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Davis, California

Monday, July 22, 2024

Column: Black hole

As I’m nearing graduation (less than a month away! Eeek!) I find myself looking back at my past four years at Davis and reflecting on what I’ve learned. One thing I wish I’d known about sooner is the HR Black Hole, where resumes go to die.

How many times have you applied for a job posting online, spending hours crafting the perfect resume with all the right keywords, writing the detailed cover letter that explains how you’re a perfect fit for the job? Not to mention additional questionnaires, references, and transcripts that may be required.

And after all that, you wait… and wait… and wait.

Most students are under the impression that someone who receives their application decides “yes” or “no” for further consideration. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works in the real world.

It’s not that HR is full of mean people who hated your resume and that’s why they don’t even have the decency to give you an e-mail to say that they’re hiring someone else. Recruiting departments are swamped, so they don’t have the manpower to read and respond to every single application. Nowadays, half the battle in getting hired is just getting your resume in front of someone’s face.

Of course, not every company has an HR Black Hole. For smaller companies (and campus jobs), the hiring manager will probably read your resume. But if your dream is to work for a corporation like Google, which receives one million (!) applications per year, you have to be a little creative and explore some unconventional job search tools.   

One option for the creative job seeker is informational interviews: meetings with “someone who works in a job, career field, or organization that interests you.” It’s a major part of networking, and helpful in not only exploring different careers and companies, but also the job search.

“Before the downturn in the economy, it was estimated that one out of 600 resume submissions resulted in a job offer, while one out of 12 informational interviews lead to a job,” says Janice Morand, project manager at the Internship & Career Center. “With more job seekers nowadays, we would expect it to be even more challenging for a resume to be seen, but informational interviews are proven to be more effective.”

It’s easy to start looking for people to request an informational interview. Is your roommate’s mom an attorney? Maybe your sister’s boyfriend works for a federal agency. How about alumni – former classmates in your major who have already graduated – where are they now? Think about everyone you know and imagine all the connections they have. That’s the foundation of your professional network, right there. Other resources include LinkedIn, faculty and staff and professional organizations.

Cold-calling can also work. Mark Cayabyab, a junior wildlife, fish and conservation biology major, started meeting with veterinarians to learn about a career in vet medicine when he found that books and websites weren’t enough. He began cold-calling vet clinics and befriending receptionists, who, according to Cayabyab, “have the power.” Cayabyab took public transportation for his interviews – BART, Caltrain, buses, light rail, etc. so the lack of a vehicle is not an excuse.

People are generally willing to help and give advice to students. They were in your shoes at one point. To request an interview, try something like, “I was referred by so-and-so because I’m interested in your field. Could we arrange a time to meet for 15 to 20 minutes so I can learn more about the field and the organization you work for?”

Don’t ask for more than 15 or 20 minutes. It seems short, but some people are really that busy. And if the conversation happens to go on longer because you’re really hitting it off, great! Also never, ever ask directly for a job during an informational interview. It’ll seem like a bait-and-switch and your previously stated desire to simply learn about different career options will seem disingenuous.

The worst thing that can possibly happen is that they’re too busy and they decline or delete your e-mail or voicemail, in which case you just try again with someone else. Eventually, someone will say yes.  

Adam Loberstein, who graduated last year, successfully conducted informational interviews with professionals from The Sacramento Bee and the Oakland A’s. By taking initiative and developing working relationships, he was offered jobs at both organizations by bypassing the HR Black Hole.

“Generally speaking, people are more than happy to talk about themselves,” said Loberstein. “You can learn plenty by listening to how someone got to the place you’d like to be one day. The key is to meet as many of those people as you can.”

Class of 2011, congratulations on your upcoming graduation. You’ve worked hard and are excellent candidates for entering the work force, but the competition is fierce out there. According to a recent The New York Times article, among last year’s graduating class, 56 percent had a job by this spring, compared to the 90 percent of new grads from 2006 and 2007. In this competitive job market, it pays to use every job search tool at your disposal.

JENNIFER KIM has only one week to go before she her stint as a career development columnist ends. For job search related questions and advice, Jen can be reached at jsnkim@ucdavis.edu.


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