There’s an art to getting that all-important job offer. And with graduation either just ahead of them or recently behind, fresh grads all have one thing in common: A need to succeed in today’s highly competitive employment market.
First impressions do count
“You only have one chance to make a good impression for a job or a scholarship,” guest speaker Kim Keith told a packed audience of diners who recently volunteered to learn interview tips, table manners and job-skills etiquette at one of Feather River College’s themed “Feast” information events.
“Appearance is important, employers do provide feedback on this,” Keith added. “They say they’re often appalled at how some job applicants come in looking.”
As the first speaker of the evening, Keith, a program supervisor, represented the Alliance for Workforce Development, Inc., the service provider for America’s Job Center of California and the One-Stop Employment Center for Butte, Lassen, Nevada, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra counties.
“We know this stuff makes people nervous, especially about answering questions,” she added. “Come and see us, we can help with any obstacles to your career goals. We provide help with resumes, improved job-interview skills and more.”
AFWD’s Plumas County office is located at 7 Quincy Junction Road. For help with job fairs, internships and more, call 283-1606.
Tips for successful job interviews
Keith offered additional practical tips on the kinds of questions applicants should avoid asking during an interview and provided suggestions on positive inquiries that managers welcome, such as which duties or responsibilities are most important for this job?
“Never walk away from a job interview without asking some questions,” the counselor said. “This is a two-way conversation and it’s your chance to find out more about the company, but don’t ask about the pay and benefits. That will be negotiated if a job offer is made. Instead, ask them to tell you more about the program they operate that you are really interested in. Give them a reason to remember you.”
The job counselor also emphasized that students entering the workforce should relax and present their best professional selves — be prepared to talk about their education, certifications and experience.
Job seekers should thoroughly research any company they want to work for, know what each organization is looking for in a candidate and be able to give examples of how they meet those requirements.
“Don’t disengage during the job interview,” Keith said, offering more advice for getting a career start. “Maintain a full, easy eye contact. Employers want to hire someone who is approachable, so let’s practice a good, professional handshake with our tablemates tonight. And keep in mind, not everybody gets the interview, but you did, so go in there with confidence. Just be careful about giving out too much personal information.”
Table manners reveal a lot
As the event progressed, The Perch dining room was filled with warm, inviting aromas.
Students from FRC’s “Catering for the Professional” class were practicing their advanced food preparation and serving skills to deliver a delicious four-course meal of Caesar salad, tomato bisque, spaghetti with braised meat sauce or choice of penne pasta with putanesca vegetable medley, followed by a peach-berry crisp.
Chef Conry popped out from the busy kitchen to let the audience know that having good table manners shows respect for those around them.
“I’ve interviewed hundreds of people over the years,” Conry said, “Good table manners are really important!”
Oh, and yes, he smiled, always start with the outside utensils first and work your way in.
Dining out with a potential boss
“Sometimes, people say they don’t care what others think of them, but impressions really do matter and you might very well be invited to a business lunch or dinner as part of a job recruitment process, so you really need to know your etiquette and table manners,” said speaker Stacey Svilich, FRC’s student support specialist from the Advising and Counseling Office.
Proper table manners can make or break an important meeting with a prospective new boss, Svilich explained, reminding attendees to be on time, wait for everyone to be served and be courteous to the wait staff because how you treat others says a lot about what kind of person you are and what kind of employee you may be.
“You may go out to eat with people who have the power to hire you and how you behave is going to stick in their heads,” she advised. “So silence your phone and leave electronics away from this table and this meeting. It shows you’re focused.”
Do’s and don’ts of career fashion
The etiquette training session concluded with an entertaining mock job-applicant fashion show of do’s and don’ts, emceed by FRC’s TRIO Program Advisor Beth Reid.
Does it matter whether you wear slacks or a dress? Should you shave off a beard before a job interview? Can a hoodie send the wrong message to a hiring manager?
These and other questions were addressed as fashion show emcee Reid asked the audience to evaluate a group of volunteer models that included several students and FRC Football Coach Johnny Stilwell and his wife Sarah.
“Think conservative, check out the company’s culture before you go to the interview,” Reid said. “You may or may not need to wear a suit and tie, but find that out ahead of time.”
Coach Stilwell said, “I know, facial hair is important, but clean it up and better yet, shave it all off for that first job interview. And cover up tattoos with long sleeves. Don’t be that person — the one who has to be the individual. You want them to remember you for who you are, not what you were wearing.”
Stilwell’s wife Sarah wore neutral colors of black and taupe for the fashion show, with low heels, minimal jewelry and subtle makeup, saying she’d had a nose ring until she was 25 and stopped wearing it when she went on interviews because “the job is more important.”
Reid had the audience laughing at her own purposefully whimsical attire of dangly earrings; bright, flashy colors and one sock that wouldn’t stay up.
Last-minute advice from the show included tips about wearing flat shoes to get to an interview location and changing into heels for the meeting; not taking a retractable pen to an interview because nervous applicants tend to click-click-click away if they have one in their hands and it drives people crazy.
Oh, and keep it simple. Don’t take a lot of stuff to an interview like bulky backpacks or giant purses. Travel light and bring your essential documents for the discussion. You’ll be glad you did.
Look your best for a job interview
– A tie should reach your belt, not hang too short or too long.
– Wear a suit or nice slacks with a coordinating jacket.
– Clean up the facial hair, or better yet, shave it all off for that first interview.
– No bare shoulders or arms, wear a jacket or something with sleeves.
– Make sure tattoos are concealed.
– Don’t wear open-toed or clunky shoes; heels should be medium or low.
– Keep dress-lengths not too short, not too long.
– Wear neutral, not loud colors; play it safe.
– No clunky or flashy jewelry.
– Never wear a hat.
– No sweatshirts, hoodies or logo wear.
– No pant legs dragging over shoes or untied athletic shoe tops.