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Survey: Job seekers should go back to basics

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 4:51 p.m. MDT

In this April 24, 2012, photo, job seeker Alan Shull attends a job fair in Portland, Ore.

Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — A recent survey of human resource managers suggests that job seekers who hope to stand out to hiring managers might want to go back to basics.

As job growth in Utah continues to improve, knowing how to land a new job is among the most important challenges facing prospective applicants.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services released its monthly employment summary Thursday showing that Utah's nonfarm wage and salaried job count for September 2012 expanded by 2 percent compared with the employment level for September 2011, representing a 12-month increase of 24,400 jobs. The hike raised total wage and salary employment statewide to 1.25 million.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate — generated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — registered at 5.4 percent, down 0.4 percent from last month.

According to the DWS, approximately 73,100 Utahns are considered to be actively unemployed. But with prospects looking up for those in the market for a new job, actually getting hired still takes patience, a little luck and earnest effort.

Finding work

Rick Westbrook, Salt Lake City branch manager for Robert Half International, said the five basics for launching a successful job search include creating a flawless resume, researching the company, talking about your past experience, preparing a list of questions and sending a thank-you note.

"Make sure your resume has zero typos and is updated to the minute," Westbrook said. "And make sure your social networking is up to speed and professional."

Social networking has becoming increasingly important to the job search, he said, as more and more employers use the electronic medium to research a prospective applicant.

Westbrook also stressed the importance of making a proper professional impression when meeting with a prospective employer.

"You can never be overdressed, but you can always to be underdressed," he said.

Westbrook warned applicants to be careful in trying too many unconventional methods to "get noticed" because doing so can sometimes backfire.

Skills and appearance

"It really comes down to your skills, your ability and making sure that you are presentable," he said. "Unless you're in marketing or advertising careers that expect those kind of over-the-top ideas, it is just best to be honest, straightforward and showcase your skills to explain how and where you can bring value to a company."

The report, released by Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing services firm OfficeTeam, a subsidiary of Robert Half, showed that HR managers who were asked about the most impressive things applicants have done to try to land a position said most took the time to be informed and courteous.

The survey was based on telephone interviews with more than 650 H.R. managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada. 

Among the key findings, 60 percent of managers said they form a positive or negative impression of a job candidate within the first 10 minutes of an interview. Also, nearly four of 10 managers said knowing little or nothing about the company was the most common mistake job seekers made during the interview.

Prospects improving

Nationally, the current U.S. jobless rate has fallen three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.8 percent.

Most of Utah's industrial sectors were the major contributors to job growth, with two notable exceptions — government and leisure/hospitality. Professional and business services accounted for more than half of all Utah job growth, outpacing all other industries by adding 11,400 jobs over the past 12 months. The next highest growth sector was in financial activities, which added 2,600 new jobs.

While jobs are slowly becoming more plentiful, successfully navigating the application and interview process will take creativity, common sense and professionalism, hiring managers said.

"Extreme tactics aren't always the best way to stand out with hiring managers," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. "Often, perfecting job-search basics can get you noticed. There is much to be said about showing up on time for interviews, dressing in professional attire and doing your homework."

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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