Kylteri 01/24

The Summer Job Hunt: A Morality Check on the Recruitment Process

I woke up. I brushed my teeth. I checked my phone while waiting for my coffee to brew. There it was, again: ”The application period ended yesterday, and we received a total of 480 strong applications, including yours. We are continuing to review applications and aim to make selections as soon as possible. We will call you if you are invited for an interview.” Sighh… time to update that spreadsheet.

The number 480 reignited the frustration I felt after receiving similar messages throughout my summer job search. It’s like playing multiple rounds of musical chairs in a room with a thousand people and two chairs. It proves a mental strain that the application process places on students, especially those of us in the competitive sphere of business studies at Aalto University, where summer internships are sought by hundreds of fellow Kylli Kylteris. 

The norm has shifted towards students applying to a massive number of positions, often reaching upwards of 50 summer trainee roles. To manage this problem, I have started tracking each application's status via an Excel spreadsheet. While this method keeps me organised, it also highlights the excessive mental effort required just to keep pace and even memorise the positions I’ve applied to. I simply feel like my fingers are in too many pies at once. And don’t get me wrong, I love pie but it would feel delightful if I even knew which flavour of pie I’m having on each bite. Feeling this, I begin to question the morality of expecting students to invest such significant resources in a system where success seems like a long shot. 

The lengthy recruitment process, often extending over 2–3 months, compounds this challenge. A waiting game, punctuated by eventual generic rejection emails, or even ghosting by employers, drains motivation and raises ethical concerns about its impact on students' emotional and psychological well-being. These drawn-out processes show a lack of regard for the students’ time, effort, and emotional investment, as they balance academic obligations, volunteer work, and personal life. ​​At this point, I’m considering adding ’Professional Rejection Handler’ to my resume, given my extensive experience in receiving automated 'no' emails months after applying to summer internships. 

The ethical dilemma posed by such a demanding and inefficient system is significant. Although businesses face the daunting task of sifting through a vast number of applications, the current approach places an undue burden on applicants. In addition to this, by creating an environment where the optimal strategy is to apply everywhere and put in minimal effort, businesses spend way too much energy and resources on their recruitment process to hire a candidate who didn't even want this job as their first choice. 

To create a more morally just recruitment landscape, improvements are necessary. Companies could utilise technological advancements to expedite initial screenings, offering a quicker and more responsive communication process with applicants. It's unreasonable to expect candidates to wait over a month simply to ascertain if they're still under consideration for a summer internship. Greater transparency regarding timelines and providing more personalised feedback could alleviate much of the anxiety and disillusionment experienced by students.

Additionally, initiatives such as direct referrals and collaborative workshops between universities and employers could forge more meaningful connections between students and potential employers. This approach would, in addition to being fun and meaningful for students, reduce the need for widespread applications, promoting a more targeted and thoughtful job search.

Questioning the moral validity of expecting students to navigate such a labour-intensive and emotionally draining application process is necessary. The present system, with its disproportionate demands and unpredictable outcomes, merits reconsideration in favour of practices that respect applicants' dignity, time, and mental well-being. Adopting more compassionate and efficient recruitment strategies would lead to a fairer and more respectful job search experience for all involved.

However, in the meantime, let’s not get too discouraged from facing some rejection before securing a summer job. As Woody Allen once said: “If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.” Personally, despite being Finnish, I really want to believe in this anecdote instead of “Leuka rintaan ja kohti uusia pettymyksiä.” 

Isaac Jyväsjärvi is a trailblazing creative enthusiast and activist, lighting up the world with vibrant ideas on social and environmental betterment, whose idea of a quiet evening involves dismantling societal taboos by hand pouring candles at the Giggeli showroom on Vaasankatu.