An Open Letter to College Graduates

Dear soon-to-be or recent college graduate:

We just went through the hiring process and are happy to report that we found someone we’re pretty stoked to add to the team (more later). In trudging through the process, however, I found myself making mental notes to share with my daughter when she enters the workforce in 20 years. Because that’s so far off, I thought I would share a few tips with you.

Don’t be a Debby Downer.
Times are tough for you. They are. And I’m sorry about that. But talking extensively about how difficult it is right now is not becoming. I’m not going to hire you because I feel sorry for you. I’m going to hire you because you’re resilient during these trying times. The number one reason for why we’re going to hire you is NOT because I want to help you move out of your parent’s house. As much as I would like to assist in that endeavor, it’s not compelling enough.

Clean up your writing. 
We don’t expect you to wax eloquent about the virtues of sustainability in the modern world, but we do expect full sentences, correct spelling and coherence. It was disturbing how many applications had errors. Nothing gets you into the “no” pile faster than poor writing. If you’re wondering why this is important, this  recent Harvard Business Review blog is worth a read.

Dress the part.
Not all sustainability consultants wear Birkenstocks to work. In fact, most don’t. So when you come in for an interview, dress up a little. One of our litmus tests is whether or not we would be comfortable sending a new hire to a client meeting. If you don’t present yourself professionally in an interview, it’s difficult for us to envision you in front of a client. Oh, and another thing while I’m on the topic of clothing: take your jacket (e.g., windbreakers and winter coats) off in an interview. Unless you’re expecting a fire drill. Then leave it on.

No GPA = bad GPA
I have always assumed that if you don’t include your GPA on a resume, it’s not very good. Include it. Unless it’s really bad.

If you’re a dude, pick up your game.
Our top four candidates were all women. Check that, they were all very impressive women. Let’s just put it this way: I’m glad I’m not competing against them for work. Gentlemen, you had better pick it up if you hope to compete.

Send a thank you note after an interview.
Yes, an actual thank you note. One which requires a stamp. While it may seem pretty old-school, its personal touch can’t be rivaled by an email. And if you’re not even sending a follow-up email after an interview: shame.

The fact is, we interviewed two candidates that had significant and legitimate experience for a job that we billed as entry-level. You are competing not only against your fellow soon-to-be or recent graduates, but against really sharp people with 5–10 years of experience. That’s not easy, but it’s also not insurmountable. You can and will overcome only so long as you are razor-focused in your approach and unequivocally show that you’re highly capable. And most importantly, that you understand what an Oxford comma is and can state why you do or do not use it.

Onward and upward.

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