lazy graduates?

Can today’s graduates really be bothered?

I have read many articles and blog postings about the candidate experience – hell I even wrote one myself bemoaning the bad service candidates get in terms of engagement and feedback.

However, as someone who has been involved in recruiting for our own organisation over the past few weeks, I have been quite literally gobsmacked at the poor level of effort, courtesy and basic communication skills displayed by applicants.  We hear lots of stuff about how we need to really engage with Generation Y – but have we gone too far? Do Generation Y now  feel that they have to make no real effort?  And is that one of the reasons that graduate unemployment is currently so high? Are we creating a whole generation of people who think that they can just sit back and wait for the ever so eager employer to find them within their ‘talent communities’?

A few examples:

  • The applicant that I interviewed– a good degree, good A level grades and relevant work placement experience. When asked what had appealed to her about the role, she answered: “Dunno really – I just thought I could do it!”
  • The applicant who, during a telephone screening interview, asked our Account Manager:  “How old are you? Yousound really young!”
  • The graduate  applicants ( and I’m not talking about just a few) whose covering letters and CVs are so full of spelling mistakes it makes me want to throw my hands up in despair at the current state of our education system. One was actively seeking a “roll in pubic relations.”
  • The applicant who e-mailed me to say that he thought his experience would be of interest to me and directed me to site where I could find out more about him. I didn’t bother – because he couldn’t be bothered to sell himself.

Am I just a grumpy old woman?  Is there something I’m missing? Is it too much to expect applicants to make some effort to engage with ME?  What do others think?

34 thoughts on “Can today’s graduates really be bothered?”

  1. At the risk of becoming one of these unemployed graduates you speak of, I’m going to stick my neck out and disagree (slightly) with the boss 😉

    First of all the above examples, while hilarious, aren’t representative of all graduates. Having come from the last batch of graduates, I can stick up for my generation with some counter examples:

    1. My friend Katy, who, since graduating, has decided her direction, taken on several internships, networked professionally, even enrolled in training courses to make herself more employable and has done so to her own great benefit.

    2. My friend Joel who graduated the year before me and now travels the world as part of a growing Middle East dialogue organisation, speaking about the Middle East conflict and trying to engage ordinary civilians in conversation with one another.

    3. Me. Not to toot my own horn but I like to think I made a relatively big effort in my graduate job hunt.

    I guess my overriding point is that a.) we all make mistakes, and believe me I’ve made some pretty stupid ones in testing the waters professionally b.) there are idiots in every generation and c.) it’s still my dream to have a roll in pubic relations. Kidding.

  2. Tracey, a cracking piece and one that resonates.

    Where is the passion in these young people? I don’t care what passion someone has but an interest in something other than an XBox would be fantastic. Shows they care.

  3. You’d be surprised at the number of candidates that apply for roles from every generation who make similar mistakes, so on that point I have some sympathy with the argument that Sara puts forward.

    However, the point around engaging with you is a completely valid one (in my humble opinion). With the level of youth unemployment as it is, the winners will be the proactive ones, not the ones that believe they have a god given right to work.

    Oh and yes…’re a grumpy old woman….but that isn’t necessarily anything to do with this post! 🙂

    1. Neil
      Thanks for the comment and as I am fast approaching my half century ( eeek) then yes I am a grumpy old woman:) I too have some sympathy with Sara ( even if she dares diasgree with the boss – just wait till I see you young lady:) but I think the wider issue is that we could actually be encouraging grads not to be proactive becuase of all the ‘noise’ around employers needing to engage with talent communities. I’m not against that – I’ve done it myself but I think we need to be careful that we are not sending out the wrong messages. There are grads out there who do think that having a ‘hire me’ blog and a twitter profile is enough – it isn’t!

      1. You don’t look a day over 30…..

        Completely agree on the blog and Twitter approach, it is in my opinion only good enough in a (as yet) very small sub sector and whilst there are always examples of people that do succeed, they are pretty small compared to the number of unemployed grads.

  4. Not sure if anyone will remember my little contretemps with the evening standard over their articles about grads deserving more and not getting enough love from employers? It was all very amusing but unfortunately was all too true. This blog highlights a lot of the issues that I brought up at the time, lack of enthusiasm, sense of entitlement and a complete unwillingness to apply yourself to climbing the ladder that most interviewers had struggled to get to the top of.
    I find the whole thing extremely disheartening and I get really annoyed with the “we must look after Gen Y” conversations when, it seems, a lot of the time Gen Y can’t be bothered to look after itself.
    That is, by no means, a catch all as there are some extremely driven and enthusiastic people out there who are focussed on what they want to do and are striving to achieve. These are the ones who will absolutely succeed.

  5. Generational differences. I think in the grand scheme of things Generation Y will end up achieving more because we aren’t constrained by the same institutional culture that’s surrounded the workplace in past generations.

