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Companies hiring the right college graduates, US

Mon, 05/18/2009 - 2:08pm
DAVID PITT - AP Personal Finance Writer - Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — If you're a recent college graduate or about to get that diploma, you're likely stressed out by the thought of looking for a job in the midst of the highest unemployment rate in a generation.

A National Association of Colleges and Employers annual student survey said just 20 percent of 2009 graduates who applied for a job actually have one. But some big companies have good news: They are looking for people like you.

Even in a recession, employers need to continue to build their pipeline of talent. One company that learned its lesson is Chevron Corp.

For a period of time the company discontinued its on-campus recruiting. Then two years ago, it found itself with a shortage of middle-aged midlevel managers. In 2007 and 2008, the company hired 12,000 experienced workers in their 30s and 40s to catch up, said Susan Houghton, manager of human resources communications.

This year Chevron went back on college campuses and is using online career fairs to keep the entry-level pipeline filled.

Chevron expects to hire about 1,000 college students or interns along with 900 experienced workers this year, said Houghton.

Similarly, accounting firm Ernst & Young, says it plans to recruit recent graduates to fill 5,000 full-time jobs and internships in the United States and Canada.

Of course there are advantages. Hiring the most qualified college graduates is much easier now than it will be when the economy recovers and they've taken jobs elsewhere, said Dan Black, director of Ernst & Young's on-campus recruiting.

Indeed there are opportunities. Francesco Pellegrino, 22, of Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. is one of the lucky ones. He successfully landed interviews with two top accounting firms, which contacted him through the university's recruiting process.

He graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., this week with a job offer in hand from Ernst & Young in the company's tax division.

The finance/accounting graduate begins in October, taking some time off this summer to take certified public accountant exams.

He said most of his friends with accounting degrees have jobs lined up but classmates in other fields, such as communications, are struggling.

For his peers, seeing more layoffs and knowing that it means they'll be competing against candidates with lengthy resumes makes it more difficult.

"There's a lot of stress," he said. "I can't quantify the amount of stress for some of those students."

Patience and persistence helped Aman Joshi land a job with Ernst & Young after several frustrating months of searching.

Joshi, 32, of New York, is a nontraditional student. He earned his first degree in psychology from New York University, but suspended his studies for a few years to help run his family's travel agency before getting back to school.

When he returned, his business experience led him to pursue an accounting degree.

He graduated in February 2008 from Queens College and began his job search in August. He finally began lining up interviews in November.

"In terms of looking for a job, it was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated," he said. "I submitted resumes to so many different companies, as many as I could, and I wasn't getting responses."

He attended job fairs and other events hosted by companies recruiting on campus and did get other interviews, but his break came after a conversation with a Queens College professor, who said he knew a recruiter at Ernst & Young. The professor made phone call, which landed Joshi an interview and later a job offer.

It underscores the value of networking, which Joshi said is the best advice he can offer to recent grads.

Also, don't get discouraged.

"Stay motivated," he said. "Try to get your face seen. Try to get known by as many recruiters as possible."

Recruiters also offer some advice for recent graduates seeking their first job.

—Stay in touch with career services on campus. Even though many companies aren't looking in the midst of recession, when they do get ready to hire companies often begin by contacting colleges and universities.

—Take a local job for the summer and use it to build skills that will look good when you do get the opportunity you're seeking. If a job's not available, consider volunteer work.

—Consider, if you can, going back to school for another year to get a second bachelor's degree or a masters that might improve your credentials. That will put you back in rotation for interviews for next year.

—Consider taking an exam or other professional certification tests that further qualify you in the field you're seeking as you're looking for a job.

— Prepare yourself with skills companies are seeking. They frequently include: leadership, customer service, multitasking, communications, teamwork. Be prepared in interviews to give specific examples to demonstrate how you gained these skills and would use them on the job.

—Do your homework on a company before an interview. Know all you can about it, its mission statement and how you can contribute.

—Don't be focused on a particular title or even just high profile companies. Find as many organizations as possible with positions that fit your skills and background and pursue application with them.

—Be ready to demonstrate you have a well rounded background of good grades, extracurricular activities and community involvement. The more diverse your experience and background, the better.

"It is more competitive market and they do have a lot to navigate around," said Marie Artim, assistant vice president of recruiting for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "They need to keep in mind it's not going to be that instant gratification that some people have put on as a label for this generation. You have to work hard and it make take a little longer to find things." Enterprise expects to hire 8,000 graduates this year and 1,800 interns.

So, even in a recession and with high unemployment, many companies continue to hire. Job searchers may not immediately find their ideal job to start with, but for many, any opportunity gain experience — and a paycheck — is considered a victory.

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