Published April 19, 2011
Attention college grads: this isn't your career counselor's labor market.
The anemic job market is making it tough for recent college graduates to find jobs, which is unfortunate, but what’s more unfortunate is their deeply-flawed communication skills that are making them unhirable.
Grads mistakenly think that potential employers are looking for candidates with the most impressive credentials to fill open jobs. In the pre-2007 world, that may have been the case, but in the current contracted job market, the reality is quite different.
Grads are also following the direction of career specialists offering guidance based upon pre-2007 assumptions that don't take into account current job market conditions.
Grads’ misunderstanding of existing job market realities coupled with the outdated advice of career counselors have resulted in three fatal mistakes that are causing grads to struggle in their job searches:
1. Resume Overconfidence
After graduating from college or graduate school, most young adults have remarkable resumes replete with notable accomplishments, credentials and experience (ACEs). These ACEs have been carefully chosen and developed over many years with a single goal in mind: to create employment opportunities.
The problem is most grads haven't figured out--or are unable to explain--how their ACEs would benefit the organization they wish to work for. Grads need to show how their ACEs would help an employer make or save money or enhance its image in the marketplace. These three benefit areas are what firms expect new hires to produce, and if a job candidate is unable to clearly, concisely and convincingly explain how he/she can make them happen, the organization will hire someone who can--even someone with a less imposing resume.
Solution: grads should focus less on the content of their resumes and more on how this content would help deliver profits, savings, or improved brand awareness to a prospective employer.
2. Incomplete or Non-Existent Research
Career specialists suggest job candidates research companies they’d like to work for by browsing corporate Web sites and learning the history of the company, the names of the principals, etc... This kind of scant , incomplete investigation will not get you hired.
Grads should seek to become experts in the company, the company’s industry, and the company’s competition in order to explain how their ACEs can help the firm to reach its goals.
Grads need to visit the “Media” or “In the News” pages of a company’s Web site to survey the company’s developments, initiatives and plans. They must study business intelligence sites such as Hoovers.com and Vault.com to find out about the accomplishments and culture of the organization. Grads should also search for articles, analyses and coverage of the company in leading business journals and industry trade publications, and then contact the writers of these pieces to discuss the company’s successes, failures, and challenges. Create a Google News Alert to stay aware of the most recent news about the company.
Solution: grads must conduct strategic, comprehensive, and resourceful reconnaissance on the company where they want to work. Their newfound knowledge would allow them to explain how their ACEs would help them to be an asset for the company.
3. Absence of an Interview Strategy
Armed with their resume, many grads go into job interviews with the mentality of, “here I am, here’s what I’ve done, what do you think?” When jobs were plentiful and organizations were scrambling to fill their ranks with top-tier talent, this strategy was successful.
In the current job market and through the foreseeable future, grads must shift their focus from accumulating ACEs to implementing them. In their job interviews, grads need to follow a precise plan of explaining how their vast achievements can help a company realize its objectives and overcome its challenges.
Solution: grads must use their interviews as an opportunity to speak less about their need for a job and more about how they can help a potential employer meet its need for a solution.
Rafe Gomez is business strategy and marketing communications consultant, and the author of the audiobook WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? A POWERFUL NEW INTERVIEW STRATEGY TO GET YOU HIRED IN TODAY’S CHALLENGING ECONOMY, available on Audible.com. Follow him on Twitter@rehirementcoach