Career professionals offer jobseeking advice to SAA members

Posted on Feb 4, 2015 in Career/Life and News

SAA Career Preparation Workshop |
Members of the KU Student Alumni Association attended a career preparation and workshop event last night at the Adams Alumni Center. The event, designed to help students prepare for the upcoming Career Fair on Feb. 12, was co-hosted by the University Career Center.

Five top human resources professionals—including several graduates of KU— from around the area shared advice and tips with the students. The expert panel included Kelsey Belt, c’12, university relations recruiter with Garmin; Heather Bunker, c’97, staffing specialist with Manpower; Lucy McGilley, g’11, customer community manager with Perceptive Software; Don Mitchum, talent acquisition advisor with Payless ShoeSource; and Betsy L. Scott, vice president of human resources for Protection 1 Security Solutions.

University Career Center staff members Chance Clutter, assistant director, and Catherine Herst and Rhiannon Racy, graduate career coaches, provided additional information for the attendees. After the Q&A session and workshop, the students had opportunities to network with the professionals and ask additional questions.

A summary of the panelists’ advice is below.

Top five tips for jobseekers:

1. Have a good attitude! No one wants to hire someone who spends twenty minutes grumbling about their current or past jobs.

2. Do your research. Be prepared and learn what the company is about. Don’t ask “So, what does Perceptive Software do?” Know the answer before you arrive.

3. Be professional. Have a good, firm handshake; look people in the eye; be polite and say thank you. Follow up with a handwritten thank you note after interviews.

4. Leverage your career services office. Take advantage of résumé reviews, résumé workshops and mock interviews.

5. Be a team player!

What can I do to stand out at a career fair?

Recruiters will notice how well you engage with others. Are you making eye contact and mingling with other people, or are you standing alone, off to the side? Interacting with others demonstrates good communication skills.
Company representatives are asked the same questions over and over, which is fine—but if you’ve done your research and mention something specific about the company, such as a recent acquisition, you’re more likely to be remembered.

Should I use a template to create a cover letter?

A template is fine, but make sure your cover letter is prepared specifically for the position you are applying for. If your letter is one-size-fits-all, it’ll be obvious and many recruiters won’t bother reading it. Don’t use keywords provided in a template; write your own copy in the letter.

If I’m contacted for an interview, how can I make the best impression?

Above all, be on time, be polite to everyone you meet and be well-groomed. Avoid strong perfumes and lotions; if interviewers are overwhelmed or sensitive to smells, they’ll be focused on getting you out of their office as soon as possible.

Do your research and ask questions—interview them, too. Asking questions demonstrates your interest and passion. Be sure to bring a résumé, even if you’ve already submitted one; managers will often ask for a copy at the interview. You know those SAA padfolios that you receive as a senior member? Use them!

Perhaps the funniest tip of the evening: If you’re interviewing via Skype, make sure you wear a full outfit. Managers have been known to ask the candidates to stand up!

What questions do you recommend that we ask at the end of an interview?

Ask about the company culture. Again, do your research about the company. They want to know that you’re motivated enough to do your homework.

Ask what the person in the position would be expected to accomplish in the first 30, 60 or 90 days. A question like this comes across as “I want to be that person to make an impact.”

What questions should I avoid?

Hiring managers are often turned off when candidates start asking about career progression right away. It’s certainly okay to ask about salary—that’s often brought up by the interviewer—but don’t keep looping back to it or it may raise red flags.

Do you check social media?

The panelists had interesting responses to this question. Some, as a policy, do not check social media accounts. “Once I see something, I can’t unsee it, and I don’t want to be influenced by something I’ve seen on social media,” said Heather Bunker. That said, even if it’s a company policy to avoid screening applicants’ social media accounts, it doesn’t mean that others in the company won’t look. It’s still best to make sure your privacy settings are configured correctly and that you aren’t posting inappropriate things.

Most recruiters do, however, check LinkedIn. Follow company LinkedIn pages; recruiters can search their followers, and by following their page, you are demonstrating interest in their company.

How do I come up with an elevator speech?

An elevator speech is a 30-second or so summary of yourself. David Johnston, vice president of marketing and internet services, offered his advice: “If you can combine whatever you are good at with whatever it is you love, you will be successful. Articulating what you are passionate about can be tricky. Ask yourself what it is that draws you to your particular field or passion. Start to identify the values associated with that, whether it’s being a good collaborator, your creative side or whatever. Harness those values and position yourself as someone who brings extra value to an organization.”

And remember: Not every job you take is going to be your dream job. Sometimes you have to take other jobs to build the skills to get you to your dream job. Even if it isn’t where you want to be long term, you can use your current position to gain skills.



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