Once upon a time, in America, all that was needed to start a very good paying career was a four year college degree but, unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Companies no longer just care about what you know, they want to know how well you can apply that knowledge. After all, companies are looking for employees that can solve their problems and solve them immediately. Gone are the days when companies were willing, and could afford to, train promising talent coming straight out of college. Technology is changing so rapidly, and most schools lag behind industry, that a degree, even in an engineering or computer technology field, is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for candidates to do a particular job. Many employers are designing, or purchasing, tests to determine if the candidate can apply their knowledge. Unfortunately, most schools (High Schools and Colleges) are so busy trying to force feed knowledge into students’ brains, and then testing to make sure it is there, that they do not have time to teach students how to apply that knowledge. Now many technical companies are asking candidates questions, such as, “how many tennis balls will fit in a school bus and what was your thought process that led you to this solution?”, instead of asking; what is the value of Planck’s constant?
What does this mean for individuals looking for their first or a new job (obsolescence occurs very rapidly in todays job market)? Obviously, demonstrated experience and training in the field that the employer is trying to fill is a must. As a Technical Recruiter in the Plastics Industry, I am constantly amazed that after advertising for an Injection Molding Engineer, almost 90% of the respondents do not have any experience in the plastics field, much less, injection molding experience. If you have the requisite experience, the next step is preparing a resume that not only shows that you have the experience and training in the field you are applying for, but in addition, it is very important to provide examples of how you have used that knowledge to solve your employer’s problems and, therefore, increase sales and profits. Obviously, most college students lack the experience and skills upon graduation that employer’s want so desperately. That is why it is important, more than ever, for college students to perform internships, or summer positions, with companies that can provide some of the experience and skills that you want to pursue upon graduation from college and emphasize them on your resume.
Keeping your resume current is also very important. Not listing skills or experience that you have that a company wants, based on the posted job description, is the kiss of death. I never cease to be amazed how many individuals send me resumes that do not contain any reference to the experience required by the hiring company and when I reject them for consideration for the position they e-mail saying they have the experience requested but they have not had time to update their resume or “you are a recruiter and should have been able to tell that I have the right experience”. Despite of what some people believe, Corporate or Third Party Recruiters are rarely clairvoyant.
Companies are constantly looking for overqualified people these days or “purple squirrels” as those of us in the recruiting industry call them. Usually, if a company asks that a candidate meets 10 criteria, as soon as I submit a candidate that meets all 10 criteria, the company comes up with a 11th. Being under qualified in areas of experience, training and skills will also keep the company from seriously considering you for the position. This means that someone that has been out of school for a years should be continuing their education, usually through seminars conducted by whatever technical society they belong. Companies use to provide continuing training to their employees but that is rarely the case anymore. It has fallen upon the individual to assume much of the responsibility for keeping expertise and skills current, much as it is the responsibility of the professional athlete to run and lift weights to stay in shape in the off-season. An example is; currently almost all plastic injection molding companies want engineers and technicians with “Scientific Molding” or RJG experience but some companies do not do scientific molding and their engineers or technicians lack that expertise and then when the get “downsized or rightsized” they have trouble finding another position because the lack the scientific molding skills. Scientific Molding and/or RJG training is offered by some very good trainers and should be pursued by everyone in the industry if for no other reason than to keep themselves marketable.
In summary, candidates get rejected for jobs for two main reasons; the candidate cannot demonstrate to the company that they can solve the problems they are being interviewed for, or they don’t know what the company needs, and it comes through because the candidate has not developed the expertise and learned the skills that are needed.