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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Job Search Advice: What Employers Want

By Jon Cawley

Old Dominion University graduated more than 4,000 students May 5 and 6, many of whom will now join the workforce in a variety of fields.

Regardless of the demand for workers in any particular field, prospective employees must approach the application and interview process as professionals with careful consideration to what employers are looking for in each specific case.

A job outlook survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in which data was collected from Feb. 12 through March 30, determined U.S. employers plan to hire 1.3 percent fewer graduates of the Class of 2018 than they did from the Class of 2017.

The report cited volatility in a small number of industries as the driving factor in the overall decrease. Insurance firms anticipate decreasing hires by 42 percent due to recent natural disasters — hurricanes, floods, and wildfires — that caused high dollar amounts in catastrophic losses. Meanwhile, retail employers plan to decrease their hires by almost 33 percent, citing the changing landscape of their industry and lack of new openings as key factors.

"This marks the first hiring projection that is a decrease since the Class of 2010, when employers planned to cut hiring by 7 percent," the report stated.

Alice Jones, associate director of student and alumni programs in the University's Office of Career Development Services, said employers are looking for prospective employees with drive and passion, but also those who can clearly articulate how their skills and experiences fit with the specific position for which they are applying.

She emphasized that the job search is hard work and seekers much be prepared to hear "no."

"My best piece of advice for graduating seniors is that the job search is more than just a resume and applying to jobs," she said. "It's about creating a compelling marketing campaign with you as the product. It's about relating your skills to results and being able to clearly articulate how what you've done prepares you for what you want to do."

Jones said employers want to see that job candidates can demonstrate the Top 10 core skills, including:

  • The ability to work as part of a team;
  • Effective verbal communication;
  • Organization and planning;
  • Decision-making and problem solving;
  • The ability to process information;
  • The ability to analyze data;
  • Technical knowledge related to the job;
  • Proficiency with computer software programs;
  • Ability to create and edit written work; and
  • Ability to sell or influence others.

Further, Jones offered these do's and don'ts of the job search:

  • Take advantage of every opportunity to promote yourself;
  • Have a 30-second elevator pitch about who you are, what your major is, why you're interested in whatever position /company and how your skills and abilities align with the position and the organization;
  • Be able to tell your story, and tell it consistently;
  • Ask questions and do your research;
  • Make sure you have perfected your tools and developed a sound job search strategy; and
  • Use all available resources including the career Development Services staff as well as online and in-person tools and services.

Many opportunities exist on campus and elsewhere to network with potential employers, including career fairs.

"Don't overlook great opportunities because they don't 'match your major' or fit with your perceptions about what you can do with your degree," Jones said.

For more information on work opportunities, internships and employer connections, visit the Career Development Services website.

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