Submitted for your approval, a letter of rejection sent after a resume review step, purportedly from the Cadbury Chocolate Company:
Dear Mr. X
We regret to inform you that your application for the position of Global Quality Manager has been unsuccessful. We don’t normally respond to unsuccessful applicants but in your case we’ve made an exception in order to return the £5 note you attached to the references section of your application under the line “Elizabeth *wink wink*”
This letter may be apocryphal, but some sites in Great Britain quote the full tweet with the original image. Cadbury is doing the right thing by sending this letter and returning the cash, even though the sender is “outside of the standard distribution.”
Louise, a senior in a Journalism program at an Australian university, had an encounter with an astute hiring manager who used a practical interview exercise to evaluate potential new hires. Louise writes well, so perhaps she has some skills needed for this craft, but her first experience in actual Journalism was memorable but not successful.
A practical interview exercise is a hiring method where the applicant is evaluated on their ability to perform a series of actions that are directly related to the job they want. Examples include asking welder candidates to join a seam, asking heavy equipment mechanic candidates to troubleshoot a faulty hydraulic brake system, or asking recruiter candidates to write up a job posting on a tight deadline. Anyone can talk a good game, but a practical interview exercise asks the candidate show what they can do.
Here’s how it went, as Louise described on her Student Journalism 101 blog:
“Hi, I’m Peter. The editor. The one who you have been conversing with over the emails.”
He seemed very official, very serious, very busy, very… all the describing words that make a job applicant feel more lacking in self-assurance and the situation all of a sudden very real.
“Hi Peter, yes I assumed that. Nice to meet you.”
“Come with me to my office and we’ll have a talk about what’s going to happen today.”
Interview time. Game face: on.
“I will not be interviewing you.”
“I don’t believe in interviews, they don’t tell me anything. I find that a lot of the time people will sound like an excellent candidate in words, yet their work is not very good at all. Instead, you will spend today doing work tests that will be led by the chief of staff. Not only do you have to impress a grumpy old editor like me, you also have to prove to the other journalists that you’re the right candidate for the job. At the end of the day, because they are such a tight-knit group, it is up to them to decide whether they like you or not and believe me, they are a tough bunch.”
“So… what exactly will I be doing in this work test?” I tentatively asked Peter, trying to hide the nerves in my voice.
“You will be writing two articles for the paper tomorrow.”
“The head of staff will assign you stories which you are to complete. Oh and by the way, these country folk will be able to smell out whether you are an experienced journalist or not. If you don’t seem credible enough or they begin to wonder if you really know what you’re doing, they’ll eat you alive.”
Wow! “…people will sound like an excellent candidate in words, yet their work is not very good…” is an insightful comment from brilliant hiring manager. Yes – anyone can talk a good game, especially in a word-driven field like Journalism. His practical interview exercise offers both a realistic job preview, and tests the real skills needed to survive in the role.
As it turns out, the classwork that Louise had completed for her major had little relevance to how the field actually works. (This is not a specific knock against the Australian University System <above>. The same problem is endemic throughout the USA’s University System too.) Louise reflects:
At university, we have weeks, if not a month to write an article and submit it for assessment. Obviously, I knew I didn’t have weeks in which to finish my story today, but in only a couple of hours?
In all my years of studying, I have never been under this type of pressure before. Nor had I ever learned how to cold call from a list of PR numbers or anything even remotely similar.
I believe that’s the problem with the majority of today’s journalism courses. Students spend months and years analyzing texts, studying media convergence, writing essays about journalistic standards, outlining business proposals and critiquing god knows what and what for – but this has largely nothing to do with what really goes on in the day to day jobs of working journalists.
University may enable degrees, but they do not prepare students in the slightest for the real world of journalism work.
Louise learned an important lesson about the disconnect between school and work. One hopes that she did not take on an extraordinary student loan debt to learn this lesson.
Please see the whole article here:
A few extra thoughts for Louise:
- Good on you for starting a blog. Blogging is great practice for print journalism, especially if you work on a deadline. See the master, professional journalist James Lileks at lileks.com.
- Good on you for trying to get an cadetship (which I think is Australian for “internship”). Your trial by fire gave you a look into how your profession works. Better to know now how it works, instead of getting hit after graduating and getting hired.
- Keep at it. You’ve had a taste of the profession – hopefully you can make your way back into the field.
- Please write more.
Hopefully, we’ll hear more from Louise, preferably in print.
EVIL GENIUS seeks minions to sacrifice their lives in world domination attempt. Must be prepared to work 24-7 for fascist psychopath for no pay. Messy death inevitable but costumes and laser death rays provided. No weirdos. Call: 1-900-MWAH-HAHA
CareerBuilder asked hiring managers about frequent mistakes that will destroy a candidate’s chance at employment, and 60% cited answering a call or texting during an interview as one of the biggest deal breakers. Sixty-two percent said one of the most detrimental mistakes a candidate can make is appearing uninterested.
Eugene Cyril “Geno” Smith III had leveraged his experience with the West Virginia Mountaineers football team into a shot as a first round pick in the 2013 National Football League Draft. However, Geno Smith did not get picked in the first round. During his visits to potential employers, he ensured that he would not get the job.
Much of the pre-draft buzz was around how Smith would be the first quarterback taken in the first round. Smith was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets, the 39th pick overall. The first quarterback in the draft was E.J. Manuel, taken 23 picks earlier by the Buffalo Bills as the 16th pick in Round 1.
On YahooSports, Jason Cole describes what might have changed the front office’s perceptions of Smith:
Two sources indicated that when Smith went on some visits to teams, rather than interact with coaches and front-office people, he would spend much of his time on his cell phone. Instead of being engaged with team officials, he would be texting friends or reading Twitter or a number of other distracting activities.
“All these other players who were in there were talking to the coaches, trying to get to know people and he was over there by himself,” one of the sources said. “That’s not what you want out of your quarterback.”
One must wonder if any text message is worth losing a millions of dollars to read. First round picks get salary/bonus contracts that average around $12M. Contracts for second round picks average between $2M and $800K.
Smith is a member of the Millennial generation – the most technologically connected generation on Earth. However, both Careerbuilder and Jason Cole show us that some Millennials have trouble knowing when to connect through social media, and knowing when to focus on the real live people in the room.
Is it smart to let your smart phone cost you the job?