January 9, 2022

Everything You Know About Hiring is Now Wrong © Cici Mattiuzzi

The pandemic is affecting everyone whether they catch the virus or not. No one wants to get close to anyone else. Everyone is isolating. Isolation is becoming a habit.

Learning how to interact with new people is not just a challenge for young people. It is a problem on numerous levels. Career wise, it is a crisis for those who are not yet in the labor market.

Students at all levels are particularly hard hit by the continuous disruptions to their lives. One day they are able to attend school in person and the next they are forced into the isolation of remote learning. On-line classes are not the same at all. While some students can adjust, many cannot. Some kids check out completely. Virtual communication is radically different from in-person classes, activities and meetings.

Right now, if you are a professional already in the workforce, you are in a position to help. Recognize that we are in a situation that requires all hands on deck – a situation where we could lose several cycles of grads to underemployment or unemployment.

How can you help? If you are a career professional you have a great deal of power in the hiring scheme of things. You have the power to change a new grad's life by connecting, mentoring, sharing information and introducing them to hiring managers. You may be the link that leads a new grad to that first, all important career job or internship.

The new graduates that I have worked with over the past 2 years have missed too many of the critical milestones necessary for professional growth and development. They have not had close interaction with others in study groups, or in clubs, or in meetings with faculty or with campus mentors. They have missed internship opportunities and other chances to network with alumni and professionals in their field. It seems that many fewer college students are able to take career planning classes or to obtain assistance from career counselors. Recent graduates have not been able to enjoy close, personal interactions with all of the people they should be connected with as part of their professional network.

Job fairs and professional association annual meetings (where professional contacts and job contacts are made) have been canceled for the past 2 years. The student clubs and student professional organizations are struggling. Nothing is spontaneous. Even the smallest thing requires more effort.

Connecting with employers is a challenge. The cyber wall between job seekers and employment is insurmountable. Applying online is discouraging and disheartening. No one I have ever worked with has reported getting a job from Indeed, LinkedIn, Dice, Monster and rarely by directly applying to company sites. No one ever responds. Most candidates, with little experience, are just sending their resumes into a bottomless black hole.

One candidate I have worked with over the past 6 months had applied to the top three tech firms repeatedly with no luck. An employment offer came only after we identified a contact at his top pick company who could refer him internally. He did not think it was important to mention, so it was only after much probing that he told me one of his professors works at the company! That was the “in” that resulted in an offer. This is a wicked smart kid and a perfect candidate who struggled. Where does that leave everyone else?


The experiences that connect us are missing for current new grads. Role models, groups, even riding an elevator… who takes the elevator anymore?

The average length of time it takes to get a job is three to six months. At this point the students and grads I am working with have been isolated for at least 18 months out of the last 2 years – longer if they have been looking for work since graduation in December of 2020.

What do I observe in the people I work with now during Covid? Isolation, a lack of confidence, halting communication skills, high anxiety and depression. I do a lot of hand holding, cajoling, and a ton of confidence building to get the very talented and very timid Covid generation to the next stage of life. I depend on my connections to connect people.

Students who did great in high school – well enough to get into top universities and technical majors are floundering with a lack of motivation. Staring at a Zoom screen class after class is killing them. Some stop attending class, stop delivering assignments … they stop doing what they have done for the previous 12 to 14 years as top students.

New graduates trying to enter the labor market during turbulent times are at a disadvantage compared to those that graduated into good economic conditions. Individuals who enter the labor market during recessions or depressions find it hard to ever catch up.

Employers are reluctant to hire the inexperienced during uncertain times. It happened after 9/11 and it happened during the 2009 recession that seemed to go on for years. Not getting a job right at graduation or within the next six months puts kids at an extreme disadvantage in an interview. The questions are harsh – “What have you done for the last six months?” – forgetting the fact that the whole world has been shut down.

In 2000, an extremely talented computer science grad struggled to gain traction. In 2002, Sam Chao finally made it through the state exam and interview process when I got a call from the hiring manager – after we went over Sam's qualifications he admitted he was concerned that Sam had graduated two years before and still didn’t have a career job. Sam had worked in a family restaurant and taken classes to improve his skills in a high demand computer language… I pointed out that during the zero hiring climate, Sam had not sat around doing nothing. He had improved his technical skills and he was working long hours in a family restaurant refining organization, team, leadership and communication skills. Then I asked the manager if he’d done any new grad hiring over the past two years – he said "no". I said, “then there is your answer… no one has been hiring… He's good! Hire him!”

If you are reading this article you are probably in a position to help someone. Make time! Reach out! Return their calls! Share information! Make allowances! Be kind! Be generous! Be understanding! Hire them! Mentor them! Make them whole! Just do it!

Cici Mattiuzzi is the Author of ‘The Serious Job Seeker’ and the founding director (emeritus) of the Career Services Office for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at CSU Sacramento.