Here’s an ingenious way for college students to gather information that they can use in a targeted job search.
This tool is excerpted from From College to Career, (c) Donald Asher, used with permission, and is a companion piece to a series excerpted by permission from How to Get Any Job with Any Major, Ten Speed Press, (c) Donald Asher. To reproduce, write to Donald Asher. Donald Asher, also known as “America’s Job Search Guru,” is the author of nine books on career-development issues.
Editor’s note: Donald Asher has created an ingenious way for college students to gather information that they can use in a targeted job search. By planning a legitimate research project to write up or present in a class, extracurricular organization or your school’s career center, you can survey employers and gather inside information that will guide you in exactly how to target your preferred employers when it comes time for your job search. Through diligent research efforts and persistence in finding the right people to survey, you can obtain information that your peer graduates won’t have.
This survey form works best with smaller organizations or with specific departments within larger ones, and won’t work at all if you send it to VPs of HR at Fortune 500 companies. With larger organizations you can still find someone interested in this survey by calling and asking for the name and address of the “College Relations Manager/Recruiter” serving your region. Fortune 500 companies will tell you who this is.
You can also conduct the survey by phone. Used correctly, this survey will work for undergraduate and graduate students in any major. “Hi. My name is George Plimpton and I am in a graduate seminar in journalism at Columbia University. I’m going to be giving a presentation on the country’s top sports journalists, and I was wondering if you could take a moment and tell me how you got into the business.” Of course they can!
If you use this technique, be sure that you actually write the paper or give the presentation or do whatever it was you said you were going to do. You may very well be calling this person again in a few months to ask about concrete job opportunities, and she will almost certainly ask to see the paper or inquire how the presentation went. Never tell a lie in a career-related setting. If you discuss this project with the appropriate professor in advance, you should have no trouble getting him or her to endorse it.
You may have to do some sophisticated telephone work to reach these people, but the most effective technique is exceedingly simple: persistence. Fewer than seven attempts to complete an unsolicited telephone contact is simply not enough. Learn to call strangers fearlessly and you gain one more key to success. Students too frequently hide behind emails and powerful intermediaries. Learning telephone techniques will serve you well when launching a career and in advancing that career later.
Maureen Bigshot [do your best to identify exact person by name]
President or Owner or Managing Partner or VP of a Department of Interest
City, State Zip
Dear Ms. Bigshot:
I am a senior at [name your school], and I am conducting a research project to survey employers in [targeted field here]. My goal is to improve the match between employer’s needs and student expectations. The result of my survey will be presented to [a study group sponsored by the career center or, alternately, any specific, senior-level class].
Would you please take just a moment to help me? If you would fill out the following questionnaire and return it in the enclosed postage-paid envelope, I would be very appreciative.
- Does your company ever hire new college graduates? [ ] Yes [ ] No
- If yes, for what positions or types of positions?
- Which of the following skills, talents, traits, and abilities are very important to you in a new hire? [ ] A positive attitude and a good nature.
[ ] The ability to answer the phone in a professional manner.
[ ] The ability to take direction and follow instructions.
[ ] The ability to work directly with clients.
[ ] Punctuality.
[ ] Knowledge of standard office suites, including word processing applications.
[ ] Knowledge of standard office suites, including spreadsheet applications.
[ ] Computer skills in general.
[ ] The ability to learn new computer skills without formal training.
[ ] Programming experience.
[ ] Skills in financial and statistical analysis.
[ ] Professional dress.
[ ] Customer service skills, including the ability to take a complaint.
[ ] The ability to make a presentation to a group.
[ ] The ability to write well.
[ ] Sales talent, in the sense of managing existing relationships.
[ ] Sales talent, in the sense of cold-calling for new relationships.
[ ] The ability to do practical research, to “find things out” on one’s own.
[ ] The ability to perform formal, library, database, and Internet research.
[ ] Foreign languages, especially ————————–.
[ ] Honesty and trustworthiness.
[ ] The ability to make decisions with incomplete information.
[ ] The ability to function on a team, and resolve minor interpersonal issues independently.
[ ] Willingness to work overtime as needed.
[ ] Negotiating talent.
[ ] Ability to un-jam a printer, copier, or fax without running for help.
[ ] Ability to organize and plan work, including projects.
[ ] Ability to train and motivate others.
- Which of the above or other skills, talents, traits, and abilities are most important to you in a new hire?
- What, in your opinion, are the best reasons to hire a less experienced person?
- What do you find least appealing about new hires? What could they do better?
- What is your hiring cycle? When do you first begin to look at student resumes for hiring each year’s new crop of college graduates?
[ ] Sep-Nov
[ ] Dec-Jan
[ ] Feb-Mar
[ ] Apr-May
[ ] Anytime
- To which person and/or to what office do you prefer entry-level candidates apply? Name————————————————-
- Do you have any advice for me and my fellow students about to launch careers this year?
- May we call you to discuss your hiring needs and processes further?
[ ] Yes, call me at this number ————————-.
[ ] It’s better if you call
* * *
This material is from From College to Career, (c) Donald Asher, used with permission, and is a companion piece to a series excerpted by permission from How to Get Any Job with Any Major, Ten Speed Press, (c) Donald Asher, used with permission. Donald Asher, also known as “America’s Job Search Guru,” is the author of nine books on career development issues, and is a contributor to WSJ online at CareerJournal.com and CollegeJournal.com, NACE Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, jobstar.org, monstertrak.com, and similar. He is well known to career services staff nationwide as a speaker and consultant on hidden job market and self-directed search issues. He is the keynote speaker for the Career Development Series of national teleconferences sponsored by the University of Tennessee. He presents at over 100 colleges and universities annually. His books of interest include How to Get Any Job with Any Major, Asher’s Bible of Executive Resumes, The Overnight Resume, From College to Career, and Graduate Admissions Essays. When not on the road, Asher divides his time between San Francisco and Northern Nevada.
To reproduce this article, write to Donald Asher.
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