities I have. Heck, I was even elected president of a radio station (equivalent to CEO), in another western country last year, with no prior experience. Yet I was very successful, and completed my term in June this year, but it was volunteer, despite being basically a full time job. (I was gone from the U.S. for a year due to a medical family emergency.)

Yet here I sit, not even able to get an interview. My resume is good, I know it’s not that as it was just reviewed and deemed quite acceptable.

So, what do people in my position do? I’m either overqualified or still don’t have enough experience, apparently even if paid training is advertised as part of the position.

I have student loans to pay — I can’t defer. I have no money, no unemployment benefits, kids to look after and I am very highly frustrated and getting very depressed.

Do hiring managers and HR people even look at potential? Do they glance over someones resume and not actually “see” it properly, or do they just not get that some people can literally walk into a job and hit the ground running? Do they look at what the candidate has done and actually comprehend it, or honestly, do they just not “get” some specifics?

Why do they mention entry level and training if they are not willing to take someone who is entry level? And why, when someone may have potential, and has applied thinking they would be trained and therefore have a chance, do they not even look at that candidate? I do understand that hey, if they can find someone with experience and doesn’t need training.. but how much experience are they wanting… is a PRESIDENT of a radio station not considered good enough? My gosh, how much higher do I need to go on the spectrum?

Well, it sounds like you’re looking at it from your perspective without thinking about the perspective of an employer — and that’s key to understanding what’s going on.

Yes, employers may be willing to take someone entry-level and do some training — when they first advertise the position. But when they get flooded with applicants who do have experience and wouldn’t need training, some of whom are quite good, it makes sense that they focus on those people and don’t spend time with others.

You asked why they’re not willing to consider people with potential. But from the employer’s side of this, “potential” often means “unknown quantity,” which means “risk.” And when they have candidates who have already established a track record, there’s no real incentive for them to take a risk.

There’s another piece of this too:  You say you’re confident that your resume is “quite acceptable” — but having it deemed “acceptable” isn’t good enough in this market. It needs to be great. And you need engaging, compelling cover letters too. (And maybe “acceptable” was just a bad choice of words in your letter — but if it’s not getting you a single interview, it’s worth considering that it might need another look.)

I also wonder if you’re possibly shooting too high in the jobs you’re applying for. I don’t know what types of positions you’re targeting, but you might need to aim lower. I know that’s hard to hear, but I suspect that your expectations aren’t quite aligned with what the market will hire you for. For instance, you seem shocked that being president of a radio station isn’t getting you interviews … but based on the info we have here it probably isn’t the sort of thing that’s going to really wow employers. It was less than a year, it was volunteer, and you got the job without prior experience, which says that it probably isn’t really CEO-equivalent, despite your description of it that way. I don’t mean this to be harsh at all, but if you’re applying for jobs assuming that you’re bringing a certain level of qualifications, and employers see it differently, you’re better off realizing that so that you can recalibrate your approach.

It’s hard to give you more specific advice without knowing more specifics, but these are the things I’d start looking at.

It doesn’t do any good to be annoyed that employers don’t see in you what you see in yourself. Your job is to find ways to make them see it — whether it’s through a better resume, or an awesome cover letter, or starting lower than you want and working your way up. If they’re not “getting” what you have to offer, that means that you need to revamp the way you’re selling it.

Of course, none of that is intended to discount the role that the crappy job market is playing here. It absolutely plays a role — a pretty big one. But that doesn’t negate anything above; in fact, it makes it all the more important.

{ 136 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    Yes, employers may be willing to take someone entry-level and do some training — when they first advertise the position. But when they get flooded with applicants who do have experience and wouldn’t need training, some of whom are quite good, it makes sense that they focus on those people and don’t spend time with others.

    I think this gets at the heart of a lot of job seeker frustration. People who wonder why they can’t get an interview or can’t get a particular job often think of it in terms of “What’s wrong with me?” or “I thought I did pretty well in the interview.”

    Potential employers aren’t judging you on your standalone merits. They are judging you relative to other applicants. If they have only one opening and 100 applicants, 20 of whom are “qualified” or “overqualified,” your being qualified or overqualified isn’t enough. You don’t know who those other 19 applicants are or what experience they bring.

    You also have to consider that hiring sometimes can be political. It isn’t always based strictly on what a job seeker might consider her or his own merits (same deal with high school and college admissions). Sometimes they’re looking to round out their team or overcompensate in a certain direction for a deficiency the previous person had. Or it may be a promotion from within to keep a loyal worker happy. Or it may be someone who knows the owner.

    I’ve mainly worked in schools, and I see this sort of thing happen all the time. If candidate A is this good at teaching and candidate B appears to be only slightly better as a classroom teacher, but candidate A can also coach a varsity sports team and has experiencing leading a certain club the school needs, it’s very likely the school will go with candidate A. Candidate B may feel rejected and a little indignant, but the school probably had very good reasons for going with candidate A.

    1. LBK*

      Sometimes they’re looking to round out their team or overcompensate in a certain direction for a deficiency the previous person had.

      A perfect example of something like this: a friend I recommended for a position got passed up for it twice. The third time, the manager looked at the team he had and realized he needed a really good motivator that could glue together a group of people who had very different personalities. My friend was exactly that person, so he got the job. He didn’t become any more qualified for the job in terms of skills or experience (this was only over the course of 3 months), the needs of the team and the position had just changed so now he was the best fit.

  2. Mena*

    As a hiring manager currently interviewing candidates for an open position, I’ll say that it isn’t all about the candidate. I need the person that is right for this role and the OP is frustrated that I won’t take a risk. I need a proven track record with identifiable results. The candidate’s need to pay school loans isn’t going to sway me to hire. I think it is time to aim lower and re-examine that resume (it isn’t acceptable if it isn’t getting you interviews).

  3. TransAtlantic*

    As someone who has moved to North America from the UK, I can understand the OP’s frustrations. This is a sweeping generalization, but employers seem to be more willing to have faith in less experienced candidates in the UK. I have no idea of the reasons behind that, but I’ve experienced it first hand. It was a tough lesson to learn!

    Unfortunately for the OP, it’s the market that they’re operating in. Job seekers need to learn it’s not necessarily about them, it’s about what the employer needs and has access to in that market.

    1. HM in Atlanta*

      One of the big differences I see in the UK versus US is the year-long intern or training programs available in the UK. That’s where so many people get their initial training or foot in the door. There really isn’t an equivalent in the US.

    2. monologue*

      Totally this. The job market being so competitive is making it really difficult on new candidates and employers are less and less willing to provide training. This is in the best interest of the employers and not in the best interest of society. But, while the system stays as is, Alison’s advice is good.

  4. OriginalYup*

    Off topic, but on these reboot posts, I always go back and skim the original comments. And boy are there some late-comer doozies every time.

    1. Elysian*

      I always kind of wish for a “recent comments were made on these posts” feature for that reason. Like the one about the bobbleheads a few days ago, I’m sure there are some ongoing conversations to be had with that one, but I’m not checking them anymore so I’m sure I’m missing it. I know AAM is considering redesign stuff – maybe a “new comments on old posts” sidebar could be on our wish list?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There’s an easy plug-in to display new comments — but our comment volume is so high here that I think it would be mainly comments on new posts that got displayed there. I don’t know of a solution for displaying just new comments on older posts, unfortunately!

        1. SEO :)*

          To avoid duplicate content of old post and new post consider separating advice by Previous Advice and Updated Advice (ie – what you would say differently or mention that the advice still stands).

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The advice definitely still stands or I’ll explain that it doesn’t. (But most of the time it does.) They’re really just (a) a partial day off for me and (b) bringing content in front of readers who might not have seen it a few years ago.

