Friday, September 22, 2006

Getting a job requires more than education

Here's an entertaining piece on the difficulties in finding qualified job applicants.

Kline: Getting a job requires more than education
By Daniel B. Kline

The pile of resumes on my desk suggests that either the American educational system fails to prepare students for getting a job or the rules of grammar, spelling and logic were changed without my knowledge. Of the hundreds of applications I received in my quest to hire an entry-level graphic designer, very few lacked serious flaws.

The majority of the applicants seeking to fill this particular opening actually possessed college degrees - some from reasonably prestigious schools. Four extra years of schooling may have filled their heads with facts about obscure literature and all sorts of scientific theories, but it's obvious that classes in resume writing were not part of the curriculum.

Forget the horrific grammar and spelling (for a job where the description includes being proficient in those two areas); the vast majority of applicants appear to lack the basic skills asked for in my help wanted ad. If you have no previous work experience at the job you are applying for, it's generally a good idea to explain in your cover letter why you still might be a good hire....

As for your resume, while many experts debate whether you should include an "objective" section at the top, I've never read one article that suggests replacing that area with a quote from Oprah. Similarly, I'm pretty sure no book or magazine article has ever told a prospective job candidate to paperclip a sexy picture to her cover letter.

Unfortunately, this has not stopped actual job applicants, whom I must assume hoped I would hire them, from doing exactly those things. I've also received resumes that contained "Star Trek" quotes, one that was packaged with a mix tape and more than a few that contained multiple spellings of the applicant's name.

Just as applicants who are unsure of the spelling of their own names fail to inspire confidence, resumes that lack basic contact information aren't scoring a lot of points, either. Perhaps worse than the completely missing info might be the handful of resumes I've received where the phone number listed does not include the area code, or has too few digits.

Though it might be difficult to get a job even under the best of circumstances, a candidate who has a clean resume and a cover letter that concisely explains her qualifications has a huge advantage. Education and work experience matter precious little if your resume buries this information under a discussion of which Backstreet Boy you like the most.

This article illuminates various gaps in our education process. More than just poor grammar and spelling, there is a lack of understanding in regards to social graces and business sense. This is one of the reasons why a college degree isn't necessarily the key to success.

Some of my own post graduate job hunting efforts looked embarrassingly similar to the candidates described by Mr. Kline. I remember my brother-in-law laughing at me when I explained why I thought I should earn a particular salary. My reasons included things like the budget I had imagined to cover my expenses. My brother-in-law responded that a future employer doesn't care what kind of life style I think I am entitled to; an employer will pay what I am worth to his business.

Much of my post graduate growing pains could have been prevented by a good "real world" education. So much of school is disconnected from reality that graduates hit the job market as prepared as aliens from another planet.

Our homeschool program includes more than just the skills of spelling and math. Application of these skills in the form of writing a resume, balancing a check book, money management, and cooking are the goals for our course of study. While being able to color in the correct dot on a standardized test is nice, it is not the purpose of our educational plan.

This also brings up the topic of socialization. Socialization is one of the reasons we homeschool. Popularity in school does not translate well into success in life. The inverse is generally true. The social skills that make for happy home are learned at home. Traditional schools do not teach good interview skills or how to dress for success in the business world. Again, the inverse is generally true. The behaviors, such as modern dress and speech, that are most rewarded at school (in the form of popularity) do not lead to success in the real world. Often the skills that lead to good grades, such as cramming, passive learning and cheating, don't serve the student well outside the artificial environment of school.

Many criticize schools because children are not learning. Children at school are learning all too well what they are taught. Unfortunately, these lessons are not the ones their parents intended.

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ChristineMM said...

What a great post.

Neither high schools nor colleges usually teach how to write a resume or do an interview.

On the other hand when I attended a trade school to learn to be a Medical Administrative Assistant, we not only were over-educated in medical information, but we learned how to get a job.

We were taught how to interview including practice runs with video taping, and that was back when the taping equipment was NOT owned by every family. With teens and children who routinely use camcorders perhaps they could try an interview test run right in the privacy of their own home? Nah, they only use it for fun.

That school taught us how to write a resume and cover letters, and follow-up thank you letters also.

Additionaly we learned what is professional to wear when working in a medical office, but in 2006 hardly any medical staff I see follow the rules. Examples are modest jewelry (it can harbor germs for one thing). Tie long hair back, minimal make-up for a professional look. No perfume as it makes some people sick (allergies etc.).

At school for the year we had to wear the uniforms we'd be expected to wear in the real world. We were critiqued if we made errors in our dress, makeup, jewelry, etc.

While we are at it, neither high school or college usually teaches other basic life skills like how to balance a checkbook, how to rent an apartment, credit reports, how to get and keep a good credit rating, how to avoid identity theft, etc.

Lastly I used to interview people for jobs and never saw resumes like those, as HR alredy had pre-screened them. But people really need to watch what they say and what they look like in interviews.

Janine Cate said...

Wow, that sure is much better than my experience. I graduated and had no idea how to get a job or what kind of job I wanted.

eaglewood said...

As someone who has been looking for employment for the past two months in a highly technical field with no formal education (20 years experience). It is amazing that it took me this long to get the job, I start in about a week, if this is the kind of competition I had. Then again I was told by my interviewer that he had interviewed ten applicants from the tech school he had hired two other employees from and all of them were not a good fit. All in all I got a good laugh out of this.