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Davis, California

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Getting your foot in the door

Dominic Callori used to don a jersey and sneakers as a star center for the UC Davis basketball team, hoisting jump shots and grabbing rebounds many a time at the ARC Pavilion.

However, the retired 6-foot-6 Callori returned to the same hardwood floors last week wearing a buttoned-up collared shirt. This time he was posting up next to his booth as the hiring manager for The Johnson Group Inc. at Thursday’s Job Fair.

“We are looking at confidence, hard workers and people with good communication skills,” said Callori. “The qualifications are there, but the individual has to fit [the] company.”

Callori, like other recruiters and top-level human resource managers, is the gatekeeper who determines whether applicants get an interview. Sifting beyond the generic résumés printed on fancy papers at Kinko’s, the recruiters revealed to The California Aggie what makes an applicant impressive.

Communication 101

You do not have to model yourself after one of those George Foreman infomercials, where the former heavyweight fighter smoothly pawns another grill. However, you do need to know how to communicate and sell your qualifications.

“You have to have good communication skill,” said Steve Mackay, the director of human resources for the architectural firm Clark Pacific. “We need someone who can articulate. They have to be able to go out with a customer. They have to look them in the eye. I don’t mind enthusiasm, but you got to know when to talk smack and talk business.”

Companies take into consideration people’s personality, and even qualified applicants do not receive an interview because they lack the traits to work well with people. David Maa, who received a Masters in engineering at UC Davis, said qualified applicants with great personalities stand out.

“We are looking for skills, [their] class work, but the X-factor is personality,” said Maa, a design engineer for Linear Technology in Milpitas, Calif. “If [they] come across as awkward, if we can’t communicate, then he does not fit us. One guy was tech-savvy, but his personality didn’t fit.”

Do your homework

Many job fairs list companies that are attending, and it is important to research companies that you are interested in prior to speaking with representatives.

Marybeth Selvin of Sun Microsystems, which has 141 positions for graduates and 91 internships across the United States, said one girl impressed her because she already knew of the company.

“There was a girl who knew about my company,” Selvin said. “She did her research. She already knew who we were.”

Have no experience? Make that weakness into a strength.

Ever hear that you lack experience or are honestly stumped by a question? Inexperienced applicants can still impress by sharing their life experience and showing an enthusiasm to learn.

“There are right answers for everything,” said Callori. “Even over the phone, positivity can be heard over the phone. If you do not know, say, ‘I don’t know, but I would love to dive into it.'”

Exude confidence, but be humble

After graduating from UC Davis, Callori left for Italy to play professional basketball. However, he became homesick overseas and returned to the U.S.

He wanted to go into business, but armed with a communication degree and no experience, he had to start at an entry level position.

“I entered the corporate world with no experience,” Callori said. “I sent a lot of résumés [out]. I got opportunity with the fact that I could communicate. It was humbling to start at an entry level position, but I knew I wanted to get to the $100,000 position.”

Despite the downturn in the economy, companies are still hiring qualified candidates. Be prepared and understand every opportunity begins with the first impression, Mackay said. He says there are jobs out there for applicants who can engage gatekeepers like himself.

“In order to grow as a company, you have to hire good people,” Mackay said. “We want problem solvers, excellent communication skills and those who meet minimum criteria. Then we [will] take a chance.”

JACKSON YAN can be reached at features@californiaaggie.com.

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