Once they graduate, most college students know they will soon need to start earning money to live and to pay back their student loans if they have any. But how can a young person obtain a good job? Many institutions offer job placement services or arrange for on-campus or community job fairs to help their students find employment. But with potential employers looking at hundreds if not thousands of applicants to fill job openings, it's easy for your resume to get lost in the stack.
What can you do to stand out and be noticed? How soon should you start thinking about this? Is the last semester before graduation sufficient time for you to brush up on a few tricks and techniques? Actually, the time to start thinking about a job is long before graduation.
Of course, choosing to get a college education or learn a skill at a trade school in the first place is a good start.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site points out direct correlations between your education level and both earnings and employment. The median weekly income for a high school graduate a few years ago was $554 per week. In contrast, the average for someone with a bachelor's degree was $900 per week—62.5 percent higher.
In addition, the average unemployment rate at that time for those with a bachelor's degree was 3.3 percent while it was 5.5 percent (which is 66.7 percent higher) for those with only a high school diploma.
To help you find and hold a good job, we asked two presidents of companies and a human resources director for their most important criteria in hiring employees. Obviously, the more you can know in advance what bosses want, the better prepared you can be to meet those needs, and the higher your chances of being hired.
Advice from those who hire
The three business leaders with whom we spoke all agreed that the job interview itself is very important—whether it's a short opportunity at a job fair or at the office of the potential employer. If you don't make a good impression with the interview, you probably won't be hired. Companies want to hire the right people the first time. Having to let someone go and then hire someone else is time-consuming, frustrating and costly.
As Bruce Anderson, president of Anderson Chemical Company (ACC) stated, "High turnover and the lack of experienced, quality personnel in key positions are two of the most critical hiring-related problems we face."
He said that his company takes a hard look at potential hires in three critical areas. The most important area is character, including honesty and integrity in all activities both on and off the job. Second is interest and motivation—the drive and will to work and work hard. The third area is capability—encompassing health, education and skills. Is the person able and competent to meet the demands of the position he or she is seeking?
Mr. Anderson's priorities may come as a surprise to some, as a March 2008 press release on CollegeGrad.com says their survey found that 44 percent of employers said the student's major was the top priority for them in hiring. Interviewing skills and internships/experience were in second and third place in the survey at 18 percent and 17 percent respectively.
The reality is that while education is important in getting a job, other factors will determine your success and longevity in that position. This is where the "extras" that bosses want become very important.
Clyde Hubbard, a human resources director for over 20 years at several large companies, described the importance of being prepared for your interview as the number one issue. He said job seekers must "know what they want in the way of a job" from that company.
This means students must do some research prior to the interview to be able to answer these questions: Do I really know what the company's operation entails? How many divisions does it have? In how many states or countries does it operate? Having such information clearly in mind will allow you to make the most of the short amount of time you have in an interview.
SUPERB Industries, Inc., recently ranked the 381st fastest growing manufacturer in the United States by Inc. 5000, uses both a systematic and a pragmatic approach to hiring.
The company's president, John Miller, said: "On the systematic side, our battery of tests will tell us things about aptitude, personality, intelligence and workplace attitude. We place a very high emphasis on the attitude of the applicant. A person with a bad attitude will not be a good team player even if his or her technical qualifications are good."
As for the pragmatic side, he went on to say: "We will have someone look at the applicant's car during the interview to see if it's well maintained. The reason? No person will take care of company property better than personal property. We will observe the way the person is dressed and groomed for the interview. The reason here is twofold: one, if the applicant is inappropriately dressed it shows a lack of respect and interest in the job; and two, if the applicant doesn't appear professional during the interview, he or she will not make a professional impression on customers."
Many of these points relate to a person's character—something that is also very important to God. Our character is the measure of our core values—those things we will do whether other people see them or not. The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, "It is with trifles, and when he is off guard, that a man best reveals his character."
People of good character will not steal from their employer. They will give a full day's honest work and will fulfill their obligations and commitments—all things that will enhance the company's reputation along with their own. And these are things that bosses love to see in an employee.
There are many additional tips that can be found on how to get noticed—even in the short time allotted at a job fair. Many job fair recruiters see several hundred people in one day, so finding ways to stand out is very much worth your time and effort.
CollegeGrad.com points out that these types of fairs can actually be a waste of time unless you are prepared. They offer a number of tips, free of charge, on their Web site about how to benefit the most from job fairs (see www.collegegrad.com/jobfair/collegejobfair.shtml).
In addition, the employers we interviewed recommend the following books on job hunting, networking and preparing resumes: What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles, How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, and College Grad Job Hunter by Brian Krueger.
Remember that your first contact at a job fair or an interview just gets your foot in the door. You may get noticed and may even be hired. But it's your character that will ultimately help you succeed in your career as well as in your Christian life. Don't wait until your final year in a college or trade school program to develop godly character. Start now and you'll be on your way to a good relationship with God and quite possibly a good job. VT