Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kids These Days

While I am squarely in the camp of pragmatic Type A careerists, I have always been quite sympathetic, if not admiring, of those who pursue nobler, loftier goals. I do not look upon people who study the arts and humanities as “basket weavers”.  I do not regard anthropology or feminist studies with scorn. (Well, I admit I look at anthropology majors with suspicion.)  Not everyone should take accounting, I say.
However, I am shocked at how woefully ill-equipped university students are at job applications these days.

When an employer asks for a résumé, cover letter and a copy of your academic transcripts, one would expect the job applicant to send all three documents.  During one round of recruitment at my company, at least one-third of the applicants did not submit all three. One-third. This is what four years of university education gets you, huh?

And even among the other two-thirds of the pool, not a single person submitted a copy of an official transcript. This is when I realized that I have become an old fogey. In my day, you had to request transcripts from the registrar, and it costs you $10 a pop. You would sigh with relief when you see a job ad allowing you to send photocopies; you would grit your teeth when the posting said the transcript had to be sent directly from the registrar to the employer, as that costs extra. Job hunting season meant spending at least $50. 

Today, academic records are online so you can just print them out. The thing is, these are not official transcripts so there are no security features, i.e. watermarks that emerge when you photocopy the real deal. Now I am sure most young graduates today are upstanding citizens who would never think of forging a transcript, especially in this economy. Right…you see my concern. The web transcripts are just a bunch of tables that I can whip up in Microsoft Word in about 15 minutes. (Some applicants, tragically, are clearly honest because the transcripts are full of C’s, D’s and F’s.) Even worse, some graduates submitted “transcripts” that were cut off at the top and sides due to the margin settings of their web browsers, so their names were missing, or certain rows or columns were gone. Four years of university education, huh?

When I asked the person that I eventually hired to get an official transcript, she looked at me with utter bemusement, as though I had asked her to fetch the Dead Sea scrolls or the 1954 census records for Swaziland.

I won’t even get into the typos, mangled grammar, and cringeworthy buzzwords. What is truly surprising is that with one exception, not a single applicant dressed in business attire for the interview. I would think it would be evident that you need to put on a blazer or something business-y when you interview with a law firm.  I used to agonize over whether to go with a pant suit or a skirt combo when job hunting.  Apparently, that is not a question that even registers with today’s job seekers.

Each batch of interviewees brought new revelations. I had pinned high hopes on yesterday’s candidate. She had excellent marks and her cover letter did not reveal any egregious mistakes. Granted, she did not sign her letter (geez, how hard is it to learn how to scan?) but I have resigned myself to lowering my standards for such minor details. Nevertheless, I was a tad disappointed when she arrived late without apologies or explanation. But then, she did something that was truly disconcerting. 

She cradled a Starbucks coffee in her hands for the entire interview.   

Am I being fussy, or is this not a horrendous faux-pas? Are we now so casual that we can bring shopping bags into interviews, perch our sunglasses on our heads and kick back with a latte? And of course, I cannot help but draw the conclusion that her tardiness is somehow linked to the coffee transaction.  Did she saunter into Starbucks minutes before the interview and when the purchase took longer than she expected, did she think "Oh well, being a few minutes late will be fine"?

The sad part is that I am forced to still consider this girl for the job, because the other applications are so dismal. The job is an entry-level position and the pay is low, so I have to keep my expectations realistic. But, really, is this what passes for a university graduate these days?

No comments:

Post a Comment