    2. fposte*

      There’s also a high heartbreaking ratio to those late posts, where somebody’s really distressed about something and only just found the post a year or two later.

    3. Crow T. Robot*

      Your comment made me curious, so I clicked over and read the last few comments on the original post. Wow.

    4. Bryan*

      They go from the typical helpful comments I have come to expect on this site to something I’d imagine on Yahoo.

  5. Alano*

    I’m a low-level manager in a large organization in the legal industry. I can tell you that (at least in the legal industry), once you hire somebody, you have to jump through a bunch of HR hoops to fire somebody for performance reasons. It typically takes months and oodles of documentation and endless meetings. It’s somewhat easier to get rid of someone if they’ve been with the firm for less than 90 days, but it’s still a major chore. Additionally, if I do get rid of a bad hire, there’s no gurantee that I will get to hire a replacement.

    Because of that, I am quite cautious when hiring. I avoid gambles. I try to be 100 percent certain that someone is right for the job (even though 100 certainty is impossible). I give a great deal of weight to information from references who actually worked with somebody in the past. And I give LOTS of weight to people who are recommended by top performers within my organization (there’s a reason why so many companies offer referral bonuses to employees).

    I’ve seen plenty of folks who had a 4.0 and went to a good school who (in my opinion) didn’t perform particularly well in the workplace, so for me actual experience typically trumps education.

    I fully understand the frustration. I can see how annoying it would be to go for years and years without getting an interview because no one is willing to take a risk. But don’t blame the hiring managers. They’re usually doing the best they can given the constraints they face.

    If you want to blame anyone, blame the politicians and lawyers who’ve created a regulatory climate where everyone is afraid of getting sued for firing someone. Or blame the politicians who’ve created the awful economy we’ve had for the last eight years.

    1. Cnon*

      Or blame the politicians who’ve created the awful economy we’ve had for the last eight years.

      This for the win!!

  6. JM*

    Not sure if this is true for anyone else, but this is what I have experienced.
    Submitting my resume for an opportunity via any job sites or thru the career section of a company has never got me anything. However, when I have my resume on dice/monster/indeed and the like, I always get a lot of calls and interviews. It always work out when “they” contact me and not when I try to contact “them”.

    I always felt that at least a few (not all) opportunities that are posted on the career section of companies as well as the job boards are for H1 or green card processing, where they already have a candidate and wants to prove that there is nobody else out there who can match him.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Wow, I find this very interesting because it’s the opposite where I work. I am sitting here right now screening the 100 resumes that have come in since yesterday through the “jobs” link on our website. It is our main way of finding candidates. We would never contact someone through Monster/etc. – we only want people to apply to specific postings. I always thought people that cold called candidates on these sites were either spammers, MLMs like Avon, or sales-type places with super high turnover. Is that not the case?

      And to be fair, companies can’t reach out to everyone who applies – if I get 700 applicants for an open position, we are going to reach out to about 20-30 total for initial phone screenings (and it’s only that many because we lose half once they hear what we pay). The rest don’t hear anything from me. It’s just not possible (other than the “we got your resume” confirmation email).

      1. stellanor*

        I find the passive thing is true for temp contract jobs where I am. I got my job because someone from a temp agency found me on Linkedin and asked if he could submit me for a position. I’d applied for a metric ton of similar temp positions on my own, but no callbacks.

        Amusingly, I’m now fulltime on that team and apparently if you search for the keywords in our temp job recs my resume comes up somewhere, because EVERY TIME we put out a new rec I get a bunch of calls from agencies asking if I want to apply. (Apparently none of them have looked at my linkedin because if they did they’d notice I’m working here full time…)

      2. Passive Job Seeker*

        I have been contacted and most of the places seem legit. I did have Conseco contact me to sell insurance, but I have gotten 3 interviews since Feb. from just having a public profile. One of them flew me across country on their dime.

      3. CAA*

        It might depend on your industry. I’ve been contacted by many legit companies who are looking for my specific skillset. Likewise, I’ve searched LinkedIn for people who have specific skills in my area and contacted them. I’ve hired 3 people that way and another one that was referred by someone I reached out to.

    2. Ali*

      The reverse is true for me. I have gotten some response for responding to ads on Idealist.org, Indeed or a company’s site. When I have had my resume posted, the only calls I got were for insurance sales…Aflac and that.

      I just got a social media internship and found out about it on Twitter, as one of my followers and someone I’ve built a relationship with through a Twitter chat works at the company and helps oversee the intern program. I saw the tweet, sent my resume to a different person and talked to my contact about the program. I start next week.

      1. kas*

        Congrats! I find a lot of positions posted on Twitter that are not found anywhere else, just a simple “#HIRING: __________”

    3. LAI*

      I would say that it is the opposite for me. First of all, as a hiring manager, I have never even consider seeking out applicants on any external website, because we already get more qualified applicants than we can interview just through our own posting.

      As a job seeker, I have also never used monster or any of those job sites. Instead, I identify the specific organizations that I would like to work for, and search their job postings specifically for openings in my field. I’m extremely selective about which job I’ll apply for and I spent a lot of time customizing each resume/cover letter. As a result, in the last 8 years, I’ve submitted about 12 applications for jobs, 6 which led to interviews, 3 of which became job offers (this was over 3 separate job searches) During my last “search”, I submitted 1 application and got the job – I start next week!. So it has seemed to work out pretty well for me.

  7. Big John*

    Long-time reader, first-time poster.

    I’ve noticed something over the last few years of interviewing recent college grads for positions in the science and engineering field (maybe this is common to other fields as well). There seems to be a common misconception that just because they have completed a difficult field of study and graduated with high marks, they are ready to “hit the ground running”. We spend as much time training them in the technical aspects of their job as we do training them to simply work in an office environment.

    The OP’s view that they could contribute significantly to an employer is admirable, but in my experience very few recent grads can contribute more than is expected from entry level work. Sadly, I see many grads thinking that they can skip those entry level work tasks and jump right to more difficult work.

    How many of us have heard new people say, “I want to manage people someday.” If they only knew how difficult that is!

    1. Adam*

      I think the overall employment following college mindset of the American culture is a little broken at this point. Higher education is great in many respects, but it doesn’t churn out ready made employees for companies to snap up because higher education just isn’t designed to do that. But that IS the mindset that seems to be drilled into fresh faced students heads. It certainly was mine.

      I graduated from college about seven years ago and while I’ve steadily worked most of the time since then I’ve yet to find a job that was especially satisfying by any metric you’d care to measure by. But all I heard growing up from parents and teachers alike was “go to college, get that degree, and all the world will be yours”. I should have asked for specifics, though I doubt a lot of them would have been able to provide them.

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I went to school. It was a great experience. And when I got out and started looking for jobs I think my expectations were actually pretty realistic. But even then the reality of what employers actually want combined with a job market that took a catastrophic nosedive has made the job search/employment world much more gruesome than I was led to believe.

      1. Wonderlander*

        +1 for “I should have asked for specifics, though I doubt a lot of them would have been able to provide them.” THIS.

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        I am a former teacher who still works in education and I have long thought that we do a terrible job in exposing children to possible career paths. This should be something developed throughout K-12 education, not limited to a random career day or what kids can soak up through random exposure to adult jobs.

        Of course, parents can help with this too. Unfortunately, most adults have a limited idea of possible careers and even less idea of how to get there other than “college”.

        1. Adam*

          Indeed. It seems like whenever the subject of careers came up in school they were pretty generic one-size-fits-all answers even though most of us probably wouldn’t be entering these fields, i.e. becoming a “doctor” or “lawyer” etc.

