This past week I was in Chicago meeting with employers about developing recruiting relationships with Notre Dame. During these conversations, one question I always ask is “Where are there misses/misaligned expectation from applicants to (insert company name here)?” The responses I received were varied, but there were common themes that applicants – especially new graduates – should be aware.
Focus on the Job and Not the Perks: An event management/marketing firm in Chicago offers a unique work environment – tree houses, slides, adult tricycles, bar area, conference table made from Lego blocks, etc. It is a fun environment and they attracted 15,000 applicants for just over 100 intern spots for the summer. When asked about the “biggest miss” from applicants, the hiring manager said she sees applicants focusing on the perks instead of the job. When speaking with applicants, they tend to focus on the ‘cool’ aspects of the office instead of the actual needs of the role or position.
I have seen this phenomenon in other sectors – a specific example was this past fall when a student indicated she wanted to work for Target because they have a strong commitment to community service. Her cover letter focused on her active volunteerism and her interest in service. She did not mention anything about her interest in the retail sector, buyer role, or skills needed for the job – in other words, she was focusing on the perks and not the actual job function. She lost sight of the main reason for her employment with Target.
Know a Reasonable Salary Range: My employer outreach in Chicago was directed at marketing communications firms (PR/Advertising/Film/Television) – and these industries tend to be very frugal with entry-level salaries. A hiring manager at a PR firm asked that applicants understand the average salary range for the position so as to avoid any ‘shock’ at the offer stage. When applicants tell him they need $50,000 to be able to live and work in the city ($10-15K higher than what he can pay), he questions why the person is pursuing work in this field.
Use http://www.salary.com, http://www.glassdoor.com, and your networking contacts to understand the typical salary ranges for a given position. This will eliminate the ‘shock’ if it is a low salaried position and can save one time if the salary level is not something one can accept.
Check the Ego at the Door: My last meeting, the Talent Acquisition Director smiled when I asked the “Misses/Misaligned Expectations” question and said, “If I sense the applicant has an entitlement attitude, I pass immediately.” She indicated that every job, especially entry-level jobs, will have some mundane tasks and if an applicant emits an air of being too good for these tasks (I graduated summa cum laude, I went to such and such school, etc.), she will pass on the applicant.
No one is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company at the age of 22, it takes time to learn and earn your way to bigger roles and responsibilities.
Hope these insights help you in your preparation for your next career move.