Opinion

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Some graduates are woefully unprepared for the job market

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In my experience, graduates tend to fall woefully short at the first hurdle – missing the vital ingredients that make you want to hire them. It’s purely down to naivety and ill-preparedness when it comes to commercial, practical, or attitude-based skills. Which is a real shame given these things are so easy to prove or demonstrate.

For example, the majority of graduates do poorly research when it comes to the company; we rarely receive a tailored application, instead most are a ‘one fits all’ approach. And it’s such an instant and easy way to stand out from the crowd. Many applicants don’t understand what we do, nor how we are growing financially; they tend to pick out clients or disciplines, but not us. Surely it should concern them whether a company has long-term prospects or not? But most don’t consider this aspect.

All too often it’s the case that graduates claim to be “hard working” and “passionate about their career” but with little or no job experience. Job shadowing or work experience is a great way to get noticed as it shows hard work, dedication and commitment. But as a minimum, providing evidence of working in a pub, café or shop is a plus point as it demonstrates basic skills such as time management, responsibility and teamwork.

Another claim we see is “comfortable with social channels”, which is an essential starting point in our field being a PR, social media and content marketing agency. But it’s often made by applicants with social profiles that haven’t been developed with the workplace in mind (LinkedIn) or a lack of understanding of what their public profile says about them – and sometimes no social profiles at all. All graduates seeking work, not just those in the arena of marketing/social media, should be using LinkedIn as an online CV and networking tool.

“Interested in media” is another common declaration but often the graduates who make this claim never pick up a newspaper, check out a newsfeed or know the day’s top stories.

This week we received an application from a graduate who had a great CV and ticked a lot of the right boxes. However, when we asked him in for interview he came back with a single question: “What’s the salary?” without so much as a “thanks for the opportunity”. This demonstrates a shameful lack of awareness of the simple rules of etiquette and professional discourse. These things are so basic but absolutely essential for today’s graduates trying to enter the workforce.

And we also see shocking short falls in the real fundamentals such as spelling, ironically often where “attention to detail” has been listed as a skill. Proofreading is such a vital part of any job in media and marketing but sadly, I’ve had more than one applicant wanting to get a career in ‘pubic relations’.

In some cases applicants count themselves out with a poor covering letter. I’ve seen letters that have been copied and pasted from previous applications – with the last company name still in! Not only are they wholly unspecific, but sometimes graduates don’t even bother to change the obvious details e.g. we’re a bespoke marketing consultancy and the previous application was for American Express – a world apart.

One applicant even tried to apply for a job starting immediately when they were actually a second year student and wouldn’t be available to start work for another year!

These are all examples of a basic lack of common sense and unfortunately, in some instances effort. These graduates are relying purely on their qualifications but with the lack of exclusivity of university degrees these days, mistakes and omissions such as these are simply not going to make them eligible for a job.

But we must not tar all graduates with the same brush – I have seen and employed many graduates that have initiative, creativity, and ambition and go on to make outstanding contributions to the organisation.

Unfortunately it’s more often than not the case; our recent search to fill our graduate vacancy has been pretty dismal. Graduates need to realise that three years at university doesn’t mean the world owes them a living. Within the first few years of their working life, it’s up to them to prove why they have something to offer the world.

lona HiteI is the MD of CommsCo.

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