by Patrick Madsen
I am a part of what is known as “Generation X.” I am supposed to be your ally, part of the generation in the working world that understands you best. After all, we both come from a time of computers and the internet, and according to everything you read, we share a number of other characteristics and abilities. So why is it that I would reject your application, reject you during the interview, and may not even respond to you at all? Easy… because you are not showing me why I should.
Here are just a few reasons you may get rejected by me:
- Professional image: Yes, business attire has changed and business casual has become more of the “norm” in corporate American. BUT that doesn’t mean that you can wear flip-flops to work, not brush your hair, or wear “Saturday night” attire to an interview or to networking occasions. The people that are still in charge and making the hiring decisions will look for the professionally dressed.
- Your attitude: Just because I am not standing in front of you does not mean that I will not hear about EVERYTHING you said and did. I remember a student who showed up to our building for an appointment only to discover that I was not in the building. He threw a temper tantrum in front of our reception team, demanded to see my boss, and wrote a two page grievance letter to the dean. While printing this letter, he decided to check his email only to find out that he had mixed up the appointment day/time. He didn’t turn in the letter to the dean. But I still heard the whole story. So be careful about the image you are projecting AT ALL TIMES as it can affect your career opportunities in the future, especially when you don’t yet have a proven track record. No one wants to hire someone with a poor attitude or who cannot act professionally. (Side note: Even had I been wrong and gotten the date messed up, the temper tantrum in the lobby would have immediately put this student in the “no” pile had I been a hiring manager.)
- You don’t care: I can quickly pick out those who really care about the job and those who just see it as a means to an end. Find something you are passionate about and go after it. Don’t settle for something that you will hang onto only for a short time and then move on. Your passion, or lack thereof, can be seen on your face, your demeanor, and presentation. That said, I also don’t want you to think that your first job will be your “dream job” and will meet your every criterion. But there is a mid-point between those two extremes.
- Spelling and grammar: You’ve heard this before, I’m sure, but it bears repeating: One negative trend that technology has created is the lack of professional writing. With people instant messaging, tweeting, and texting, their ability to coherently develop structured writing based on the “rules” we learned in school has gone by the wayside. Emails that are poorly developed, resumes with one spelling mistake, or even a connection request on LinkedIn that has errors often will land you in the “no” pile vs. the “yes” pile.
People forget that a job interview is a sales call. You need to sell me your “value”! Why should I want to hire you if you cannot sell me on the idea of you? Think about yourself as a product. What would make a consumer purchase that product?
And remember that you are still playing in the world developed by those from the Baby Boomer Generation and Generation X. Learn as much as you can about how they think, how they work, and what motivates them. The more you know, the more it will help you interact with those from the generations doing the hiring.
Patrick Madsen is the Director of Programs & Education in Career Services at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. He manages the Programs & Education curriculum to include career advising services, speaker series, brand management training, and other events to help students prepare themselves for the world of work. His background includes a degree in Psychology from North Carolina State University, a masters degree in Counseling from East Carolina University, and a doctorate in Organizational Leadership/Student Affairs from Nova Southeastern University.Google+