The post-MBA reality or how job search can be “not-so-funky”

With an exciting, invigorating, inspiring and very intensive MBA program behind me, I enthusiastically embarked upon a job hunting journey. I thought, with my quite interesting resume, a freshly-baked MBA, cool events I organized under the auspices of the Funky Business club, plus some good publicity I received through my FT articles, finding a cool job in marketing and brand strategy would be a piece of cake.

Notwithstanding my self-confidence, I have had some …. well, not too “funky” job interviews that resulted in rejections. Let me give you some examples of bizarre HR practices some companies seem to be pursuing in their war for talent.

I never had a lot of interest in working in management consulting, so, I was quite surprised when a representative of a well-known management consultancy that came to the on-campus recruitment event seemed very interested in my profile. “This is great,” he said, “we are looking for people exactly like yourself!” “Can I have your CV?” I gave my CV to him without showing too much enthusiasm, but he insisted I could be a really good match. After a couple of weeks, I received a message from this company which “combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, organizational transformation, and leadership development”, with a ….. rejection. The usual message stated that after “careful consideration” of my CV, their company realized that I didn’t “match the criteria required for the jobs” there. Err…I was slightly annoyed at the rejection of the post I had never applied for, and wrote back expressing my disappointment. As expected, I never heard anything back.

An HR representative of another well-known company, a French producer and marketer of milk products, had only a quick look at my CV to conclude that I would not be a good fit there due to my lack of working experience “with milk products”. Wow, I thought, they have very precise and rigorous criteria for candidate selection! How many of their current employees had the “milk product experience” before joining the company, apart from their daily portion of cereal with milk or an occasional yoghurt? And what does the mysterious “milk product experience” really stand for? Perhaps someone could clarify that for me!

Then, I received an unexpected invitation for an interview (unexpected, because it resulted from CV submission on-line, the practice I don’t normally follow very often, as it always results in the “thank you for your application, but…” responses) with a global advertising conglomerate that calls itself “a world leader in marketing communications” and “Britain’s most successful advertising company.” I was invited to London to be interviewed by their HR representative for about 1.5 hours. Fortunately, at least I wasn’t asked the usual types of questions either about my strengths and weaknesses, or the vision of myself in 5 years. In fact, it was quite a mellow interview: we went over my CV, then chatted about various brands, such as Jimmy Choo, Dove, Benetton, etc. At the end of the interview I was surprised to find out that the hiring decision would be entirely up to the interviewer to make, which, on the one hand, could suggest great efficiency of the company in question. On the other hand, given lack of too much chemistry between myself and the interviewer, I thought it was a pity I wouldn’t get another chance to talk to anyone else. As expected, in a couple of days I received a rejection for the position. It looked like the lady (who was polite enough to call me instead of sending the usual email) tried hard to find reasons not to hire me. Apparently, the reason for rejection was that during the interview I did not give any examples of “integrated campaigns” launched by the company. “Hmm,” I said, “but I was never asked any questions about the company and your integrated campaigns.” Plus, how would this easily obtainable information demonstrate if I had any skills this company could benefit from?

The good news about these rejections is that in the end they’re all for the better. Would I really want to work for someone who thinks of the world through a narrow focus of “milk products”? Or a company that thinks that only their “integrated campaigns” are worth talking about? Most likely not! In this sense, perhaps I should’t be criticizing the short-sightedness of their human resources, but on the contrary, congratulate them for their amazing ability to spot the people who would not fit into their corporate cultures anyway?