    Generation Y have different values. Is it better from someone to say ‘Dunno really – I just thought I’d be good’ and then be absolutely amazing in the job, or to real of the same corporate spiel that’s hampered business (and the world) progressing for so long? Just like in the 60’s we’re prepared to fail. We’re building our own paths through life because we’ve realised your success is defined within yourself not on someone else’s perception of you.

    Don’t be so quick to criticise, wait and see what we achieve. In my opinion, we’re at the forefront of revolution that is democratic mass communications that’s already proven it’s power to change the world.

    That being said, we do lack traditional communication skills. But then, we aren’t a traditional generation (or so I’d like to think).

    Good post by the way, I think this is the first one I’ve felt the need to properly articulate a response too.


  6. Interesting comment Andrew and thank you for taking the time to reply. You’re right – not everyone is the same. However as an owner of a small business should I really be expected to take a punt – and therefore a financial risk – on someone who says..dunno just thought I could do it..” – should any employer? I absolutely agree with you about corporate spiel – to me that’s as bad as the dunno comment. But if I am expected to engage with Gen Y then I go back to my original point – shouldn’t they be expected to enage with me? Or is the generation so untraditional that i just have to guess?) And don’t worry about the typos – even us Gen X dinosaurs ( or am I a baby boomer?) still do that!! Lol! Thanks again for engaging!

  7. Tracey – this is an enlightening post, and I have bad news. It’s a common trait. And is it a Gen Y trait? Maybe. Society has been too easy on the laziest quarter of young people over the last 20 years. But maybe that’s a grumpy old man talking!! 😉

    The problem stems from the term `graduate`. In may day (here we go), a university graduation was a badge of honour, you were the `special ones` – clearly amongst the academic elite – primed for great careers.
    Now, since the society of `education for all` let any tom, dick & harry into universities – the term `graduate` on the most part, has a diminished effect.

    Now the `can’t be bothered` take university courses, so as to absolutely underline how much they `can’t be bothered`, by skipping lectures, lying in, and drinking cheap beer for 3 years. Then they go work in a call centre.

    I used to love recruiting for Grads, and still do when it arises in my job – because I deal with the really good ones. But boy it’s a search.

      1. Aha!! – great minds, eh?

        It’s an unpopular sentiment, but we are right… ;o)

        And I totally agree (as I think I mention in my blog) – that more kids need to be starting work at 16 and 18 again – and apprenticeships are the way – but not just for skilled labour, all career paths that are not academia related.

        Education isn’t for all, because it isn’t essential, for all jobs.

  8. Sadly it’s not just graduates but all applicants. The lack of covering letters, spelling and grammatical errors across CVs and covering letters, not returning calls regarding arranging interviews, saying “which role was that and what company, I can’t remember I applied for so many”

    I can go on for hours

    1. I feel an episode of ‘grumpy old recruiters’ coming on – wonder if we could get the bbc to commission it!

  9. Real CV that came in to my agency on Tuesday – Practically certifiable!

    Dear future employer,

    I cannot remember exactly what the job that I am applying for is, but I know I would be great at it. True lover of English language and a tea-addict, I am currently studying Public Relations in the third-year of a reputable Communication Institute I cannot name.

    For three months, I had the chance to assist a Press Officer responsible for the management of American budgets such as the Cranberry Marketing Committee and the Wild Blueberry Association of North America.

    Thanks to the “Analysis of Anglo-Saxon media” course I chose to follow during my second year of Bachelor’s degree in Communication, I have a certain knowledge of Brittiish media.

    Furthermore, I did three studies abroad in borough of Lewisham and as a result am capable of adapting to any situation. I am an enthusiastic and a gay person (I mean cheerful), which, I believe, is essential to work in Public Relations.

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Yours faithfully,

    Attached: Resume of the best trainee ever.pdf

    Willard note: Just in case you think I was joking, the CV filename was “Resume of the best trainee ever.pdf”

  10. There seems to be more lethargy and lack of people skills amongst graduates than there used to be. I seem to remember reading several reports in recent times about employers saying that a lot of graduates just aren’t properly equipped for the workplace. Why is that I wonder? Could it be because whereas a generation ago only the top 10% were accepted for uni, today 40%+ of our children are being encouraged to go and get a degree? Is it symptomatic of the modern way of living i.e. a hell of a lot of communication is done via SMS and online chat and social networks rather than face to face? I’m not sure what the problem is but I don’t think it’s simply a case of old folk frowning upon these young upstarts with a sort of “in my day” approach. I genuinely think that something is causing a lot of these people to lack the interpersonal skills it takes to succeed in a work situation as I hear it said again and again from different sources. Maybe it’s time it was seriously addressed in education circles as the problem it so clearly seems to have become.

    1. Alisdair, you are so right – but this is largely irreversible, sadly – because the internet is the current and the future. Hence why we are all trading comments here.

      Is the answer in all reality, that businesses need to harness the power of the internet and recognise that this talent intrinsically exists within the Gen Y age group – not through education – but through society and where social integration. We can’t blame kids for being social network freaks. Business is going that way – they just had to adapt to give them work that they love!

      Clearly the recent 1:5 out of work stats prove this is not happening.