          And with parents I think there was a bit of well intentioned naivety going on. Mine are now in their 60’s so back when they were earning degrees going to college was a bit of a bigger deal then the current climate where pretty much everyone who enters the white collar world goes to college first. Alison has stated many times that I shouldn’t give much heed to job search advice from my parents (and with one of them she was very right). It kinda feels like parents and college could fall under a similar heading at this point.

          1. Butt in Chair*

            “Mine are now in their 60′s so back when they were earning degrees going to college was a bit of a bigger deal then the current climate where pretty much everyone who enters the white collar world goes to college first. […]It kinda feels like parents and college could fall under a similar heading at this point.”

            THIS. My mom graduated from college in 1977, at a time when a degree was a golden ticket. My dad went to trade school but never finished college and feels like it shut a lot of doors for him.

            So I went to college and Did Everything Right (TM), but I’ve still been underemployed my entire working life. I’ve given up completely on finding a job in the field I went to school for because the market is beyond saturated, and even if I could find a job it would only pay about $30K a year. I feel like neither one of them can really understand why someone as SMART and CAPABLE and WHATEVER ELSE as I am is struggling to find a good job because they’re looking at it as if the rules from when they were my age still apply.

          2. Felicia*

            Here everyone has to take a half semester career course in grade 10 in order to graduate highschool, and at my school at least, it was great for identifying possible career paths (and I loved that we used the website Career Cruising, which I found helpful). It was also where I learned to write a resume, and based on wat I learned from this site, was taught quite well. But the class isn’t that quality at all schools, I don’t think it’s long/in depth enough and it should start earlier. It’s a great start though

        2. MaryMary*

          I totally agree. I really wish there was a better way to link students’ interests/skills/strengths to career paths. I’ve always loved words, but when I was in high school I thought the only way to write professionally was to be an author or reporter. If you don’t know someone who is a technical writer, or in corporate communications, or publishing, or advertising, or PR, how do you know a) that kind of career exists, and b) how to prepare yourself for it? Our current educational system does not do a good job linking what students learn with how it can be applied in the job market.

          And don’t get me started on creating a path for young people who are not academically inclined.

          1. Adam*

            Right. It’s so incredibly vague you don’t even know where to start. People always ask what you like to do and answers like “write” or “biology” are so open ended there’s no way to tell just from that if you’d like to write PR or journal pieces (or if you’d even be good at either). It’s like someone asking you where you’d like to go on vacation and you respond “overseas”.

      3. Jackie*

        > But all I heard growing up from parents and teachers alike was “go to college, get that degree, and all the world will be yours”


        I agree with your statement about the disconnect between what students come out with and what the market wants. I maintain that the most messed up part about degrees is that we come out up to our eyeballs in the history and theory of a field, but with none of the actual skills we’ll need to do any kind of work in it. I (stupidly) majored in psych: we leaned all about all of the dead guys and their long-disproven ideas; but we never learned how to do an intake, how to handle a case file, or anything about billing, coding or HIPPA laws and compliance.

        Friend of mine just told me that despite all the time and money spent, you never learn how to file a brief in Law School — and that’s one of THE most basic tasks in the profession.

        I think all degree programs should come with a one- or two-year internship baked into the program. If a school can’t come up with a way to make one (Philosophy, Poetry, Women’s Studies, Liberal Arts, etc), it shouldn’t be allowed to offer that thing as a major. Period.

        1. Cat*

          You don’t actually need to learn how to file a brief in law school, though; you need a five minute tutorial into the efiling system of whatever court your at. You need to learn to write a brief in law school and, while law schools can and should do a better job at practical training, it truly is also important to learn the theory. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      4. Stephanie*

        I should have asked for specifics, though I doubt a lot of them would have been able to provide them.

        This so much. Problem is, most higher-paying jobs require at least a bachelors. So it’s often true a bachelors will lead to a better options, it’s just not specified how to best use your college experience. The advice always sounds like:
        1. Major in anything.
        2. ?????
        3. Profit.

      5. Led*

        The original point of higher education was to educate people, and the original curriculum was the liberal arts. My family has many school-related items from my grandparents, great-grandparents, and even great-great grandparents educations such as grade cards, yearbooks, and certificates. Attending college, even if you did not graduate, greatly improved your social standing. This was the case with my great-great grandparents. Nobody expected college to provide them with job skills. That was the responsibility of the job world, and that’s where I believe it should be today.

        Eventually some colleges became specialized, like teachers colleges and agricultural schools, but overall, college is not designed to produce job-ready people with a hit-the-ground skill set. It is meant to develop your ability to communicate and understand how people think and behave. Those skills are extremely undervalued today. Aren’t about 90 percent of the questions on this blog related to those ideas?

        In my universe, employers would be proud of their companies’ training programs. They would use them to attract employees with great potential. Companies would compete with each other to have the best training programs.

        I can dream, can’t I?

    2. Lora*


      I find that engineers and physics guys are way worse than undergrads fresh out of basic science though. Biology & chemistry grads at least seem to know that they just got a very broad overview of things and there is a lot more to learn in sub-fields.

      Don’t know why. They all tell me about their senior projects. OK, great, but if you got it 85% correct on your senior project, you just graduate with a B+ average. If you get it 85% right in real life, that is terrible and there’s a bunch of dead bodies you need to explain.

    3. Stephanie*

      I wasn’t like this.

      Unfortunately, family and friends assume my engineering degree is enough for me to hit the ground running. I suppose it’s more of a trade degree than an English degree, but we had our share of theoretical stuff that wasn’t super applicable outside of the academy.

    4. Chris*

      Just wondering; do you have a specific example of a recent engineering college grad mistake made in regards to the work environment and technical training?

      My perspective: I graduated with an Aeronautical Engineering degree in June 2012 and have yet to find an internship / job (and I believe I’m the only one in my graduating class that has been unemployed completely in that timeframe [an ex-classmate made the mistake of interviewing with a company and filed a 2 weeks notice before the new company got back to her, and they ended up going with someone else]). A few things I’ve heard regularly from my ex-classmates is:

      “I’m bored at work.”
      “I’m doing stuff I learned in high school.”
      “I’m doing zero aerospace.”

      The first comment is what draws my attention since it implies that, to be bored, you either aren’t doing much or there is nothing difficult to do in that particular workplace. Some of my ex-classmates work in areas requiring security clearances, so it’s not like they aren’t involved with complicated mechanisms, information, or processes. In that respect, it makes me wonder what technical challenge mistakes new engineering grads make when they get jobs.

      Side note: The second comment really worries me. Again, I’ve officially been job hunting since June 2012 (unofficially since Sr. year high school), and it seems like, to even get a shot at an internship, I need to have cured both cancer and AIDS. If the engineering internship / job requires just basic high school legwork, then what’s the point in trying to accomplish complex stuff?

      Side side note: Another disturbing comment:

      “I didn’t know anything about radar antenna systems when I applied for the job. You get hired, you spend 6 months working, and trust me, if you’re passionate about learning the subject, you will become an expert.”

      This was made by an engineer who helped run an interview conference. Basically, when I applied for a job at company X, I got an email asking me to fly to Los Angeles. In LA, the company hosted a major dinner party for about 150 candidates for about 35 positions to be interviewed for. Anyway, he made that statement, and, well, what it told me is that he…got lucky, since, it seems like, today, you not only need to have had extensive classwork on radar antenna systems, but also need to have constructed an X-band satellite communication system just to get the interview. Sigh.

      Digression aside, what are the biggest hurdles you received from new engineering grads in the workplace? Just need some information to process in case, someday, I get hired for an engineering internship / entry level job and need to avoid the mistakes others have made.

