Five years ago, I was applying to every last internship and job position that remotely sounded like something I could be good at… PR, marketing, journalism, copywriting, anything writing… and in response I heard a bunch of crickets. Luckily amongst those crickets came a loud noise, then an interview, and then a job, and more jobs. But my time applying to internships while in college, and applying to my first job post graduation was really painful, and required unyielding tenacity. It seemed no one wanted to hire a theatre major from a large private college, go figure.
Today, I find myself reviewing the cover letters of intern applicants, and I feel for them. I see all those kids writing their optimistic cover letters all wide eyed and bushy tailed. It’s terribly difficult to not ignore the applications from mid-tier schools, when you have applicants from the likes of Stanford, Berkeley and Harvard interested in your job. Also, it doesn’t help matters when your boss tells you to hire someone from Stanford, Berkeley or Harvard (or the equivalent.)
While intern applicants from top-tier schools are not necessarily better than those from other schools, one thing that’s likely true is that anyone who has worked hard enough to get into a top school is someone who will be reliable and hard working. Intelligence can be defined in many different ways, but when hiring — even after a few interviews — it’s still a crapshoot. You have better odds to pick a winner if you pick someone who knows how to go out of their way to be, well, perfect.
At the same time, I’m trying to keep an open mind (by prying my mind open and, if needed, prying my boss’s mind open) and reading all of the applicants from any school (except the “University of Phoenix.” I’m not hiring anyone who spent money on a for-profit online degree, I have to draw the line somewhere.
In any case, it feels all twisted and strange being in the hiring seat now, just five years after I was one of those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young hopefuls, sending out my 300th cover letter and resume, and waiting, patiently, for the phone to ring.