One of the ultimate goals of college is to produce career-ready graduates.
Pittsburg State University's Office of Career Services works to make that happen by offering many opportunities for students to prepare for the job search and interview process, including conducting the annual career makeover day Wednesday.
About 25 students attended the event, where they had the opportunity to have their resumes reviewed, to ask questions of hiring managers and to learn how to tie a tie.
"Today we are focusing on professionalism and the importance of that ever-looming first impression," said director Mindy Cloninger.
She asked the students to introduce themselves to those at their table and to shake hands, then asked how many hesitated before doing so, and how others' handshakes felt.
"It is really important to have a nice, confident, firm handshake," she said.
Throughout the session, students had the opportunity to pick up on advice for the entire process, from resume reminders to follow-up protocol.
A professional panel of Pitt State alumni helped along the way.
Michele Beckmann of Pitt Plastics, Inc., Charles "Chuck" Brewster of EFCO Corporation and Carol Puckett of Via Christi Hospital offered insight and feedback from the perspective of human resource officers.
Four students modeled potential interview attire and received feedback, including criticism of a man's attire of ball cap, loose tie and wild socks, praise for a man's suit and tie with traditional accessories, a thumbs down for a woman's red suit including a short skirt paired with boots and praise for a more traditional woman's suit.
Students asked about different fields that might lend themselves to expressing more creativity through their clothing.
"Usually, we error on the side of being overly dressed," Cloninger said.
Brewster advised letting the creativity show in an applicant's personality rather than attire.
Page 2 of 3 - "As you can see, the employers drew some immediate conclusions," Cloninger said. "You always want to present yourself very, very professionally."
Panel members also advices keeping resumes concise and accurate, making sure proofreading has happened and including a cover letter.
Beckmann advised practicing ahead of time for interviews, and Brewster noted that promptness is vital.
Puckett said many employers use behavior-based interviews, in which applicants are asked to speak about specific situations in their experience where they have behaved in certain ways.
Students asked about phone interviews and were advised to prepare in a quiet place as though interviewing in an office, use a landline if possible and to make sure cell phone have clear signals and fully charged batteries.
All three panel members spoke highly of the practice of writing thank you letters.
Brewster said he loves them and that they are not as common as one might think.
"It really makes you stand out," Puckett said.
Beckmann said handwritten notes are especially nice.
For some, the interview may be less complex than figuring out how to get a tie tied.
Assistant director for employer relations David Hogard helped remedy this concern by teaching all students present how to tie a tie and offering pamphlets students could take home so they can practice the process.
Senior administrative assistant Jeannice Parker and graduate assistant Jennifer Shepherd also were on hand to offer resume reviews and advice.
Parker said students develop their initial resumes as freshmen and are able to detail them with field terminology and experience by the time they graduate.
"We help transform them from just a resume with jobs to actually what you're going to be looking for," Parker said.
Shepherd said the office also conducts mock interviews and has resources that provide questions for almost every major as students practice interviewing.
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Parker said one of the most commonly used questions is "tell me about yourself."
"They're looking for what kind of employee you will be and what kind of fit you'll be in the workplace," she said.
She said the office also keeps in contact with prospective employers about what they are looking for in resumes to provide students the best shot of landing jobs upon graduation.