      1. misspiggy*

        Disclaimer: not an engineer, but married to one. He changed careers mid-life, and is working alongside much younger recent graduates in an entry level role. The biggest difference between the way he works and the way the younger grads work seems to be how they look at risk. He checks his work far more. He discusses the brief at an early stage to make sure he’s crystal clear what’s needed and what the obstacles might be; he lays out alternative ways of doing the task with ‘clients’, and makes sure they understand the ramifications of doing it this way vs that way. He worries a lot more about mistakes – not just making a big mistake now, but making a minor shift in direction that could lead to disaster later.

        It may just be coincidence, but a very bright young colleague was too optimistic about a design recently, and it was only when expensive tests were run that it was realised the thing didn’t work. Nobody died, and procedures were in place to make sure it never got to that; but thousands were wasted, essentially due to over-optimism. I think that’s why older/more experienced people often take longer on a task; they spend more time thinking and researching into ramifications and consequences. Older professionals also tend to be better at recognising that they’re expected to consult and critique with others constantly – kudos will be awarded for getting it right, not for coming up with everything out of your own head.

  8. Lily in NYC*

    I wonder if this person found a job considering it’s from 2012. I need closure!

    1. CanadianWriter*

      I hate not knowing! Maybe they’re the person who sent in the question about long term unemployment. :(

  9. Just a Student Aid*

    I work as a student aid in the Career and Employment Center at a community college and I hear these kind of complaints ALL the time from frustrated students. Our office offers services to alumni with no time limit AT ALL. So, 3-4 years later after they get their Bachelor’s degree and still can’t find a job, they come back to our office because the state college’s career center only offers services up to 6 months after they graduate. What the OP complains about are basically what the students that return to our office complain about also. The majority of the time, when I hand over their resume to the job developers, the job developers tell them their resume is REALLY lacking, just bizarre or the skills has nothing to do with the position that they had applied for or is just a resume where they put EVERYTHING they had ever done onto the resume.
    The job developers always tell them that they have to tailor each resume towards the specific position they are applying for and stop making a “general” resume or basically a one-size-fits all resume. I hear that term all the time too. Students come into the office to make a “general” resume to use to apply for every job.

    One employer told one of our job developers that applicants have only 6 seconds to grab his attention and if they don’t then the applicant’s resume goes into the trash. So your resume needs to be GREAT.
    I’m typing up advice flyers to post on our boards and found great articles from careerbuilder.com.

    6 job-search mistakes to avoid when finding your first job


    10 mistakes every first-time job seeker makes

    There is soooooo much more to job searching than you think.

    1. Marcy*

      Please, please also tell them that when they apply online that they need to fill out the ENTIRE application even if they are submitting a resume. I am hiring right now and I am not able to consider several candidates simply because they didn’t follow the directions and fill out the application. Others only filled out part of it- they were lazy. I don’t want to hire someone who is lazy or can’t follow directions.
      Cover letters would also be nice- I get them only about 10% of the time.

      1. Queen Anon*

        Not lazy – efficient. There should be no reason to have to duplicate information when applying for a job. I think Alison has addressed this before. Of course, their efficiency doesn’t negate the fact that they’re not following instructions, which is Not Good. But requiring unnecessary duplication of effort is a problem on the hiring end, not on the applicant’s end.

        1. Mimi*

          Agreed, but it’s the employer’s choice to ask you to complete an application. If it’s a job I’m really interested in, I suck it up and spend those 15-20 minutes completing the app.

        2. EvaR*

          This so hard. If you want me to fill out an application, that is perfectly fine, but I die a little inside whenever I upload a resume and then see the exact same questions on the application. I’ve read that it may be a legal issue, because applications usually make you sign something saying you agree that everything you wrote is truthful, but there’s no reason you couldn’t make people agree to that separately before submitting their resume, along with any additional questions you needed answered.

          I like those ones that have you upload a resume so it can auto populate the relevant fields, though. Those are great. I get that the potential employer has a lot of stuff to go through, but respecting other people’s time is always a good idea.

      2. Rachel*

        Every once in a while, I’ll start an application and then get halfway through it and realize I’m not a good fit. As an example, I applied to a job that I thought was a general biology teaching job, but when I got to the supplemental essay section they wanted me to talk about my experience with human anatomy. I know plants and fungi and ecology. I’m not qualified to teach anatomy, so I stopped. But there wasn’t a way to retract my application unfortunately.

    2. holly*

      also be careful when electronically submitting a resume. i’ve received one that is yellow letters on a white background and one that has a bunch of junk letters and symbols. both make the resumes unreadable.

      be sure the resume is a PDF so it will submit cleanly. (or someone else please suggest some other way to avoid this.) although maybe these were and the system ate them up somehow, i have no idea. but since i’ve received 80 resumes, i have to shrug and move on.

  10. ManderPants*

    I just wanted to share my story of catching a break and ending up working for great people who see the potential and personality in others. I really wish it was something more companies did, especially in this economy and for young people like me.

    About two years out of school my friends and I were in similar boats. We just needed someone to give us a break! We were trapped in the “Need experience to get a job, but can’t get a job without experience.” loophole.

    There are so many young people with potential and passion who would be stellar at their entry-level roles, but may not have XYZ qualification which takes them out of the running. And it was frustrating to hear about and witness bad hires or favoritism for the manager’s low-achieving son stories.

    During my long year of job searching it’s as if “Sorry I don’t have dozens of internships, but I worked a work study,was editor for my school paper, worked retail, and held up Deans and Chancellor’s Lists each semester while going to school full time. (And I read AAM, so my cover letters/resumes/etiquette was best of my ability.) And I’m a gosh darn good person with personality and hard worker!”

    But nope. I had a year of the ups and downs of post graduation job searching while working for soul sucking big-box retail, only about 7 interviews though I job hunted every week and reached out to friends, old teachers, etc.

    But the… a job posting I thought nothing would come of….emailed me back. I impressed the family business style office, “You present yourself well.” He said. I was myself and professional. He saw right away I was a good fit and told me he would move forward with me by the end of the interview!

    Last month I spoke with the other manager and we talked about hiring in general when he said they like to hire for potential. Of course no one is going to have experience in their [somewhat obscure utility] industry, so they go for potential. I had the editing and writing experience they were looking for (English degree!) for their office position since their construction-like crew isn’t the best at handling reports and their business was increasing.

    And you know what? My personality fit with them is great, I work efficiently, have caught up to their backlog of work, and repeatedly finish work before they have something else for me (business picks up when the weather is better) Their “gamble” with me was well placed. It shouldn’t even be called a gamble, there are factors for amazing hires beside X Y Z qualifications.

    1. Bryan*

      It’s great to read your story. My fiance is hunting and has a similar degree (history). He has so much potential but little experience and it was nice to read your positive outcome.

      1. Sidra*

        I am also a recent history grad (2010) and am now in my second professional job (both science/editing related) – it is hard getting a start with this degree, so my sympathies.

        One of the things that helped me was practicing “selling” why my degree was helpful to various types of businesses. I would practice telling my then-boyfriend how history or some relevant personal experience (school, etc.) helped me with X, with X being a key qualification from the job posting, etc., down the whole posting. I know it helped me land my first job as a technical writer for an engineering firm, just practicing sharing why I was ready for such a big role to someone who wouldn’t automatically see the value in a history degree. I do really think history is one of the better liberal arts for teaching critical thinking, nonfiction writing, and research skills – we just have to be good at explaining that to others!

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          I got my first job – at a major banking institution – due to my history degree. In response to a question about a recent market drop I went into a bit of ramble about the nature of a cyclical economy and how it has affected history over the last 100 years. He kind of glazed over after a while (I couldn’t stop!) and the hiring manager told me the director said I “seem really smart”. Thank you History of Economics 1501!

