University degree, no job interview

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 - career management, Employment, graduate cv, Job Application, job search, recruitment, retail

University degree, no job interview

Zombie Bread

Brandon asks: I have a university degree, yet no one will even call me for an interview. What am I doing wrong? I moved from the US last year. I have UK residency and have been trying to get a decent job for the past few months. I was working at one of the store chains that closed down over Christmas.

Before moving here I graduated with a BA at a top notch university. Then I took some retail jobs for experience (and I like retail). Then I was promoted in my last US job to a manager position. However, despite them telling me I could transfer my job here, the store chain here in the UK pretty much led me on until they rejected me 4 months later. Since my store closed I have not even been able to get even a call for an interview from anywhere aside from an outgoing call centre. I’ve worked there for 5 months and have been completely miserable. Why won’t anyone else call me? I was told I need to dumb down my CV because they may be afraid of my experience, but I’m not sure what to do in the least. I can’t take another day of outgoing sales. Is it true that people under the age of 22 have an advantage? How can someone get past that?

In answer:
A number of issues, but all I think easily solved.

Firstly, is retail in the UK what you really want to do? Personally, it is – with interior design – still behind the standards and training set in the USA.

Secondly, accept the current economic climate – there is nothing you can do to change that. This means lots of competition for jobs – actually less in the UK at present. However, you also picked a peak in job applicants, with both schools and universities dropping out thousands of summer retail job applicants who will work for not a lot.

Think Employment

Today’s graduates have to think differently to those who graduated even two years ago. It is not that you can’t get your dream job, you just have to go about it in a different way – and retail really suits this employment way of thinking.

What’s the first thing every retail employer does with every new joiner? Right, they make them work on the shop floor for three months. So why not do the same, just not under their graduate scheme to prove yourself?

I would look at the big retail chains – Asda/WalMart, Sainsburys, Tesco, M&S, Next, Arcadia, Debenhams – and their graduate training schemes. Pick three, and find the name of the head of HR. Write them a direct Cover Letter, saying why you would like to work for them, what you offer, and close by saying that you will take any job to prove yourself good enough to get on their next graduate management training program intake. If those three don’t work, then do the same for the next three. If that doesn’t work, then take a summer job in one of these organisations AND THEN get the manager you worked for to endorse you to the head of HR.

Graduates now, over the CV-blitz and milk round techniques that worked a couple of years ago, need to target specific employers or first show proof. If you know what the target employers scheme is, then use that as your “proof” guide. I have seen some UK employers offering US-style intern-ships – unpaid work experience – for up to a month. But I am not convinced by this approach personally yet from an employer, employee or legality view point: US law is well developed in this area, where as UK law is not particularly when you add in employer liability insurance issues.

As an American in the UK, can can play a little hard ball over what we locals can. In retail, where you have a strong retail background, the right approach should produce the right results.

Good Luck!


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