Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tips for job applicants, businesses

It was a two-line online want ad: Busy downtown Scottsdale restaurant looking for servers. Experience is not necessary with the right attitude. Bartending a plus.

Five minutes after Malee's Thai Bistro owner Deirdre Pain posted it at 11:30 one evening, her e-mail account was flooded with applicants. Her BlackBerry, which makes a short "ping!" each time she gets new e-mail, chimed non-stop, like a winning slot machine. She got more than 400 responses, said Pain, who posted the ad two weeks ago.

They included seasoned servers as well as former business owners and out-of-work teachers. Several pleaded for work.

"They just kept coming and coming and coming and it was so overwhelming," Pain said. "If I had my way, I would be hiring them all, so people can have a job."

As thousands of Arizonans look for work - the state's official unemployment rate was 9.6 percent in July - throngs of job seekers have become an increasingly familiar sight.

Many major companies have now become accustomed to handling a tidal wave of applicants for certain job openings.

As word spread about as many as 1,000 job openings at McDonald's this week, more than 15,000 people went to Phoenix area restaurants to apply for work. The chain brought in extra managers to help interview the influx of job seekers, a spokeswoman for the fast-food chain said.

In July, 800 to 1,000 people applied for 40 part- and full-time jobs at Cabela's, an outdoors store in Glendale.

For employers, especially ones who have not hired in the past few years, the experience can be both eye-opening and gut-wrenching. And smaller businesses, such as Pain's, often don't have the staff to sift through hundreds of queries.

"You read these stories about joblessness and there are no faces to that these stories," Pain said. "And all of the sudden, I had a very front-line, in-my-face, 'this is the reality of what is going on here.' And it's frightening and it makes me profoundly sad."

That flood of interest is a mixed blessing. The queries can include outstanding candidates and desperate applicants who are a poor fit, employment experts say. But there are ways for job seekers and businesses that want to hire workers to get a better outcome, they say.

Employers: Strategize
Being specific, both when employers craft a job posting and when job hunters apply for jobs, will help spare both sides some frustration.

Employers should have a detailed recruiting strategy to narrow the pool of applicants, said Allison Nawoj, corporate communications manager for CareerBuilder. That game plan may include posting jobs on industry-specific websites, she said.

Also, the job description should be detailed, specifying the desire for concrete experience, skills and information about the company, said Holly Schor, director of community marketing for Some applicants may choose not to apply because the job isn't right for them, Schor said.

And not all jobs have huge competition, Schor said. Businesses have been surprised when their job postings got less response than expected.

It appears that some fields, including nursing, technology and some entry-level posts, tend to draw a larger number of applicants, Schor said.

Job seekers: Customize
To stand out in a crowded field, job seekers should customize their resume and cover letter for each prospective employer. Talk up specific attributes about the company, such as a recent award the business won, in the cover letter.

Pain and her staff developed criteria to whittle down the applicant list. They wanted servers with at least some experience and they wanted workers with a great attitude. They hired three who will start training next week and they plan to hire a few others soon.

Other job seekers, such as the thousands of Valley residents who applied for the McDonald's jobs this week, are still waiting to find out if they will be employed.

"I'm praying I get one because I'm trying to pay for school," said Phoenix resident Timesha Little, 19, as she filled out a job application at a Phoenix McDonald's on Wednesday.

"I believe in God and have my rosary in my purse, so hopefully that helps."

by Jahna Berry The Arizona Republic Sept. 11, 2010 12:00 AM

Tips for job applicants, businesses

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