Oklahoma's job market changes constantly, and with spring and college graduations on the horizon, job seekers will be sprucing up their resumes, dry cleaning their best suits and heading out to the many upcoming job fairs.
Job fairs are a great way to meet with a large number of companies that are in hiring mode. Some of these fairs are tailored to graduating college students. Others are for veterans returning to the civilian workforce. Most, however, are open to the public and offer a large variety of employers.
For example, at Wednesday's Oklahoma City Community College Job Fair, representatives from Andy Alligator's Fun Park will have a booth alongside companies like Fed Ex and Frito Lay.
Many of the employers will be hiring for full- and part-time positions.
Here are eight tips from local and national experts for impressing potential employers and standing out from a crowd of job seekers.
Rescue your resume
For people in highly creative fields such as graphic design, art and interior design, a new trend of highly designed resumes can help you stand out from a crowd while highlighting your creativity and skills. But colorful, artfully designed resumes aren't for everyone.
“We're not particularly an advocate of those for all majors,” Bette Scott said. “The graphically designed resumes work well for people who are in the more creative or artistic fields. That may be expected, or they can make themselves stand out that way. For other career fields it might be a deterrent.”
When writing your resume, there are a few things to make sure you include and a few things to make sure you omit.
Leave any and all high school information off your resume if you're a college graduate. A few exceptions to that rule, Scott said, are highly impressive items such as being an Eagle Scout or the valedictorian for your class.
Where resumes once had an “Objectives” paragraph placed prominently, today's experts recommend either tailoring your objective to match the needs of the company you're applying to or leaving that paragraph out all together.
“It tends to limit you too much or it is so weak and doesn't really say anything,” Scott said.
Your resume must have all your current contact information at the top. Depending on your level of experience and education, the next section of your resume should highlight your most relevant, valuable experience in reverse chronological order. For example, a recent college graduate's resume would likely begin with information about their educational accomplishments, highlighting a good G.P.A. (above 3.0, if lower, omit), leadership, volunteer work, honors and awards and other college achievements.
A veteran's resume would likely begin with listing the job seeker's work history, with detailed descriptions of the skills acquired for each position held.
Some experts suggest tailoring your entire resume to the employer you're applying to by including key words from the job description and highlighting your most relevant experience, whether or not it is your most recent.
Be sure to spell check your resume and have as many people as possible proofread it.
Do not include references on your resume, but have them ready, printed separately, should an employer ask for them.
Do your homework.
“I think the biggest mistake career fair attendees make is not really researching the companies ahead of time,” said Bette Scott, director of Career Services at the University of Oklahoma.
You don't need to memorize the company's history, mission statement and employee roster, but you should know what industry the company is in, what work the company does, how the company's name is pronounced, experts said.
These may seem like simple things, but Scott said they can make a big difference.
Dress the part.
Professional dress is a must at a job fair — for men, a dark suit and tie and for women, a skirt suit, pantyhose and heels.
“Professional dress says to the employer (for college students) ‘I'm ready to get out of my college clothes, I'm ready to go to work in the real world,'” Scott said.
A job interview or job fair is not a place to make a fashion statement, Scott said. So dress as conservatively as possible.
“After you talk to several employers, everything starts getting a little fuzzy,” said Debra Vaughn, director of Student Employment and Career Services at OCCC. She recommends that after each employer you meet with you step back and write some notes about the exchange. If an employer gives you a business card, make sure and keep it with your notes.
You don't need to carry a briefcase but do bring a sleek looking portfolio to hold your resumes, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, examples of your work, and a notebook to take notes on after each meeting. If you can showcase examples of your work on a flash drive that you hand to employers or you can provide links to your work on a website you create for potential employers.
Flush your Facebook
While employers may or may not take the time to look at information on a flash drive or on your own website, it's no secret that many employers go straight to Facebook to get a feel for an applicant's real personality and lifestyle.
Look through your posts with a critical eye, considering the impressions your posts and photos could give someone who doesn't know you.
Check nerves at the door.
You're going to be nervous, facing dozens of employers and almost certain rejection from at least some of them.
Scott advises that you practice an introduction and “elevator speech” about yourself.
“Hi, my name is so-and-so. I'm graduating in May. I read about your company on the Internet and this is exactly what I want to do,” is what Scott told her daughter to say to every employer she met at her first job fair.
You'll also need a short “elevator speech” for when employers ask you to tell them something about yourself. Pick several interesting items about yourself, such as your top five work, school or personal experiences. These items should follow a formula: What was the situation, what action did you take and what were the results? Whittle these items down to one paragraph, then prioritize them based on the themes that come through: these themes could be growth, customer service, education, innovation, creativity and many others. Pick your top themes. These are the things you want the interviewer to remember about you. Now, put it all together into about a two-minute speech (about 350 words). Briefly cover your college experience but devote most of the time to getting your top themes across. And save time at the end to mention your goals.
At the job fair, practice your pitch with several employers who may not be your top choices. Save your No. 1 choices for later, when your nerves are relaxed and you've had a chance to practice your speeches.
Remember your nonverbal cues.
The best speech writer in the world can't overcome bad body language. Remember the importance of nonverbal cues you're sending. Greet employers with a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, stand tall and smile. Don't lean against the wall or stand with your arms crossed, and avoid frowning, texting and talking on the phone.
After visiting with a few employers, give yourself time to rest, have a quick snack and rejuvenate. Meeting with dozens of employers in one day is exhausting, Vaughn said, and you'll need to plan to spend plenty of time making the rounds.
If you had a positive conversation with an employer, and especially if they gave you a business card, you must follow up after the meeting. Email is the best form of follow up, Vaughn said. All that a follow up note should say is that you enjoyed meeting them at the job fair and that you are very interested in the position and hope to have an interview.
“If you are the candidate who follows through, you might be the person who is invited in for that interview,” Scott said.