      Off topic. A bit. Sorry Tracey.

      1. My fear (though God knows why as I won’t be around) is though that if the situation today is that so many of our children are growing up semi-literate, what is it going to be like in a generation or two’s time? Will people simply speak to each other via SMS text or computers? I wd 8 2 fink dat wood b da case.

      2. no worries – loving the conversation – nice to know us ‘old gits’ can be ‘social’ too!! And I know Alisdair wont mind dme including him – lol!

  11. @ Andrew – being prepared to fail is one thing, but with millions of other graduates out there, you don’t get the luxury of failing in the job, just in the interview. I’m afraid getting a job *is* about other people’s perception of you – they have no reason to give you a job just because you feel good about yourself. Your communication skills don’t have to be ‘traditional’ – just effective.

  12. I’m happy, because it makes candidates that are fully capable and not lazy or inept more likely to succeed. Like myself 🙂

    It’s the same reason I’m happy that some people never leave their hometowns and stay in the same basic job their whole lives. It just means that the other people are granted the liberty to explore other places and discover more left-field job roles, without the structure of society collapsing.

    Also, @Simon Lewis – you can be both active in pursuing a valuable and interesting career AND be a huge enthusiast for Xbox. My job marries both pursuits.

  13. Another Grumpy old recruiter…tells a story

    Fed up with no covering letters, completely irrelevant CVs, a general lack of care by applicants of all generations, and having some ads to use up on my job board account I posted this ad at Xmas under the title “BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE JOB IN THE WORLD”
    *Unlimited Global travel
    *No need to worry about expense accounts
    *Company Vehicle and smart red uniform provided
    *Meals and drinks when on duty

    Our client has been operating for hundreds of years and is very well respected in their market. They operate throughout the whole world for one night a year.

    Although they have a complete monopoly over their market, they have no problems with the Commerce Commission. Technology has made their market harder but they have continued to operate in traditional ways using tried and tested methodology.

    As Customer Service Team leader you will be responsible for managing a multi-cultural team, including many elves. Elves are notoriously difficult to manage due to their playful way of approaching their work.

    You will listen carefully to customer requisition requests and you will have to read many letters asking about company services, enquiring about products, and insisting on specific delivery dates. Your eyesight must be good as some of these requests can be composed in quite childlike writing, although many of our customers use capital letters for emphasis.

    You will need to be of portly build, or be prepared to wear a cushion. You must not be claustrophobic as you often have to go down chimneys. In fact, some of our deliveries can be quite tricky!

    The successful applicant will also be good at multi-tasking as you often have to be in many places at the same time. Sometimes you will be store based (normally in a nice little grotto) but often you will be flying around all over. To assist your role, we will provide a deluxe version of the basic Time-Turner as used by Hermione Grainger (Harry Potter).

    Ideally you will look old, or be prepared to look old, as we need continuity of brand and all our previous incumbents have had white hair. A statue of our previous Team Leader has recently been placed on Queen Street in Auckland and this gives you an indication of the look we are trying to achieve. You will also need to be a happy jolly sort of person, of patient disposition, and get on well with children.

    You need great attention to detail and previous major project management experience will be essential. Our reputation depends on complete accuracy and our company slogan is “Right People, Right Goods, Right Time” We cannot afford to deliver our products to naughty children.

    If you have previous experience of sleigh driving (preferably at night) that will be of distinct advantage.

    Closing date for applications 24th December at 11.59pm exactly – NO EXCEPTIONS

    CVs to James Cozens, Leading Chief Elf Advisor


    It has been a hard year in the job market so this fun ad is especially for all those who have had a tough time.

    A very Happy Xmas to all of you reading this and Happy Xmas to my friends (both of them)

    Best of luck with your job, and job searching, in the New Year 🙂

    Within 48 hours I had received 50 plus “serious” applications from all over the world and several phone calls telling me how good they were for the job. I had to tell several people that Father Xmas was not a real person (hope no children are reading this) and I had to close down the ad as it was getting silly

    My point is that in the “good old days” you ran an ad in the Financial Times, Evening Standard etc and not only did some time and effort had to be taken to respond but you could be assured that most of the response would be from candidates on your doorstep.

    As a “grumpy old recruiter” I have come up with at least one answer – unfortunately now set up as a standard reply in my e-mail signatures.

    Dear Tracey

    Thank you for your application which I have taken the time and trouble to read this morning.

    Indeed, I think I must have taken more time and trouble than you did in reading the advertisement and then applying for a role for which your skills and experience are totally unsuitable.

    The content of your general covering letter to “Dear Prospective Employer” bears no relevance to the role I have advertised and the skills and experience in your CV, whilst appearing substantial, again have no relevance to the role we are recruiting for.

    May I suggest that in future you read advertisements properly and only apply for jobs that you are suited for, with a covering letter that clearly addresses the requirements of the role and how you match them . That way you will not waste your own time and the time of recruiters and employers who are doing their best to offer a professional service.

    I wish you good luck for your job searching in 2011



Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *