All Talk and No Action Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A little more than a month back, a colleague and I interviewed an interesting pool of students for internship at Pankhudi.

The applicants came from one of the best educational institutions in the country, and overall, the interviews went off well, but for one factor.

After sifting through 33 applications, SOPs and resumes, the only facet that screamed out of all resumes was their complete lack of originality.

Every resume followed the same pattern, mentioned the same projects, highlighted the same achievements, showcased the same talents and bragged about almost similar percentiles.

If you struck off the names, you would think the same person had applied 33 times.

The entire process made me think of the institution as a manufacturing plant.

The colleague who was a student of the same institution, offered a few reasons for this state of negligence.

Lack of in-house mentors and the fear of missing out on big companies that visited campus, made everyone ape the other blindly.

While mentors were available for bettering one's academic performance, the students had no go-to person for guidance on resume building, interview preparation and overall personality enrichment.

This, of course, came as a surprise to me. Despite the lack of support infrastructure, the students here have always managed good placements.

However, that is the prize for attending one of the best colleges the country has. It can only take you so far.

This post is not about this particular institution. At my previous employer, I once handled a repository of applications from Ivy league colleges, again, for internships. Exactly same situation there.

None of the applicants had put in any effort to leave his personal mark on the resume.

Such incidents make me wonder : Does an ivy league education hamper one's risk taking initiatives? Does your pedigree come in your way of being different?

Ideally, your education must open doors for you to live as you wish and portray what you are.

There is nothing wrong if you like following the herd.

Snapshots from Hell and What they teach you at Harvard Business school are must read books for people wanting to pursue their masters at Ivy league colleges.

Gossip :  While in Hong Kong, an Indian lady I had just been introduced to, mailed me her resume, by way of formal introduction.

Her mail read : "Hi, let's be friends. So, let me tell you who I am : Check out my resume. Now, which college have you been to??"

I was later told that this was a norm at the college she visited.

Show your resume and make a friend.


Anonymous said...

Hahahaha No marks for guessing who the Indian lady was ;)

But I wholeheartedly agree with you, I have time and again thought about it... as carrying the burden of your legacy... Because you are form so and so, you are expected to be so and so... Pretty sad! If colleges could aim and getting a varied crop of students, they could still achieve some of those things...

Anonymous said...

BTW, to date I have not met a single person who has asked me for my resume as part of introduction. I would take that incident more as an exception than a rule.. 99% of my friends have never had a look at my resume and I dont see why they should.

All Talk and No Action said...

@WTME - OMG! Never thought you would be reading this :D I hope noone who knows the lady OR the lady herself read this :-)

I always believed that ivy league students would take more risks, follow their dreams and in general, not follow the herd. But I have been colossally wrong. Peer pressure and fitting into the mould seem to be the norm with most of these people.

I have no problems with friends seeing my resume or asking for it. But the key here is : They must be friends :-)

Rakesh said...

I have to agree with you. Education is supposed to teach a student how to live life the way they want to. Sadly, there is not enough exposure for the student to choose the life he wants to. He/She is burdened by the peer pressure of the society and tends to do what everyone else around him/her are doing

All Talk and No Action said...

@Rakesh - Welcome to the blog!

You have mentioned everything I complained about :-)

My whole grouse with most people is, they decide to walk the tried and tested paths, even when they have enough exposure, merit, strong pedigree.

But maybe, that is how human beings in general are wired?!

I also realise, this makes my post a moot one :-)

Sneha said...

I think if you take 5 college students from the same academic program you will find that they all have very similar expereince. However that does not mean that the education has failed them.

I see this with the interns who work for my company. We always hire from the same few colleges, and the students from these colleges have very similar resumes. However, some of them take that education and make huge strides. Others do not.

I recommend asking for a Cover Letter with each resume where the person can describe there strengths. Resumes are not ment to show personality, they are simply a way for employers to quickly gage the person. If you are looking for personality a Cover Letter is the way to go.

All Talk and No Action said...

@Sneha - The students I spoke about are from different departments, studying different projects and having different experiences... Yet, their resumes didn't highlight this.

They seemed to be almost afraid to stand out and show they were different from the next guy.

I am sure all of them will make good use of their education, will land up with high profile jobs... yet, it will only be due to their institution and it's name... not because, they attempted to be different.

We did go through cover letters too. They didn't present a very different picture from that of the resumes.

Entire point is : When people get a chance to stand out, mostly, they veer towards conformism