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Published: Tuesday, 10/23/2001

Interview still a critical part of hiring process

BY JENNIFER RICH
BPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Hickory Farms employment manager Pam Pew says her company wants employees to have good listening skills. Hickory Farms employment manager Pam Pew says her company wants employees to have good listening skills.
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One would-be employee bragged he would be president of the company within a few years. Another had to be told to “button up” when he showed up sporting a bare chest for a new-employee orientation.

Both incidents were definite signals to Pam Pew, employment manager of Hickory Farms, Inc., that these two potential hires would probably not be the best.

Picking up on obvious clues - as well as subtle ones like interviewees who establish little eye contact while talking or evade certain questions - takes skill, training, and a good dose of common sense. Employers are looking for people who dress well, seem prepared and enthusiastic and have their own list of questions they want answered about the job.

“It [job interviewing] hasn't changed that much over the years,” said Dr. Terribeth Gordon Moore, assistant dean for the College of Business at the University of Toledo. She works with employers to place graduates with; resume writing and interviewing skills.

She advises her students to dress conservatively and research the company before the interview. “Recruiters are very impressed when you know about the company, and there's no excuse now with the Internet,” she said. “I had an employer recently who said some of the students seem to know more [about the company] than he did. I even had one student drive there to check out the company beforehand.”

Three things new graduates should be prepared to talk about are their grade-point averages, internships in their chosen field, and what professional campus organizations they were involved in, Dr. Moore said. About 70 percent of the May UT College of Business graduates had jobs lined up before they graduated and another 15 to 20 percent had jobs by the end of the third month, she said.

Employers are very cognizant of federal employment laws that prohibit discrimination in areas of race, religion, and age, to name a few. Taboo subjects can be avoided during the interview process by only asking questions that relate to the job, said Leslie Fern, employee relations specialist with S.E. Johnson, a highway contracting firm in Maumee.

Human resource specialists consider subjects such as an employee's pregnancy, religion, spouse, children, and disabilities off limits.

“Disabilities is a tricky one because if an employee asks about special accommodations then we can talk about what that would be,” said Ms. Pew. Hickory Farms, a catalog company that sells food products, has about six to seven employees in wheelchairs in its data-entry department.

Some seemingly common-sense things to do during a job interview such a being polite and friendly are often areas that cause people not to get the jobs, Ms. Pew said.

But to determine whether a seemingly good applicant would make a good employee often means being aware of red flags that could signal a potential problem. For Ms. Fern, that would include employees who appear to have attendance problems or say they didn't like their past job but are applying for a similar one.

Listening skills are important to Ms. Pew, whose company has as many as 3,000 people handling customer orders and complaints during peak season. So is neatness and being complete. “If I see resumes with spelling mistakes or incomplete job applications, you remember that. You figure that person isn't going to be good at details on the job.”



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