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Job Hunting Today

I never thought upon my graduation on a rather warm December afternoon that I would have trouble finding a job.  I was on Cloud 9 not only was I surrounded by friends and family, but I was about to embark on the next chapter of my life as an adult.  The next few details I am going to tell you I have since learned mean absolutely nothing, but I’m going to provide them to you so any potential graduate reading this knows what to expect.  I graduated from a well-known four year university with my degree in Advertising Journalism.  I graduated early and with honors.  I did everything my professors and career advisors told me to do, I managed my time well with my internship, student ran ad club and not to mention my on the side serving job.

I wish I could say that I threw a dart at a blank map of the United States and it landed on Austin, Texas but that’s not necessarily the case.  I did a lot of research before I packed up my car and moved down here.  I also talked to every resource I could about the city, the job market and the culture.  I contacted potential employers and sent my resume out in hoards before I arrived.  I had job interviews setup as soon as I arrived in Austin.  I figured finding a job; something that I was interested in would be easy to do with technology and software companies in every corner of Austin.  I had my mind set on working for a startup company; I figured who wouldn’t hire a 20 something graduate fresh out of college who would work for a minimal hourly wage.

Well I was wrong, extremely wrong; pretty much the exact opposite of what could be considered right.  It took me almost six months to find a job that I actually have a direct interest in.  The process was exhausting and often discouraging, I realize now that this whole process was a wake up call, but during the endeavor I often questioned why I moved in the first place.  I constantly questioned what I was doing wrong and why things weren’t working out for me.  Was Austin too high tech for a newbie college graduate?  Do I need my Master’s degree to be successful in Austin?  And then there was always that old adage, “It’s not what you know it’s who you know”, let’s face it I really didn’t know anyone.

So let me update you on the last few months of my life where I struggled to find a job in a job market economy that is supposed to be superior to the rest of country:

The Resume & Cover Letter

I had fine-tuned my resume in Photoshop my last semester in college.  I

had it peer-reviewed and reviewed by professors who gave advice on specific wording and the layout.  In school you hear endlessly that you have to perfect your resume, job recruiters and professors alike will tell you that it’s the most important tool to obtaining an interview.  That may be true, but were employers even looking at my resume?  Did it truly stand out in the tall stack of resumes they get for every job opening they post?   I recently learned that The Ladders online job board did a study and found that each resume is given about six seconds of consideration.  Now I am not so sure my focus and time on my resume was worth it.

In comparison with the resume the cover letter is a way for employers to get to know the potential employee on a more personal level.  Most people have a cover letter template where we replace one company’s name with the next job opening we seek.  We customize what we say in the body to the company and position itself.  Some companies give potential employees unique and individualized questions to answer within their cover letter, in an effort to get them to ‘think outside the box’.  In retrospect I found this questionnaire method pointless and let’s face some it of the questions were dumb.  For example I’m not sure what my favorite hobby and favorite food had to do with my on the job performance. I guess they perceive it as a fun way to see if the prospective employee would fit well into the company dynamic, but often times I saw it as a deterring factor that had no premise to the actual job position I was applying for.

A recent Fortune article cited a 2009 survey of over 2,000 hiring managers, HR reps, and recruiters working in different industries and found that, more often than not, cover letters didn’t matter. The research found that 90% of respondents ignored them and 97% made a decision whether to interview or not based only on the resume.  While it isn’t clear that a cover letter gets read, if the company asks for one, give them a good one.

The Interview Process Before the Actual in Person Interview 

Preparing for an interview is nerve-racking.  You want to do as much background research on the company as you possibly can before you develop answers to a questionnaire or talk to a potential employer over the phone.  What I learned initially when I first started to apply for open positions is that follow-up questionnaires to applicants seem to be the new protocol if a company is still interested after reviewing your resume and cover letter.  These questionnaires are open-ended and create value to employers who want to see if applicants can think on their feet.

Then there is the telephone interview.  I understand it saves time and money, but it’s messy and often the hiring process seems unorganized at this point.  Most of the time after I applied, I first received an email or phone call from someone in HR.  Most of my phone interviews lasted around 30 minutes and either ended with us scheduling another short phone interview session or I was told I would hear from the company’s hiring manager. My experiences with phone interviews were not very positive – the interviewers just seemed to go through the motions and didn’t sound interested, just bored.  It is better using Skype – I am a tremendous fan of this when schedules or distance make it impossible to meet.

Assessments

I was not familiar with pre-hire assessments before applying for the open marketing specialist position with Affintus.   I was told the application assessment would take about 40 minutes for me to fill out and besides the math portion I found the assessment to be quite a breeze.  I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m terrible at math, but I was intrigued by the use of the assessment process and how it would apply to my chances of being hired.

Obviously I am an advocate for the use of pre-hire assessments because I am happily employed with Affintus today.  I was a nice ‘green match’, which means that when compared with a custom algorithm for the specific job formula I applied for I ranked high in the skills set needed to fulfill the position.  Without the use of assessments I would never have been called in for an interview based simply on my resume and cover letter.  After being familiarized with assessments, I see the opportunity in using assessments; giving employers the opportunity to replicate productivity in the workplace.

My aim with this post is to identify the struggles of finding a job when you’re fresh into the professional job market.  To be successful in finding a job with limited experience you must be persistent and you can’t let a series of “We regret to inform you the job you’ve applied for…” messages deter you from finding a job you’ll love.

Written by: Laurie Wherley

marketing@affintus.com