Landing a job is tough enough when you have little experience. Some young job hunters make it even harder with silly missteps. Recruiters see easily remedied blunders: carelessly...
Landing a job is tough enough when you have little experience. Some young job hunters make it even harder with silly missteps.
Recruiters see easily remedied blunders: carelessly written resumes, goofy e-mail addresses, casual dress at career fairs and other gaffes. Colleges are trying to stamp out such mistakes with workshops and one-on-one counseling.
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“People are born knowing how to breathe, but not how to find a job,” said Steven Rothberg, president of Minneapolis-based CollegeRecruiter.com, a job search Web site.
In other words: They don’t know any better.
Some of the flubs “can be attributed to generational differences and to being naive about what is important to recruiters,” said Kevin Hewerdine, career-services director at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind. “First impressions are critical.”
So colleges stress that being sloppy or too casual can mean doom.
“I think it’s hard to make that shift from ‘I’m a student’ to ‘I’m a professional,’ ” said Paula Quenoy, associate director for career services at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Quenoy constantly warns against using cellphone numbers on resumes, because students tend to answer casually. A noisy mall or an elevator, where reception is spotty, she said, “is not where you have a conversation with a potential employer.”
Melisa Chamorro, 19, a Loyola sophomore from Miami, said she had never thought about how she answered her phone until Quenoy questioned her.
“I don’t say anything bad,” she said. “I just say, ‘What’s up?’ I don’t answer it very professionally.”
Now, Chamorro screens incoming calls so she will know when to answer more seriously.
Laurie Shepard, 22, a senior finance major at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., also admits to cellphone issues. Her voice-mail greeting was too laid back, starting with, “Hey, this is Laurie. … ” She changed it to sound more mature.
Christopher Callahan, associate dean of journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park, said he has endured long messages that students think are funny, but professors and recruiters find tedious.
“It starts off with a song and then goes into a little rap; some of them literally do this,” he said. “It does not leave a good impression.”
Callahan advises students to cut the antics. And recently, after reviewing below-par packets of cover letters, résumés and writing samples, he required those wishing to meet with visiting recruiters to come to a preparatory seminar.
Evan Millar, 21, who attended, confessed that his cover letter stank. He said the session taught him to emphasize his accomplishments on that written plea for a job.
“I was doing the basic cover letter every other kid does,” said Millar, of Cheltenham, Pa., who graduates in May.
Generally, students are receptive to criticism, say advisers, who preach that even tiny mistakes scream out to potential employers.
“Having a misspelling on a résumé is the kiss of death,” said Chris Plouff, career services director at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.
Plouff said students who shoot off e-mail and instant messages to each other often don’t think about grammar or proofreading. And they depend too heavily on spell-checking computer programs, which don’t catch word misuse: “their” vs. “there.”
Shepard, from Adams, Mass., admits she was clueless before she started attending career programs during her sophomore year.
Fellow Bentley senior Charlene Ward said she “was a little shocked” when a career adviser declared Ward’s e-mail moniker, “Ticklemichi,” unfit for her résumé.
Ward, 21, from Boston, said she created the name during her junior year in high school, when “Tickle Me Elmo” dolls were hot. She melded the name of the toy with her softball nickname: “Chi.”
“Even though I am dedicated to that name, it is not that important to lose a job over,” Ward said.
Such forethought counts, said Caitlin Blasco, director of undergraduate career services at Bentley, where students have access to résumé-writing help, interview workshops and other resources.
Blasco, a former job recruiter, familiarizes students with the interview. She cautions them to have a thoughtful response to a recruiting staple: “Why are you interested in my company?”
“If you bomb that question, I no longer listen to anything that comes out of your mouth,” Blasco said.
At the end of an interview, recruiters often ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” Blasco advises having at least five questions at the ready, and asking three or four.
These should reflect research beyond the company’s Web site, Blasco said. Details from news articles can help students speak intelligently.
“Can you tell me about the culture of your organization?” is a decent question, Blasco said, but it’s not as impressive as asking for information specific to the company, such as, “I read in the Wall Street Journal about two products you’ve launched recently. What has the interest been so far?”
During John Dooney’s years recruiting, he observed preventable errors among college students, including one student who blew off an interview. “If you’re a no-show,” he said, “forget it.”
But Dooney, strategic research manager for the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va., said he has noticed that schools are better preparing students. He said it’s in a college’s interest, as dissatisfied recruiters are less likely to return.
“I’ve seen significant improvement over the years in the professionalism of students,” he said. “I’ve been impressed.”