Until very recently, I was looking for a job. My PhD contract at the university was running over and I started sending applications around, only to different companies in the Netherlands (since I did not want to relocate). Now that the process is over for me, I look back and cannot help but cringe and laugh at some of the reasons for which I got rejected. I always thought that because I am highly educated, it would not be very difficult to transition to the labour market. Though the process ended successfully for me, it definitely was not un-problematic. Here are a few of the WTF moments I had that angered me, despaired me, and made me laugh — sometimes all at the same time.
1.”It’s not you, it’s us”
For a couple of job postings, I seemed like a good fit for the position, I had all the requirements, the potential employers really liked me… buuuut, I am not Dutch, i.e. my Dutch is not perfect. I do quite okay while reading and listening but I have not been placed in a purely Dutch environment, thus never had to talk the language much. Never you mind that I worked on a couple of papers with data and documentation only in Dutch.. Somehow, if my conversation around the water cooler was not in perfect Dutch, it would be very detrimental for my future career. Thus, few employers told me to go back to them once I am fluent, or if I am born in another life as Dutch. I literally heard the “It is not you, it is REALLY US, we are just a small and purely Dutch company” excuse. As if someone was trying to break up with me in a very bad way. I had to laugh.
2. The ghosting
There was one company I really liked, and who seemed to like me back. They were okay with me still learning the Dutch language. The interview process was supposed to consist of 3 steps. I heard a lot of enthusiasm back from their side after the first one. Then, after me pushing for the second one, I never heard back from them. After not returning my calls for a while, I receive an email that they will not continue their talks with me because of bunch of things I allegedly do not know. Never you mind you will be hard-pressed to find anyone with a degree in economics who doesn’t know about regressions, classification, and clustering. They never asked me if I knew those things, but simply decided so after me describing what I do, which is more than just regressions and classifications. It was not that they rejected me, but why, and especially how they did it…I was infuriated..
3. “You knowledge in R is theoretical”
Now, this is a good one. Anyone who ever used a scripting language or any kind of software for analysing data, knows that you either know how to work with it or you don’t. You cannot possible have a theoretical knowledge of a scripting or a programming language simply because all you can do with it is get your hands dirty and obtain that hands-on experience.
4. “The research you did is different from what we are doing”
You did not need a deep understanding in the field they were working on, it was not a research institution. They simply needed an economic advisor for different issues such as how you can estimate damages in this particular case, what the potential costs would be, etc. I did well at the hypothetical cases they gave me (is what they told me), then I do not get the job because the research I did was in a different field of economics.
5. “You are over-qualified for this position.”
This was a good one as well. They advertise the position as a junior econometrician, and it is a big research place, they are supposedly doing interesting things. Then it turns out at the interview, they want someone to be doing averages in Excel, and send emails setting up meetings. I might very well be over-qulified for the position, but for the love of God, do not play it up as being something more sophisticated than it is. That is, if you don’t want people who are over-qualified to apply for it.
And these are only the experiences resulting from interviews. I will not even go into the rejections I got when in the first stages of applying — before an interview took place altogether. It is never going to be easy, I guess, no matter how skillful and educated you are. It’s all about finding the right match — on both sides — and good things take time, I hear.