What I Learned Watching “The Job”

Given the current state of the economy and the dismal job outlook for new college grads – a reality show about being unemployed was inevitable. The Job is a reality-competition television series featuring contestants competing in various challenges for a chance to win “a dream job at their dream company”. Given my role in helping consultants find work, I was intrigued. Contrary to my normal habits – I tuned in to television to watch reality TV.

The episode I watched was a competition for a job at Cosmopolitan Magazine as an Editorial Assistant. I wasn’t sure what I’d learn but I had vague notions of learning how tough competition is for a new job.

Here’s what I learned instead: Candidates are woefully unprepared for the most part. I can understand if you have a last minute call for an interview the next day – but these folks applied for a reality TV show and knew who the employer was. Wouldn’t you assume they’d have spent every waking minute preparing?  Maybe hire a coach to help?

missed targetHere are samples of what went wrong: 

#1 – One candidate in the first “work test” stated very clearly that he doesn’t know how to write.  (See above where the job is listed as Editorial Assistant!)

#2 – One candidate took a great picture opportunity and then staged it to be very un-Cosmo. Later she admitted that she doesn’t read Cosmo. (Really?  Shouldn’t she have been pouring over every issue of that magazine she could find?)

#3 – One candidate had 2 (yes 2) misspelled words in the short caption they were asked to write. It was a 30 word maximum caption. (Again – see the job title of Editorial Assistant.)

#4 – One candidate used the term “Chock full of” but spelled it “Chalk full of” on the caption.

#5 – One candidate could not answer a single question about fashion correctly.

Things that went well: 

Two candidates had clearly studied the magazine, the brand, the normal layout, and understood fashion. One of these candidates scored the job and the other was offered a 3 month internship.

One candidate took such a great photo on the street that Cosmopolitan is going to use it in an upcoming edition.

My Questions: 

Was this a representative sample of the unemployed new college grads? If so, I’m beginning to understand why they are not finding great jobs. Most were terribly unprepared for the job interview. They didn’t have the job skills and the evidence pointed to them never having researched what skills were required for the job.

If this is how they prepare for the biggest interview of their life, what are they going to bring to the job each day?

How do we teach the new college grads to prepare for a career?

As a side note, there were three other companies there with a job opening and the ability to offer a job. Only one of them offered a job to any of the candidates. (To the winner of the Cosmo job.) I assume this means that all of the employers present found the other candidates seriously lacking.

Preparation Tips for Future “The Job” Candidates: 

  1. Take a strengths test!  Find out what you’re good at before you pursue a career. You’ll be much more successful when you play to your strengths!
  2. Learn what skills are needed for the job. If you’ve never heard of the job “Editorial Assistant” – you shouldn’t be applying. Look it up. See the job description for older job postings.  Even better – interview someone that has held that job.
  3. Make sure your skills match the requirements in that job description. In such a tough job market, the job will go to someone that is perfectly matched to the job. Companies no longer have to “settle”.
  4. Study the company! Cosmopolitan should have been an easy one. Buy several issues. Study them. Have your friends quiz you. Research who works there. Read about the history of the company. Look up their public financial records.
  5. Dress for the job you want. If you are interviewing with a more conservative company don’t show up with tattoos. If you are interviewing with a young, hip company – don’t show up in a plain blue suit.
  6. Practice the interview. Have a friend (or better – an interview coach) ask you interview questions!

Get some other job or contract hunting tips on these older posts: 

Leigh Anne Lankford is an instructional designer with more than 21 years’ experience in the field of HRD. She is a Relationship Manager for TrainingPros in Atlanta, working closely with training and development departments of large organizations to identify, attract, and on-board contract employees for very specific and specialized training and development needs. You can reach Leigh Anne at leighanne.lankford@training-pros.com. 

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