          1. ManderPants*

            There is a lot of value in the liberal arts, it’s just not as obvious as STEM. Glad it worked for you!

    2. One of the Annes*

      ManderPants, like you I was a liberal arts major and like you I got my first real post-college break with a family-run business. My starting pay, which seemed fantastic at the time, was actually extremely low. But the business owner was extremely fair, and when she saw I had a good work ethic and was actually really good at the job, I got steady pay increases. I am so grateful to her for giving me the chance to prove myself. I worked at that job for seven years and then was able to move into a position in a related field with another organization. I’ve never had the expectation that college would automatically lead to a well-paying job, though. I think part of the reason that things have worked out career wise is that I’ve always expected to have to prove myself. Also, I think luck is a huge, often-discounted factor. Had I not had that business owner take a chance on me 14 years ago, I might have just had to continue temping and never gotten the chance to build good experience and earning power.

      1. One of the Annes*

        Sorry, just realized that the “I always expected to have to prove myself, though” sentence sounds like it was directed at ManderPants, but it’s meant to be directed at the general earlier sentiment running through the comments about the youthful expectation of college degree automatically equaling a fulfilling, well-paying job.

      2. ManderPants*

        The reality of a good job after graduation went out the window quick, I was just desperate to catch a break. I’m happy with my pay now. Obviously I hope it could increase because it seems I’ll be taking on as much work as I can possibly do to help the other employees out, there doesn’t seem a limit to what I’m available to learn so that’s a plus.

        I don’t see myself leaving for a while, so I hope its a great resume booster. Luck was on my side, I’m working for good people.

  11. MaryMary*

    Another thing to consider is that the hiring manager is often not the one doing the initial resume/application screen. At OldJob, we had an open position and we were specifically looking for a recent college graduate. We worked in a specialized area with strict processes and proprietary software. Any hire would require extensive training, and in our experience, candidates right out of school were the most successful. OldJob used contractor recruiters to do the initial screen of candidates, and we could NOT convince the recruiters (we went through multiple people) that we were actually looking for a recent grad. They kept sending us candidates with years of experience in more of an administrative capacity, or vastly overqualified candidates. We did interview the folks the recruiters found: the administrative candidates didn’t have the problem solving and independent thinking skills we needed, and the overqualified candidates thought they were interviewing for a higher level position and wouldn’t accept our salary requirements. Once we finally found a recruiter who sent us candidates just out of college, we hired two people in a matter of weeks. So, obviously, those recruiters were not very good, but it’s not unusual for the person screening resumes to be on a different page than the hiring manager.

    1. Tina*

      This may be a silly question, but if the company was paying the external recruiters, why didn’t the recruiters just do what they were told and send you the candidates you asked for?

      1. MaryMary*

        It’s not silly, we asked ourselves that question several times. ;-) There are a couple potential reasons.

        1. Our criteria was not clearly communicated to the recruiter screening applications. This was a large organization and we were working with contractors, it’s possible the message wasn’t communicated to them at all. The last recruiter who sent us the candidates we asked for was the first one we got to talk to directly.

        2. The recruiters heard our criteria, but decided they had a better idea of what a strong candidate looked like.

        3. Our job posting was not attracting many applicants who were recent graduates (OldJob used to avoid using external job sites, so you had to come to our website to find openings) and the recruiters were passing on the best applicants they had
        3b. Our job posting was not attracting candidate who were recent graduates, and the recruiters were unable/unwilling to expand the search. Either there was not the budget to use external sites, perform campus recruiting, attend job fairs, etc, or the recruiters could not or didn’t want to put in the extra effort to find those candidates.

        1. Dave*

          This is one of the criticisms I hear about recruiters – that they tend to hide behind their computer screen, and not actually come up with inventive ways to find candidates. It’s like, I’m potentially paying you big money to find candidates in non-standard places.

          1. MaryMary*

            I feel like it depends on what the recruiters were actually hired to do. I had a friend who worked for a recruiting company briefly, and all they had time to do was prescreen applicants and weed out the unqualified and the crazies (mostly). However, I’ve worked with other recruiters who really do go out and actively search for the best candidate for your opening. In the situation at OldJob, I’ve often wondered how much money was saved when outsourcing recruiting meant open positions took 3-4 times longer to fill. And this was circa 2010, there were lots of talented candidates out there.

  12. John*

    OP, sounds like you’re pursuing a career in communications, which is my field.

    What makes it different from many other fields is the entry level jobs generally don’t allow you to use your degree or brainpower. They center on during the scut work. Listen, I had lots of experience producing, writing and directing TV (at the college level) but the reality was, I was going to have to pay my dues before getting to show off those skills.

    What do you do? Look for freelance work. Look for temp work. You have to get in the door. I have a friend who rose to a senior editorial role at a prestigious publication…and his path began with answering the phones. He’s one of the smartest people I know, but in his field no one cared about his GPA.

    I actually exited the TV world pretty quickly and, out of necessity, did some temping and eventually was hired full-time and that led to a career during communications in corporate America. So I believe in the power of just getting in the door somewhere…if you are smart and a hard worker, you will distinguish yourself and find opportunities.

    1. annie*

      I agree with this on the field of communications in general, but especially in radio and tv. If the OP is looking in the field of radio, that’s equivalent of trying to be a Broadway actor – there’s just not that many openings, and it’s like winning the lottery. Perhaps thinking of it that way will make it seem less personal and more a numbers game.

      1. anon-2*

        .. and it’s a shrinking industry. Stations would rather run satellite programming, or just sell vanity programming — the on-air personality buys the time, and has to sell ads.

        This is the sad state of radio today. See my long comment below.

        1. Ali*

          I have a communications/journalism degree and am trying to get a job that’s more on the communications side of things than the editing I do now. Most, if not all, postings are flooded with applicants, and I got an e-mail back from one opening yesterday that said they got an “overwhelming” number of resumes. (It was one of those automated e-mails they sent out from the looks of the rest of the message.) I am going to start doing an internship on the side of my full-time job in hopes it helps, and yes I did question myself before taking the internship, but it’s in an area where I have no professional experience. If it were say, a writing internship, I would’ve said no.

          I also tried to apply for a communications job locally and didn’t get an interview. It was at a college. A lady in my yoga class works at said college (but not in the same department I applied in) and said that everyone wants to work there and the people who are there have all been there a long time, so there’s not a lot of openings.

          It’s depressing. I am wishing I had majored in anything else!

  13. Joey*

    My immediate answer is because they don’t have to. Potential is code for you’re going to take work to get you where I need you to be and that’s going to be a crapshoot. Why do that when I can hire a proven Tom Brady or Peyton Manning instead of a Johnny Manziel.

    1. Dave*

      I get what you’re saying and it’s certainly true, is that there’s many people out there that can do the job “well enough.”


      * Others and myself have experienced instances where I was willing to take more of the grunt work type job, but for some reason, the employer did not have a long term career path. For people like me, who are gainfully employed, what is the point of taking a possibly lesser job, with less pay and no hope of moving around if I work hard enough.

      * In some publications, they are predicting a bubble burst – in college education and student loans. Based on the numbers, underemployment and unemployment for college grads is becoming a problem. What happens when creditors can’t collect on the debts because people are greeters at Wal-Mart? And on the flip side, why would people want to go to college if there is no improvement in jobs?

      1. EvaR*

        The problem of recent grads being underemployed isn’t a problem with student loans, because they’re federally insured. Even if you dodge your creditors, the government will re=appropriate your entire tax refund each year until they are paid. For a Walmart greeter who probably qualifies for the EITC, that’s a lot of money.

    2. Chris*

      “Why do that when I can hire a proven Tom Brady or Peyton Manning instead of a Johnny Manziel.”

      Because Tom Brady is oolldd and his QBR has had a downward trend since 2010. Peyton Manning is ooolllder, and also neck injury.

      Why hire those guys, when you could hire a fresh face in his prime who…had a shoulder injury? I mean , is at much less risk to shatter than that Manning guy?

  14. Brett*

    I actually work for two different jobs that take a lot of chances on potential, main job and startup company dream job.

    In both cases, we take chances because we cannot afford to pay someone with experience who don’t need training. Doesn’t mean we are bad employers otherwise, but you definitely end up trading salary for opportunity (we are talking bottom 5% pay in both cases). Startup job intends to eventually pay better, but can’t. Regular job is public sector and we will always be rock bottom for the industry pay.

  15. Tinker*

    Bit of a side note here, but what sort of degrees do people usually refer to first as “Bachelor of Science” rather than naming the major? Is that just the OP not wanting to identify their field directly, or is that done with certain sorts of degrees?

    I ask because I ran into a fellow awhile back who was very big on emphasizing that his degree was a BS (as opposed to a BA or whatever else) and downplaying what exactly it was a BS in — he had some sort of offbeat business / tech hybrid degree that he was evidently a bit self-conscious about (having changed from EE after some academic issues, from the sound of it), and also tried to use the authority of said degree (in Science!) to back up some rather odd ideas he had.

    I’d assumed that it was a thing peculiar to that one person and his particular special way of being, but maybe it’s not?

    1. Bryan*

      I think this person might have it in their head that STEM>humanities/liberal arts but their major was not chemistry/engineering or other typical STEM majors.

      1. Tinker*

        That was very distinctly the case for the fellow I encountered — in fact, he tried “you should listen to me and my STEM degree regarding what I think about the engineering industry” on me a couple times.

        I… don’t recommend that.

    2. Laufey*

      I mean, in general, BSes typically require more math and labs. At my school, there was a pretty significant difference between a BA in Biology and a BS in Biology. Those with BSes made sure to say it because it was 1) a rightful source of pride (which I say as a major that didn’t offer a BS) and 2) a way to explain lower (on average) GPAs. There was also a perception of BSes being more marketable to employers and grad schools (I have no clue if this was true or not).

      I also wonder how much of Bachelors of Science! is a way of saying “I’m not some dime-a-dozen English major or foolhardy Basket-weaving major. I majored in a science, blast it. Why won’t anyone hire me.”

      This is all conjecture, though.

      1. SD Cat*

        All bachelors degrees at my undergrad university are BSes, as far as I know. I basically have a BS in History.

        1. Tasha*

          I went to a US school that only offered BA’s, regardless of field, unless you were in the engineering school. (I also studied chemistry.) The BA/BS issue didn’t come up in my grad school interviews.

    3. Stephanie*

      Like Bryan said, this person may assume a BS sounds more rigorous and prestigious than a BA.

      BS vs a BA was way different for my major (an engineering one). BS required extra labs, year-long senior project, and a major specialization. The BA also wasn’t ABET accredited, so it made a difference for professional certification and some jobs. The professors really only recommended the BA if you were absolutely certain you wanted to go professional school immediately or didn’t want to work in engineering.

  16. Lizzie*

    Everything else aside, I’ve never heard of a college graduation in November. Semesters end in December and May at every college I know of!

    1. Fabulously Anonymous*

      There are other semester systems and some schools within colleges use a different system. For example, at my college, the Law School was on a different timing system than the rest of the University. I think it had something to do with the timing of the bar exam, but I don’t know for sure.

    2. TK*

      A school that uses quarters rather than semesters (like most of the UCA system outside Berkeley) could have potentially have people graduating in November, I’d think.

      1. LAI*

        Nope, the Fall quarter in the UC system still ends in December. And regardless, all UCs have graduation in May or June. There is no Fall graduation in either November or December.

  17. Another Long Term Unemployed Person*

    So then it’s just another catch 22… nobody wants to hire us because we are a risk…. but without a job we can’t get experience….. and I’ve tried volunteering and freelance work but apparently that isn’t the equivalent of full time employment in the hiring manager’s eye. It’s a vicious cycle. Unemployed forever.

    1. Joey*

      No. Either be in the right place at the right time or look for lower hanging fruit.

          1. Alizon*

            All the logic and strategy in the world will never compensate for the bad luck of not being in the right place at the right time, a bad economy which has hundreds of thousands of people needing work, and the unreasoning prejudice against people who have been out of work for longer than six months. Many of us are doing the very best we can in circumstances completely out of our control.

            1. fposte*

              That’s not completely true, though, because people out of work for a long time do get hired, and it’s not just because they had good luck. You can go unhired through no fault of your own, but you can also affect the likelihood in various ways, so strategy and logic do have a role to play as well as luck.

              Hundreds of thousands of people needing work is always the case, by the way–even in the lowest unemployment year in recent years, 2000, there were approximately 5 million unemployed.

              1. Alizon*

                You can try to affect it as hard as you can, but in the end, it’s just not up to you. It’s all in the lap of some anonymous hiring manager, looking at your cover letter and resume for less than thirty seconds, with an agenda that you may know nothing about. Trying to pretend that you have any power whatsoever is this process is useless. If you think otherwise, that’ s your right, but it’s not the reality I confront every day.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If that were true, the quality of resumes and cover letters would make no difference. I can tell you firsthand (and so can many others here that it does). Of course you have power in this process. You don’t have all the power, no, but you have the power to figure out how to present yourself as compellingly as possible, and that does have an impact.

                2. Jackie*

                  There definitely does seem to be some element of Random to it. I’ve been hunting for yeeeeears with no success (It occurs to me that I’m probably beyond-terrible at this job, I just can’t get fired from it ^^), but I have a pair of friends who change jobs like people change underwear. They’ve walked off of jobs in the middle of the day, had jobs they just up and decided they weren’t going back to (went home on Friday…and simply never showed up again), abruptly quit jobs — and yet neither of them have ever been unemployed for more than two months. And it’s all been professional positions. One has had 10 jobs in the time I’ve been trying to secure *one*!

                  On the less-obnoxious end of the spectrum, most of the rest of my friends have had to move away to find things. Couldn’t get anywhere here, but were very well-employed in under a week once they got to the new place.

                  So, right-place, right-time and/or some weapons-grade luck definitely factors in there somewhere.

                3. fposte*

                  Alizon, I am involved with hiring. I can’t speak for everybody who hires, but we don’t just throw darts at applications and interview those who the dart hit–it’s very much dependent on what the candidate did in preparing his or her application, and we take a lot longer than 30 seconds for most of them.

                  When you get closely matched finalists who are equally plausible, that’s where luck plays more of a role (and of course there’s the luck of birth that can translate into education and opportunity advantage, which can have demonstrable effects on an application package); however, the difference between the application packages of those who are those finalists and most of the people who apply for our jobs is quantifiable, not merely a difference in fortune.

                  But if you talk more about where it goes wrong for you, people here might be able to offer some guidance. If you’re not getting interviews, for instance, that’s likely to be a resume and cover letter issue, and there’s lots of advice here about those. Tell us what your obstacles are, and maybe we can help.

                4. Another Long Term Unemployed Person*

                  There is definitely an element of Random to it. I apply to a position and get told I’m underqualified, apply to the same position at another organization and get told I’m overqualified.

