Some 500 job-seekers wandered from table to table on Tuesday during a job fair at Johnston Community College’s campus. They handed out resumes, spoke to more than 50 job recruiters and tried to make connections that would lead to employment.
But did everyone make the best first impression?
The Smithfield Herald asked recruiters what advice they have for applicants. Also, what do recruiters want to see in a candidate, and what are some common mistakes that job-seekers make?
Though recruiters said this should go without saying, they saw many people at the job fair who weren’t dressed professionally, including some job-seekers in T-shirts and jeans.
“Dress appropriately, because interviews can happen on the spot,” said Maelene Hayes, a recruiter for Monarch, which operates group homes for people with disabilities or substance-abuse problems.
Appropriate means business professional. For women, that could be a professional-looking dress and shoes or a nice top and pair of pants, with a blazer if the top is sleeveless. For men, the minimum is khaki pants and a polo shirt, but male job-seekers might want to go the extra mile, wearing a coat and tie or even a suit.
A person’s appearance is how customers see a company, said Fred Riley, a recruiter for Evergreen Packaging, which was at the job fair in search of a mechanical-maintenance planner. Evergreen makes packaging for foods, and if a person doesn’t look professional and put together, customers might think the food is unsafe, Riley said.
Bring a polished resume
Hayes said people should bring a resume to a job fair. When meeting so many people, it helps recruiters to have something to hold onto with a person’s information. “For us to make the contact with you, we need something from you,” she said.
Bringing a resume is also part of presenting yourself professionally, said Brian Henderson, a recruiter for Waste Industries in Raleigh, which is hiring drivers, mechanics and more. “Being prepared, having a polished resume, looking polished yourself,” he said.
The resume shouldn’t be more than one page, recruiters said. It should explain your skills and experience briefly and clearly.
Share your goals, passions
It’s not enough to say, “I want a job,” many recruiters said.
“Share what your goals are,” said Mark Lee, a regional recruiter for Aflac, which is hiring account-service representatives. He often hears people say they want the job, but he wants to know, “Why my job?”
“You’ve got to convince me that you need the job,” Lee said.
Passion and interest also go a long way. “When you meet an employer, smile, have a firm handshake and look enthusiastic and excited,” Lee said.
Emily Johnson, a recruiter for Grifols nears Clayton, feels the same. “We can always teach a skill set,” she said. “We can’t teach enthusiasm and a positive attitude.”
Do your research
Riley, with Evergreen Packaging, said he is impressed when job-seekers have done their research ahead of time. He asks, “Tell me a little bit about what we do,” and sometimes, “They don’t have a clue,” which is a red flag, Riley said.
Instead, if someone comes to him knowing about his company, he knows they are seriously interested. Plus, he can ask those applicants how they would specifically contribute to the company.
Most companies accept job applications only online, making job fairs one of the few chances to make an in-person connection.
But even when applying online, be persistent, Johnson of Grifols said. Apply to each new job that opens up, she said, and get in touch each time to show that you care.
Sometimes people cold-call and show up at a business asking for jobs. Recruiters said the same advice applies to those job-seekers: dress professionally, bring a resume and do research ahead of time.
Being flexible is important, especially to get a foot in the door, said Leslie Gilbert, a human-resources specialist with Unilon, which makes laminate flooring out of Garner. Her company is looking for machine operators, technicians and other production workers.
Many employers are hiring right now but only for night shifts or at entry-level positions, she said. Applicants should first focus on getting into a company and then doing training to move up.
“It’s a good building block to get your foot in the door and grow with the company,” Gilbert said.