On my trip back east last week I shared a cab with a guy who had graduated from college a couple of years ago and was still looking for a job in his chosen field. He was in Washington, D.C. for a job interview, but said he didn’t think he got the job. As a business owner and someone who has hired a few people in the past, I could immediately tell why he didn’t get it. Unfortunately I think it may be a long time before he does get a job. And I’ll tell you why.
First of all, he was a very nice, polite guy who was dressed in a suit and tie. That part is actually ahead of many people I meet at job fairs who show up in jeans, T-shirts, mini skirts, and flip flops. So that wasn’t the issue.
He was well spoken and well educated. I didn’t see his resume, but if he graduated two years ago and hasn’t had a job since then, that resume is going to be quite thin. But that also isn’t the problem.
The very first thing I notice at job fairs after the dress code is the person’s attitude. I could care less if you have the best resume on the planet. In fact, I’ve hired plenty of people who were fresh out of college and barely had anything on their resume. But what they had, that this guy lacked, was enthusiasm, passion, curiosity, and creativity. I worked three jobs to start my business. I sacrificed nights, weekends, holidays, and vacations to put everything into the business. Hiring an employee is one of the biggest costs of running a business. As a small business owner I simply can’t afford to hire the wrong person. So I’m as careful as I can be about who I put on the payroll. And I don’t think I’m that different from other business owners.
Here are some issues that need to be addressed from the employer’s point of view. This is just from my own view of start-ups, which may be different from large corporations.
- Entitlement – The one thing I noticed is that he felt entitled to a job because of the college degree. Sorry, but that and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee. Okay, maybe a dollar. I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with a degree. But it’s not a guarantee of anything. I care much more about how you fit into my business and how hard you are going to be willing to work.
- Getting Your Hands Dirty – I’ve worked every crappy job from potato chip picker to floor sweeper. Sometimes they were just jobs that were a means to an end and a way to pay the bills until something better came along, and sometimes I knew they were jobs that could turn into something better. This is an employer’s market. That can and will change. But when the employers have the upper hand and can pick and choose from anyone they want, just learn to deal with it for now. If it’s just a paycheck, be happy you have a job at all. If it can turn into something better, get in and prove yourself on the ground floor. This happens often with start ups who don’t have a lot of money in the beginning, but have potential to grow.
- Curiosity – I can always tell the people who will make it. They are curious about life and willing to go the extra mile. They are the employees that ask questions and do their homework about the industry to get better at their job. They are the problem solvers you need in your company. These people also come in with an understanding of your company and the industry up front. They are also the ones that may leave you at some point to start their own business, but while you have them, your business will benefit.
- Enthusiasm – This is the one trait I look for. This is more important than any of the other things combined. Two applicants being equal, I will always go for the one that has the most enthusiasm for my business and for the job. These are always the ones I don’t have to babysit and handhold. They take initiative without having to be told what to do.
So, the next time you wonder who actually got the job over you, re-read this post.