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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Life after college and uncertainty

Published: April 25, 2014
Section: Opinions

As the semester comes to a close and summer approaches, students are gearing up to either start internships and jobs or to continue in the arduous search for internships and jobs. As a second-semester senior, I am personally looking for a position to take up as I consider going to law school in a couple years. While I am generally confident that things will work out—not just for me but for most of my graduating classmates—I also find myself very irritated at a few aspects of the typical job search and think that it really doesn’t have to be this way. Employers can and should alter the way they do things.

One of the great frustrations of applying to jobs is trying to write and format a resume such that it will appeal to the employer. It makes sense that different types of jobs would necessitate the writing of slightly different resumes, given that so many people—especially in a college setting—have so many different experiences to potentially bring up. It obviously can’t all fit onto one page, and therefore people need to choose the specific aspects of themselves to highlight for the specific job. This is the general idea that Hiatt emphasizes when working with students on resumes—that depending on what you’re applying to, your resume should change. However, Hiatt can be frustrating to deal with. I intend no insult to the counselors there, as they clearly do care about helping students achieve success, and yet I personally found the process of getting my resume approved to be somewhat frustrating. It required multiple sessions with different counselors, and occasionally the counselors would have contradictory viewpoints. The obvious problem is that there is no correct model for how to write a good resume. Different career counselors view resumes differently, and so do different employers.

This resume problem could easily be fixed. An employer knows what kind of candidate they want, and it is to their own detriment if they have to sort through a massive amount of applications which highlight characteristics in candidates which they do not care about. To help make the process smoother, employers should simply post online examples of resumes of people who have been hired for the position in the past. Personal identifiers like names and phone numbers could be redacted, and all that would remain would be factors like GPA and past job experience. Candidates would be able to see exactly the kind of person who gets hired. This would help them see if they indeed do stand a chance or if they should not waste their time. Furthermore, they would be able to see what they should accentuate on their own application. Some could argue that there is a substantial risk of falsifying applications to try to make oneself seem that they are something they’re not, and yet I would disagree with this idea. Any plagiarism directly from the samples would be blatantly obvious, and people already lie on applications about their activities in the status quo. Employers can account for such falsifications simply by asking for references as verification—which they do already.

Another great frustration, of course, is cover letters. It goes without saying that cover letters are the worst invention in the history of mankind and that hell is actually just a desk in a small room at which one is required to write cover letters again and again. As is true with resumes, different people have different ideas of what makes a good cover letter. I have been taught by my dad to break it down into four big areas: “Introduction,” “Why I want this job,” “Why I’d be good at this job,” and “Conclusion.” However, for all I know, employers that I have sent applications to could view cover letters differently. Some maybe want them to be more broad and others more narrow.

This problem can also be fixed fairly easily. Employers should merely have a series of questions as “prompts” for cover letters listed on their website. For example, if an employer really wants to hire someone who is adept at using statistical analysis programs like Stata, they can have as a prompt, “Explain any experience with statistical analysis computer programs.” Thus, employers will get a good look at the characteristics that matter to them without forcing candidates to guess what it important enough to include.

Most irritating perhaps, though, is the role that connections play in the job application process. People in Hiatt, my parents and my friends often tell me of the importance of connections. They are right to do so, as they simply want me to succeed and know that it’s simply the way the world works that people often get jobs through connections. However, it just seems to be fundamentally unfair and bad for firms, which hope to hire the best workers possible. My dad has often said that connections won’t get you a job but will get someone to look at your resume, which often will not happen without a little advocacy. Although a candidate generally must be the best in the pool of interviewees to get a job, the pool is already unfair in the way that it is formed. There could be so many candidates who would be very good for a job whose resumes simply never get looked at. The obvious problem is this: there are too many resumes and not enough time or staff to look at them.

The answer is painfully obvious: Employers should look at every resume they get carefully. They will need to limit the number of people who can apply. Employers should have a cap. A firm can simply choose a ceiling for the number of applications they can receive, and then take the job down from listings once they’ve reached it. This will exclude people, and yet it will do it in a more fair way. People with connections may get a tip as to when a job posting will go up so that they can apply right away, but also captured in this system will be the very passionate people who have no connections but visit the business’s website everyday because they so deeply want a job there. In conclusion, I really want a job.