                5. Koko*

                  Ah, but it’s not exactly the same position, even if it has the same title and responsibilities. I was able to get hired into a Director position running an entire program by myself, with just one year of entry-level experience in the industry prior to applying, because it was a small shop/new business. A larger or older business hiring for the exact same Director title with all the same responsibilities wouldn’t have given me the time of day. (I also received a salary only slightly above the pay I’d been getting at the entry-level gig, where a larger/older business would have paid a Director twice what I’d been making at the entry-level gig.) It’s not random that I qualified to be a Director at SmallBusiness but was wildly underqualified to be a Director at BigBiz.

                6. Led*

                  I try very hard to tailor my resumes and cover letters to job descriptions and information I find on websites. But about 70 percent of the time, one of the following things happens:

                  1) The job is vaguely or inaccurately described.

                  2) The organization wants something very specific that is not mentioned in the job posting.

                  3) The hiring manager prioritizes a skill that is not necessary for the job function. The skill becomes a dealbreaker while clearly needed skills go unnoticed.

                  It’s not so much random as it is mind reading.

                7. Joey*

                  3) The hiring manager prioritizes a skill that is not necessary for the job function. The skill becomes a dealbreaker while clearly needed skills go unnoticed.

                  You’re looking at it wrong. Listen to what you just said. You just said that you know the skills needed for the job better than the hiring manager. What you’re saying is that the hiring manager doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and you, someone who only knows a fraction of what the hiring manager knows as it relates to that job at that company do.

                  What I conclude from that is that you may be more interested in only doing the tasks you want to do and aren’t really concerned with performing other tasks that the company thinks are important.

                8. Anx*

                  How many times have I read on this very site that gimmicks won’t work and experience and proper qualifications should form the formation of your resume? A polished turd is still a turd, and my experience is a turd. I naively thought I could reframe my work experience as a student and in service positions for a ‘career.’ I tried volunteering, but I’ve had employers tell me that doesn’t ‘count,’ even when volunteering for that organization for years, being recommended for the job, and being asked why it didn’t work out by others in the company. Mind you, the 2 years volunteering was at that very same company.

                  As for McDonald’s, I’ve tried several locations with never any luck. It’s not like you can get out there and just get any old job.

    2. Tina Marina*

      Yeah, I worked four internships and worked part time on the weekends to help support myself on top on school, and yet I’m a “risky hire” because I might not have the experience to get coffee and take phone messages accurately (despite having done exactly the same duties in exactly the same industry, just as an intern instead of paid hire). I was told in an interview that “we’re specifically looking for someone we don’t have to train in the specific way we do things.”

      Hate to break it to you, but unless you’re moving around someone who already works for you or hiring one of your unpaid interns, everyone is going to need a little training on the particulars of your office.

  18. anon-2*

    Going back 30 years ….

    I was a senior tech / junior manager at an IS/IT/Computer Programming installation. Our IT efforts supported a very large manufacturing concern, within an extremely large international conglomerate. This was the wild 1980s — 1984-86, times were very good and there were plentiful opportunities, and our industry had not offshored ANYTHING.

    I was out at an event at a county fairgrounds, and heard someone standing behind me talk … “yeah Louie has been dropping his resume off, but no calls.”

    I turned = “hey what does he do?”

    “Computer programming, he knows COBOL, PL/I, and FORTRAN.”

    I said “Great – but what is his professional experience?”

    NONE – he is self taught. I explained that we weren’t in a position to take external entry level candidates. After he assailed me with an obscenity-laden monologue, I explained —

    “We have people, internally, who work for two-three-four years — for a CHANCE at an entry-level programming position. If we give those chances to people from the street – it could impact us HORRENDOUSLY. Yes, if we have one slot – and three internals bidding for it, two people will be disappointed but will keep trying. If we give it to an outsider – particularly an unknown quantity – we will LOSE more than one internal person, we may lose SEVERAL.”

    I reiterated that at one place I worked – when they gave those slots to outsiders – they lost nearly half their operations crew. An entire shift of computer operators quit on the same day – because a firm had offered them first-level programming jobs (they could program in COBOL) and they just said “we cannot advance here. If there is no counter-offer, and it can’t be ‘gee whiz, maybe next year we could work toward that’, I have to go, so let me know when I come back from lunch if you want to keep me or not.”

    My suggestion – get his feet wet at a company , in a supporting role, and do so at a site that he could advance to a programming slot quickly. His friend said “yeah but that doesn’t PAY what programmers make…” No it sure as hell doesn’t. But that’s how I started, and how nearly everyone else did.

    Now – the radio & TV industry in North America. A shrinking industry. Yes, OP may have been the “CEO” of a radio station overseas… how does THAT relate to the commercial American radio industry?

    The conventional way, these days, is to get one’s foot in the door via an internship… during one’s university days. Yes, you may have been a DJ on your school’s FM radio station and played the best punk rock tracks or rap or heavy metal that no one heard before (or since!) but that doesn’t relate to sales/production/marketing/writing/ on-air skills in a commercial environment.

    President of a campus radio station does not often translate to commercial radio potential. Was it a commercial station? A college station? What did you do there?

    Did you produce content?
    Did you write news copy (versus rip-n-read)?
    Did you do real news reporting?
    Did you have to sell advertising? Or obtain underwriting?

    I know one person – unemployed – who declined a chance to intern at a commercial radio station – he preferred to spend his time in college at the campus station because he could play his favorite records there, and actually had to do grunt work in the internship he didn’t want to do (even though he would have been paid minimum wage).

    I wish OP luck – for once, Alison, I fully agree with you …..OP has to shine – but also show WHAT he/she can bring to the table. Especially in a crummy job market, and especially in a shrinking industry.

    1. Onymouse*

      To be fair, that was thirty years ago. “Working in the mailroom” is practically a dead-end these days.

      1. anon-2*

        I wasn’t in the mailroom. I was in the computer room and had to learn a lot on the technical front. We didn’t just mount tapes and load printers, we did everything from recover databases and fix broken jobs — and mounted tapes and loaded printers.

        As long as the entry job isn’t dead-end – that’s where you start.

        1. Tina Marina*

          But how to get THAT job? I’ve been looking for the most basic, entry level, running errands-answering phones-filing types of part time jobs, and all of the ones in my industry (TV/entertainment) are asking for 2 years paid job experience (internships don’t count!), and all of the ones outside of my industry are looking for someone who is already a career admin assistant.

          1. anon-2*

            Tina Marina,

            Do you mean “THAT job” in TV/entertainment, or a job doing anything like that in any other place?

            If you want a job as an admin, I’ve been reading – in this column and elsewhere – go temping. Wait for the door to open.

            1. Tina Marina*

              At this point, I’d go anywhere. I’ve applied to some temp agencies in my area, but I haven’t heard anything back. Is there somewhere else you can look for temping gigs? Craigslist has also yielded nothing for me, though I admit I haven’t spent too much time looking there.

              Mostly I have been looking in the TV industry because there are a significant amount of jobs available – but, as I said, they all want 2ish years of non-interning experience.

              1. anon-2*

                Keep trying to temp.

                Call the temp agencies back, that you have registered with. Ask …. don’t be a pest, but don’t drop off their radar screens.

                Do not expect a radio/TV job to come along. Take whatever comes along – and THEN keep looking at the media side of things.

                And – you should know – that with media consolidation, mergers, lack of commitments on the part of broadcasters to provide service (versus COVERAGE), deregulation, etc., the broadcast industry is one with few – very few – opportunities these days. Unless you interned at a station when you were in college – it’s nigh impossible to get noticed. The only jobs that are prevalent that I see are sales / pure commission jobs.

