Does It Take a Gimmick To Get a Job?

“Maybe the gorilla suit works if you’re looking for a creative job, but it’s probably not going to be a successful tactic with most on-campus job recruiters,” says Kara Jessup, assistant director at New York University’s career center, which offers one of the nation’s largest on-campus recruiting programs.

Here’s how you catch their attention:

“Plain, old-fashioned professionalism,” advises Andrea Christensen, college team leader at John Deere’s job recruiting program. “Certainly, creativity is always good, but what I want to see are the basics,” she explains. “I want good eye contact, a strong handshake, confidence, strong communication skills, and a solid résumé.”

She’s not alone. Job recruiters from USAA, Reebok, and Kraft agree they are looking for the same characteristics. So before you dream up a creative stunt to attract a potential employer, revisit these back-to-basic measures.

Put a face on your résumé.

Don’t just mail it and wait for the phone to ring. Take the initiative to go out and meet recruiters face to face when they visit your college campus. Christensen explains, “Two students recently impressed me with their interest and ingenuity. They were freshmen and couldn’t go through the interview process. Yet they attended an on-campus seminar because they wanted to get to know John Deere, and they wanted us to know them. That showed tremendous respect and initiative.”

Don’t drop the ball.

Get a business card and keep in touch.  Let the recruiter know you’re interested in the job and the company.  “Those two students got my card. They’re keeping me apprised of their status and inquiring about all possible avenues at John Deere, such as our co-op program and internships,” Christensen says. “They’re being proactive without being overbearing. That’s impressive.”

Get your foot in the door.

Most large corporations offer internships and cooperative education programs. Guess where they’ll look first to fill job openings? “We hire interns with the intent of training them to come work with us,” explains Michael Ellgass, a Kraft business executive who conducts on-campus interviews with graduate students.

Think globally.

Businesses are going international. If you’re a military brat who’s moved from town to town, if you’ve lived overseas, or if you speak a foreign language, you have something unique and marketable. Play that up. “Students who have studied abroad tend to be open-minded,” Christensen says. “They’re typically risk-takers. They’re flexible, adaptable, and willing to maneuver outside their comfort zone.”

Lead the way.

Are you active in your campus ROTC program? President of your sorority? Team leader on a class project? Captain of your university hockey team? Be ready to illustrate when, where, how, and why you’re a leader. “Tell me what you did and how you learned,” says Ellgass. “Talk about the setbacks and challenges you faced and how you overcame them to demonstrate you have the skills to learn, adapt, and grow.”

Call us, we may not call you.

Most corporations are happy to send representatives to college campuses to speak with and meet students. If you’re in the Society of Women Engineers, the finance club, or the Public Relations Student Society of America, for example, invite professionals to speak at your next meeting. Better yet, ask if your organization can visit corporations. “Year-round, we bring in groups of students to show them what life is like in corporate America,” says Carly Sanchez, who manages USAA’s college recruiting program.

Be prepared.

Before your interview, research the company and job. Talk to someone who works at the company or has a similar job, visit the company’s Web site, and read its mission statement. Ellgass explains, “We want to get a feel for you: What is your motivation? What made you want to interview? Do you want to work for Kraft because it looks good on your résumé or do you like the company and what it does?”

One student stands out to Farah Bernier, a university relations staffing specialist for Reebok. “When I asked him why he wanted to work at Reebok, he pulled out a presentation. He compared us to our competitors, showing the good and bad side of our company, and demonstrated how he could contribute.”

Leave your cell phone and flip-flops at home.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s not for some. “We had a candidate who made personal calls on his cell phone throughout the interview process, which included a tour of USAA and lunch,” Sanchez recalls. “Another showed up in rubber flip-flops.” Her advice: “Prepare for the expectation level of dress and etiquette for your goal – to get to know the company and for the representatives of the company to get to know you.”

It’s really not a numbers game.

More than grades, the recruiters say they look for someone who’s a good time manager, self-motivated, and well-rounded. “I look at the whole picture. I’d rather have someone recruited who can interact with people and has the ability to learn,” explains Bernier.

Make sure you’re remembered (in a good way).

Be enthusiastic and have confidence. “Whether by smiling or nodding your head, you want to keep our attention,” advises Bernier. “If you answer all the questions in 15 minutes and the interview is over, you haven’t had the chance to leave any kind of impression.

“Students coming out of school today have all the skills they need to do a job, but they have to have confidence in themselves,” she adds. “All you have is 30 minutes to show how prepared you are.”

Caution: There is a danger in being too confident or rehearsed, says Ellgass. “Rather than talking conversationally and naturally one student was so rehearsed that I couldn’t tell whether he was just well-coached or if he actually possessed the skills for the job.”

Before you go on the interview…

  • Select an appropriate outfit and check your appearance. Make sure:
  • Shoes are clean. No flip-flops.
  • Clothes are pressed and stain-free. A business suit is always acceptable. Don’t wear loud-colored clothing.
  • Accessories are minimal. Same goes for perfume and after-shave. Remember: Less is more.
  • Nails are clean.
  • Hair is neat.

What to bring

  • Carry a professional-looking messenger bag, briefcase, or portfolio folder that includes:
  • Clean copies of your résumé and letters of reference.
  • Notebook and pen. Leave the cell phone at home.
  • Breath mints (for use before, not during, the interview). No chewing gum.
  • The name and phone number of the person who is interviewing you.

What to do

  • Know how to get to your interview and how long it will take. If you’re unsure, do a drive-by.
  • Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes in advance. Don’t be late.
  • Know the names of everyone you are meeting, and how to pronounce them. Avoid using first names unless you’re asked to.
  • Review your résumé. Think about which aspects of your employment and academic history you want to emphasize.
  • Review the background of the company, job description and requirements, and how you can contribute.
  • Finally, relax. The interview will be much more successful if you’re not rushed or hassled.

How to shake hands

1. Extend your hand and grip the other person’s hand so that the web of your thumbs meet.

2. Shake just a couple of times. The motion is from the elbow, not the shoulder.

3. End the handshake cleanly, before the introduction is over. If you want to count, a good handshake is held for three or four seconds.

4. Be sure to offer a firm handshake and make good eye contact at the same time.

Source: Business Etiquette for Dummies

Job trends

  • Employers predict 3 percent to 8 percent more college graduates will get hired from the 2004 class than the 2003 class.
  • Who’s hiring? Retail, finance, services, and lodging.
  • Hot degrees: Bachelor’s in business, biosciences, and physical sciences.
  • Cold degrees: Bachelor’s in computer science and communication.
  • Where to look: South, Southeast, and Southwest.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers last year hired just over half of their co-op students and more than a third of their interns as full-timers from last year’s graduating class.

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