Literal Thinking

Real stories of workplace follies

The case of the pompous graduate

Posted by A Friend on 4 February 2009

Job Interview This is the second of a three-part series where we present short cases of spur of the moment statements made that led to unfavorable results taken from our own practice. The underlying theme of the series is some thoughts are just not meant to be spoken, even if these were true.

Erin is a graduate of one of the top universities in the country. Her school consistently makes it to the top of major placement surveys for graduates, and its graduates are often the first to be snared and given the highest starting salaries by the biggest companies in the region.

So Erin was very optimistic about her employment chances. She should be, considering that she already had three very positive employment interviews two months before she was to even officially graduate. But Erin did not want to be rushed into making a decision, and she told all three prospective employers that.

Erin received a few more interview offers in the succeeding months. She actually felt that she was offered more than she could reasonably handle, so she even found it necessary to politely turn down a few of the invitations. Of those that she attended, the result was largely positive. She had a couple of ordinary ones, but Erin thought that this was just part of the law of averages.

It was not until a month after graduation that Erin took job hunting more seriously. She started going for second interviews and began the arduous – it is, for in-demand graduates like her – task of sifting through some of her prospective employers. In the end, she chose three companies that she would be happy to work with.

One of these companies is a global IT services firm that is known for its popular two-year training program for its graduate recruits. The program starts with a three-month intensive course in its state-of-the art overseas training center. This is then followed by rotations in at least three different departments that graduates choose, based on their individual interests and competencies.

The prospect of attending this two year intensive course, plus the opportunity to have a “free” three-month overseas holiday, was greatly appealing to Erin. She only had two problems: (1) the company, of the three that she short-listed, offered the lowest starting salary; and (2) starting salaries are standardized, and Erin felt that she should at least receive some premium because she is a graduate of the best school.

In her final interview, Erin’s prospective manager told her that the company generally recruits 20 graduate trainees every year. The trainees come from at least five different schools, with only around ten per cent of these coming from Erin’s school. Erin found this piece of information a great negotiating platform for a better salary.

Erin told her prospective manager: “I understand that you standardize the salary package you offer your graduate recruits, but I strongly feel that you should give me a premium. Compared to the majority of your prospective recruits, I’ve had better training and preparation for work after graduation, considering that I come from a more reputable school.”

The look of disappointment on her prospective manager’s face could not be masked after Erin said this. The prospective manager said: “I would have considered any other reason you used to negotiate for a higher salary, but I cannot accept this. And I cannot accept someone who already feels she is superior to her prospective peers even before she gets to meet them, so I will also have to regretfully withdraw our employment offer.”

Once the shock of the message died down, Erin’s interviewer helpfully said that he is sure Erin would find good employment elsewhere. He said that his withdrawal of the offer was more to hammer the point about humility and learning how to communicate properly. It is one thing to feel confident about one’s abilities, but it is another thing to pompously verbally communicate such confidence.

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5 Responses to “The case of the pompous graduate”

  1. mobilecellphonereview said

    Nice story

    Regards,
    Mobilecellphonereview

  2. This is definitely something to keep in mind. I am currently looking for a job and want to make as good of an impression as possible

  3. matthb said

    No offense to the prospective employee, but, yeah, seems like a silly thing to say. Asking for a “premium” just coming out of school is likely to rub an interviewer the wrong way, especially if he went to the local State U.

  4. Klaus Alrutz said

    A very good story.

    Best regards from Hildesheim/Germany,

    Klaus Alrutz.

  5. Ferox said

    I don’t think anyone really has any power to negotiate a higher salary unless they have a few years experience under their belt. They’re not going to get e mployed if the employer doesn’t think they can do the job.

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