Preparation is key to successful job search, area employers say

Sunday, July 2, 2006

SIKESTON -- Some job seekers may wish they had a crystal ball to know what to expect during the process from start to finish. But magic isn't what they need at all -- they only need a little preparation and research.

Knowledge about the company is a good selling point. "It certainly helps if they show they've done some research on our company and know information about the position and what we do here," said Darryl Minner, human resources coordinator at Associated Electric in New Madrid.

Information can often be found online or through the Sikeston Chamber of Commerce, but Jill Gage, senior staffing specialist at Manpower in Sikeston, has another solution: networking. "Find someone that works there," she said. Since a resume and cover letter are the initial introduction, they need to be professional. "We don't want it to have clerical mistakes or misspellings," Minner said.

The Missouri Career Center in Sikeston has a resume maker for people to use. JoAnn McCauley, workforce development specialist at the center, advised applicants to include their work history, objective, whether they are a veteran and any licenses or certificates.

Skills should also be listed "even skills that you learn in day-to-day life." McCauley said. "Personality traits you may have if you don't have a lot of work skills."

Gaps in employment or short-term service at one employer should be explained, either in the resume or in the follow up interview. Businesses like Associated Electric, which sometimes receive 300 applications for one position want an explanation in the resume.

Cover letters are necessary when mailing a letter and highly encouraged for hand-delivered letters, McCauley added. In them, one should mention the job they are applying for and some selling techniques to get the employer interested in reading the resume, McCauley advised. Gage suggested including where one learned of the job opening.

"We like to see a person's personality come out in a cover letter," said Mike Pobst, president of Alliance Bank. "If someone is going to take the time and energy to send me a resume, I actually like for them to send that to me."

When it comes time for the interview, applicants should allow plenty of time, especially if unfamiliar with the area. "It's best to arrive 15 to 20 minutes early," Minner said.

"Don't take anybody to the interview with you," Gage added. "Go alone and don't take in your cell phone."

Personal appearance is important, too. "You need a professional look," Pobst said. McCauley advised finding out the dress code for the position and dressing within it.

"You can lose a job in three minutes based on your appearance," Gage said. "You clothes need to fit, be clean and pressed."

For some, clothing is not as essential. "As long as they're clean, they clothing doesn't really make a difference," Minner said

Applicants should ask questions in an interview, but only those that weren't already answered. Pobst said interviewers want someone in the middle of the road. "We want someone who does ask questions -- pertinent questions," he said. "You don't want an applicant that totally dictates the interview with just questions."

Other characteristics employers look for depends on the position. "We look for personalities," Pobst said, explaining it is one of the first things he looks for. "We are a service customer-based business and personality goes a long way."

Experience is important, but not always necessary. "Everyone has to start somewhere," Pobst said. But at Associated Electric, experience is a must -- even entry level positions ask for a one-year mechanical background, Minner said.

Remember to send a thank you letter. Make it brief, but remind the employer how you would be an asset to the company, McCauley said. Pobst and Minner said thank yous are saved with the application.

"Sometimes it makes a difference, especially if we have two people that are really close," Minner said.

And finally, be sure to check out the company's hiring policy so you don't become a nuisance by calling or sending resumes. "We only accept applications when we're recruiting for a position," Minner said. "It doesn't help to call every day."

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