Shark in a suit design

Columnist Peyton Hamel believes students should “be the shark” rather than be a victim to one in the face of professionalism. Hamel describes being a shark as being transparent and put together in dress and presentation for interviews.

Professionalism is now engulfed by interviewing sharks trained to pick at every single flaw or reason to NOT to hire you. Don’t be a victim of the sharks by swimming in the ocean with an open wound. Over the course of the past week, the focus on professionalism rose drastically due to this week's career fairs. I thought I might as well hop on the bandwagon and help address how to be a professional.

In the last decade or so, we have become a fairly progressive society with activism, volunteerism and environmentalism, among other “isms” that now shape how we view the world and people around us. These protrude into the world of professionalism by making this the new emphasis for resumés.

Imagine it like this: we all have our own strengths and weaknesses that interviewers judge on a metaphorical points system. Every time they detect anything near a red flag, they check the “nope” box.

As much as we wish it wasn’t the case, interviewers, just like any other human, have their own subconscious biases and perspectives shaped by their individual backgrounds and experiences. You know you are qualified for the job, otherwise you would not have applied and you also know that you have stacked — or attempted to stack — your resumé to fit your major or field of study, so this is not the issue.

Whether you are in a traditional setting where you send in your resumé first or a career fair where you physically hand the employer your resumé, you also know first impressions matter because it “sets the tone.” Make yourself as transparent as possible. Try not to give the sharks a three-course meal.

Your resumé introduces your qualifications. That is strictly your foot in the door and the black and white of who you are and who you are not. Great! Your first interaction with your soon-to-be employer has been achieved. If at a career fair or interview, your appearance is what forms their next best opinion of you. Again, remain transparent. I would argue your appearance is one of the most important factors and where the small details really do matter.

I find more people worry more about how they should dress than the grammar in their cover letter and resumé. Which socks? Black or brown? How about suede or leather? Is that a scuff? Someone help me?

While I do love bright and bubbly people, do not dress bright and bubbly. You do not want to be remembered by your outfit. Make them remember you because of your brain. Dress by the book and stay within the neutrals. Bright colors distract from your word and your potential within their organization. Do not kill your own interview by wearing a purple jacket. As much as I love vibrancy, resist it at all costs. The style should be minimalist and classy.

The more you do this, the more you eliminate any preconceived biases about yourself from employers. Pour your enthusiasm into them, their company and their own vision. Besides, what they want to know is how you will benefit them as a company. Is it your quirkiness? Your work ethic? Your team-working skills? The point is this: focus on your dress and presentation. What we see impacts us more than we realize. Does this really matter? Absolutely. Be brutally honest. Be unduly transparent. Be the shark.

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Letter to the Editor Submission Link

(1) comment

Steve Gregg

The first thing you must do to have a decent shot at a job right out of college is to have a good GPA. Employers figure anyone over a 3.5 is excellent, over a 3.0 is a good hire, over 2.5 is a slacker, over 2.0 a party boy/girl.

When recruiters come to campus, they are looking for good candidates for one job. They may get a hundred resumes, so their first job is to find a way to whittle that stack down to ten solid candidates from which HR and the hiring boss can pick three to interview, one to hire. That first pass may toss all resumes with a GPA under 3.0. The second pass may be to toss all resumes that are crap, ie they have misspellings or grammar errors, or they are just too weird. For example, you put glitter on it or stickers or you drew a little cartoon on it or a cute little daisy or some other crazy thing that makes adults think you're a brick short of a load.

Then, they may toss out people who made a poor impression. Maybe they speak with poor grammar or wore something wildly inappropriate or were disrespectful or just seemed like idiots. My strong advice for you when meeting recruiters is to avoid looking stupid.

The first thing you can do to avoid looking stupid is to dress for the job. At the least, wear a shirt and tie, if not a suit. Wear real shoes, not sneakers. Women, wear something modest and professional. Don't show any skin, like you're out on a date.

The second thing is to stop talking and listen. When the recruiter asks you a question, give a short answer to the point and then stop talking. Too many kids think that they can win anyone over if they keep talking. The fact is, the more a college kid talks, the stupider they sound, in general.

Look the recruiter in the eye. Listen to what they say. Shake their hand at the end and say thank you. Then leave.

Keep your resume to one page. You're only 21 so you haven't done much yet but graduate. For you, anything on a second page and beyond of a resume is BS. Managers regard every resume as full of lies. Don't prove them right. Use 12 point font and print it on white paper. I prefer Bright White Laid paper but it's hard to get and expensive. You might try the campus library for thesis paper. Paper with a texture and a watermark feels and looks richer in the hand.

Translate your Word resume into ASCII in Wordpad so that you can easily paste it into job sites online. Put it up on LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, Glassdoor, and any other job websites which strike your fancy. Develop queries that work for you and make them into agents that automatically search the site at 6 am every morning and email you the report. Companies that are looking for generic college graduates will have their robots post their job openings after midnight and close them by 10 am or earlier. They do that because in those few hours they collect hundreds of resumes, most of them trash from people collecting unemployment who must prove they are searching for work but don't want to work, so they post their resumes to jobs for which they have no chance. That means you must get up early and apply for those jobs before HR closes them to further applications. Be the early bird.

If you want to move to a particular town, the main newspaper for that town will have a job section in its website. Go search that every day. Set up your query agents. Read that paper to see if any big company is hiring.

In general, you can tell if a city is hiring by its skyline. If the skyline has a lot of construction cranes on it, that city is hiring. If there are no cranes, that city is laying people off. If a city or state is advertising on TV that it is a good place to do business, it is not. Avoid it. Good states to do business don't need to beg for business on mass media.

Don't hire on to any business that is running at a loss. I know people who were hired and laid off two weeks later when the business folded. Don't hire on to any business in an industry where companies are going bankrupt. Your company will probably follow suit.

Once you get a job, keep your job search going in the background. Companies have no loyalty to you. If a column of numbers doesn't add up in the morning, your manager will have no qualms about firing you at noon, and then go to lunch and worry more about the menu than you. You can ignore the job market, but the job market never ignores you.

Constantly looking for jobs at a slow pace when you are employed gives you the information you need when you seriously need a job. For example, what is your price? You simply don't know what you are worth which puts you at a great disadvantage when deciding what salary is right for you. You learn your price by applying for jobs and learning what they offer.

Talk to recruiters. They are probably the only career counselors you will have when you leave school. If you wait until you need a job to look for one, you will be searching in the dark with flashlight and are likely to take the first offer out of desperation. Study your job market to find the good jobs and prepare yourself to get them at your leisure.

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