Easing career change from high school after high school to Worlds Greatest U
February 2, 2012 1:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm applying for jobs at institutions that are more prestigious than the institution I currently work for. Should I suck up/gush over the awesomeness of these institutions? How much?

For what it's worth, these are academic institutions in the US, and I am applying for non-faculty positions.

I've met loads of capable people who work at all sorts of institutions, from research universities to community colleges, so *I* don't think that my current employer un-qualifies me for work at these places. However, I've also encountered snooty attitudes from people at higher-end institutions, including people who seem to think that no praise is too high for their institution.

I do have some understanding of the differences in culture between my current place of employ and the places I am applying - my undergraduate degree is from a highly-ranked school (my graduate degree is from a middle-of-the-road school but in my field that's not much of an issue) and I have worked for highly-ranked institutions in the past, though not quite in my current career path.

I guess what I'm really asking is: should I acknowledge the difference between my current place of work and the hopeful future place of work in my cover letter (or in an interview?), and if so, how do I do this without 1) sounding like a ridiculous suck-up and 2) sounding like I'm classlessly denigrating my current place of work.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Absolutely not. You're applying to these institutions because you have outgrown your current employer and thus are in the same league as the places you're targeting.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:50 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

No. Speak to then as an equal, not a sycophant.
posted by postel's law at 1:53 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do not do any of these things. Let your work and experience stand on its own. And if you land an interview, don't do it then either. Obsequiousness is terribly unattractive.
posted by mykescipark at 1:53 PM on February 2, 2012

I'm not in a hiring position at an objectively awesome institution, but I'd go with no, don't do that.

What you want to do is to talk about how you're a hard-working [worker-person] who has risen to the top of your current pond, and you're ready take on new challenges such as [challenges] and you and [institution] would be a great fit because [reasons].

When you get to the end zone, act like you've been there before, sort of thing.
posted by gauche at 1:54 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

From what I've seen, people at elite schools are apt to downplay their status, to the point of silliness at times. (My friend told people he was going to school "in Boston." Technically, he was studying in Cambridge.) It's embarrassing when an outsider gushes about being at an Ivy League school or whatnot.
posted by reren at 2:04 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think you should "suck up" to the place you're applying to or "gush" about them, but you should be enthusiastic about the possibility of working there. I've sat in on interviews where candidates were not hired because they seemed totally blah about the possibility of working for the hiring organization.

Don't say, "you're the BEST organization EVER!!!!!!"

Say, "As a person who values ABC, I appreciate that your organization prioritizes XYZ. I think it's a really great organization, and I'm sure that I would be a good fit for the position."
posted by insectosaurus at 2:31 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with insectosaurus. Don't randomly gush. Be knowledgeable and say something about what exactly you admire about the organization that you think sets them apart.

If anything, as the hiring manager for an institution with a good reputation, your worry is not that your applicants won't gush enough, but that your applicants will not be so dazzled by the glamorous or prestigious prospect of working here that they (a) don't have a clear idea what the actual driving values of the institution (as opposed to its glitzy branding) are; (b) haven't thought about whether they're in reality a good fit for the work culture; or (c) are overstretching/exaggerating themselves because it's an aspirational workplace.

Take the interview seriously. It is okay to be enthusiastic, but be specific about what you admire or appreciate about them, don't just spout superlatives at them.
posted by Miko at 2:44 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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