  19. soitgoes*

    This person sounds like he is holding to the pre-recession notion that having any type of degree affords one automatic entry into the professional working world. That’s why he’s lording his BS over everyone and acting like he’s more deserving of entry-level work. But that’s the thing: it sounds like he got his degree and decided to leave the world of science. By my observation, people with science degrees don’t have a whole lot of trouble getting science jobs. Maybe not the best jobs, but it seems pretty easy to get a lab job in whichever medical office. So this guy either thinks he’s too good for those jobs, is applying to jobs that draw a lot of (more qualified) applicants, or….he’s not as smart or skilled as he thinks he is. I’m sorry, but judging by the way he talks about his radio gig (which sounds like college or volunteer radio to me) leads me to believe that he’s incredibly out of touch.

    1. anon-2*

      “I’m sorry, but judging by the way he talks about his radio gig (which sounds like college or volunteer radio to me) leads me to believe that he’s incredibly out of touch.”

      I can’t go that far – but if it’s a small college station, or a community radio station – that experience doesn’t exactly leave an impression in the commercial broadcast world.

      Not as much as someone’s who has interned in a commercial or NPR-type station in a medium-to-major market.

      1. Belinda Gomez-Maldonado*

        Thr OP could have found a way to translate that radio experience into social media expertise or mass communications or creating podcasts, etc.. Something about the whole letter and the comments on the original post struck me as rather odd, but I’m not sure why? Non-native speaker?

        1. anon-2*

          Even that’s difficult. How many blogs are out there? Tens of thousands. I’m a fan of a very popular baseball team — and there are literally at least 2,000 blogs of people writing about that team. None of them are going to get one a job at the Boston Globe, or New England Sports Network.

          1. anon-2*

            I might add – a BAD blog can be destructive.

            There’s one young lady who works in television. She was posting a video blog every day. The video blog was – BAD.

            I suggested – put out ONE video blog on YouTube. Make it PERFECT. Purge the others. Have it reviewed by other broadcasters. Use that and ONLY that as an “audition tape (well, video)” …

            She got into a radio station, and gradually into TV.

            What you do on social media is seen by others. And so it’s important that you put your best foot forward there.

  20. Company Librarian*

    I was in this person’s situation once. I learned that when you don’t have much experience, simply submitting a resume is not a good way to get an interview. You have to get out and meet people face to face. That way, the first thing they notice about you is not your experience level, but your warmth, intelligence, and enthusiasm for your field.

    Go to events where people in your industry network. Bring business cards. Be really nice and professional. Take a genuine interest in the people you meet, and then mention that you’re a job seeker looking to follow a similar career path. A lot of people love to help out younger people in their field once a connection has been made. If someone asks you to send them your resume, do it that night as soon as you get home or first thing the next morning.

    That was how I got my “stretch” job when I was just starting out. I met someone in person who asked for my resume and sent it to someone she knew who was hiring. While I had that job, I took on extra projects and volunteered in my field on the side. Now I’m way ahead of my peers who got their first job before I did. You can change things. Just take what you can get and then run with it.

  21. I cook burgers.*

    I understand the frustrations of this. I graduated 3 years ago with a degree in English. I got a 2.1.

    “So, what do people in my position do? […] I have student loans to pay — I can’t defer. I have no money, no unemployment benefits”

    Here is what I did:

    First I searched for graduate jobs. Then I searched for jobs that preferred but didn’t require a degree (or decent A levels) [this is the uk].

    Then I searched for entry level office jobs that required only GCSEs or no formal qualifications.

    Then I applied for every job, any job – they all told me I was ‘overqualified’.

    Then I removed my degree from my cv. Finally I got a job. I have been employed in McD for 2 years full time now. Ok, so it’s the joke of what happens to English grads. But I’m not joking.

    I’m job searching again now but it’s hard. I’m not in a financial position that would allow me to leave my job to do volunteer work to gain experience. I need to keep my income. It’s min wage but it’s full time and permanent.

    Fast food has a high turnover so if you keep applying you almost always get hired eventually.

    If you really need a job – cause you really need the money, and you can’t afford to waste more time being unemployed. Then you should forget the degree and get any job that pays money.

    Maybe some people disagree with me, but despite my job sounding like a joke, I’m better off than many other graduates I know who are working part-time retail or just flat out unemployed.

    1. Another Long Term Unemployed Person*

      I understand the need for income and a lot of people are telling me “You should just accept ANYTHING!” but I can’t do that to myself. Life is too short to be miserable. And I couldn’t get accepted at those jobs anyway. I have a master’s degree. And $60,000 of debt with it.

      1. Simonthegrey*

        Do you go to job fairs? My husband was 2 years out of work before he decided to go back and finish college (For his A.A.). Finished in a field that had been marketed as very employable, but which actually has low turnover so few openings. He was another year looking before he found something part time. Two more years of sending out resumes and never hearing anything. Finally I dragged him to the job fair, and he chatted with a recruiter for a company. He has been with them for a year now; even though he was not the best fit -and they told him so – the director liked how well he “sold” himself in the interview and contact process, so they gave him a chance.

        Tangentally: you say you have a MA. So do I, and my degree is in Theology. I have never not had a job and I have no debt. My secret is that I worked at every job I could find. I didn’t think myself too good to be a daycare worker, or a bookseller, or a warehouse helper. I proved that I was a good employee, not by telling people they should be *wowed* by me, but by showing up, doing what was expected, and then going beyond. Now I teach at a community college. No, the money isn’t amazing, but as I said, I’m entirely out of debt.

        Saying “Life’s too short to be miserable” is a cop-out. Maybe life was too short for you to get a $60,000 masters degree that you had no way to pay for.

      2. Koko*

        Being long-term unemployed and unable to pay your debts is less miserable than working full-time in a job that’s beneath you?

        You don’t have to tell them you have a Master’s. Commenter above got their fast food gig by taking their degree of their resume

        1. I cook burgers.*

          Gosh, I realised my post sounded a little bit pessimistic but I’m back to add that surprisingly, I don’t hate my job. The job’s not amazing and the pay isn’t either but I get on very well with everyone I work with etc.

          I would not be happy to stay there long term (like if it starts getting into further years…) but I’m not unhappy to be there right now.

          Also, I have become a floor manager and done an NVQ in hospitality while working there. I’m highly employable within retail and catering, it’s just that’s not what I want to continue doing, hence why job searching is hard. If I wanted to be a restaurant manager, I’d be set.

          And when you’re being told “you should just accept ANYTHING” well, they probably don’t mean ‘and then stay in that job forever’. It’s fine to find a job in retail or catering (full or part time) and then continue looking for work you actually want to do or relates to your degree. It’s just that then you’ll have an income while you do it. And if it really doesn’t work out, you can quit – and be no worse off than before you were employed anyway!

      3. Sydney*

        Your $60,000 debt is irrelevant to an employer. Your master’s degree shows you can learn things and follow through on something you started.

        You know what else shows you can learn things and follow through? Taking a job at McDonald’s because they offered you one, and learning all about their processes and sticking around until you find a better job.

        I’m not saying you should just accept anything because I don’t think you should. But there’s a difference between “accept ANYTHING!!!” and holding out for months and months for the perfect job that may or may not materialize.

  22. RCA*

    I’m starting to get the impression that the reason HR folks don’t hire for potential is actually a very obvious one — a great many of them simply don’t know how. My guess is that they never learned this in their HR coursework, and unless they had skilled mentors, never learned it on the job, creating a “Peter Principle” type situation.

  23. Blue Anne*

    Oh man, I remember when this post went up originally. I feel like real old guard now.

  24. Jake*

    I suggest first of all you improve your English, as your grammar and structure is completely off. Also, you come over as too cocky, saying you were “equivalent to a CEO” while you were a volunteer, that simply does not work in the real world.

Comments are closed.