I don’t like interviewing recent business school grads.
Few things are more difficult for an interviewer to deal with than unrealistic expectations. Even worse is dealing with one’s absolute oblivion as to just how unrealistic his or her expectations really are. Unrealistic salary targets, unrealistic outlook as to the tasks involved in the first job, and unrealistic expectations regarding career progression. Time and time again I am the one telling my young candidates that their first salary will likely be half of what they think it will be. Time and time again I am the one telling them that they will have to start at the very bottom of the corporate ladder and pay their dues for years to come before they get that elusive dream job.
I obviously can’t blame my junior applicants for their oblivion as I too was once in their shoes. I blame business schools, with their misleading web sites, career brochures and professors who provide misleading information. When I was at the McGill business school, we were constantly told what we could expect to make upon graduation. Many of my fellow grads were desperate to find those non-existing jobs paying unreasonable amounts of money for a business diploma with no actual experience. Once we all had to accept what the market had to offer, many stopped returning phone calls or avoided discussing their first job as to not mention how much they were making or what their job description was. After all, it was hard not to think that you were the only one from your graduating class to be making a fraction of the amount you were told you would make.
I recruited for one of Canadian banks a few years ago when they were looking for a marketing coordinator. Requirements included a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, full bilingualism (English/French) including the ability to write effortlessly in both languages and a year of experience. They were offering $11/hour to start and the position was filled within 2 weeks. Not saying that this is common, but it certainly is not rare either. Many firms will not hire a new grad into a marketing, finance or HR role and prefer new hires to start in clerical or customer service roles to prove their worth first and only then move up.
Instead of celebrating their first jobs in the real world, many business grads feel like losers fearing that their income does not measure up to that of their peers. After all, how many of us honestly share our first annual salary with others (close friends and family excluded) without exaggeration?
So, why don’t business schools prepare their future graduates for the reality of the market? I am afraid that their sole motivator is to increase the number of applications. At the end of the day though, it is a real shame when a university department functions as a bad business, more concerned with profits than its actual purpose—honest education.