Q&A with a job counselor

Gloria LeidelJob counselor Gloria Leidel is one of the lucky ones. In her decades-long career, she has never been fired or laid off.

But as a job developer and counselor for Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, Leidel, 49, of Bellmawr, Pa., has helped many people find jobs.

In this economy, they need it.

On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the nation’s payrolls shed 247,000 jobs. While jobs are being lost at a slower rate, the average length of unemployment continues to climb. Now, one in three unemployed people is out of work for more than 27 weeks.

Some among the nation’s 14.5 million unemployed may have enough severance money to fund a high-end job coach. Others may be offered outplacement services along with their pink slips.

But many others are simply shown the door. For them, job hunting needs to be done on the cheap. But that may be a challenge because the way to find jobs has changed dramatically in the last decade.

Some turn to such agencies as Goodwill. Last year, 1,900 Philadelphia-area people received job training and counseling from Goodwill.

Q: Any tips on how to manage this new kind of job search?

A: The first thing you need to do is know how to fill out your application. You have to do it online. Recruiters are looking at that information. And if you don’t do that right, they’re going to bypass you.

Q: What if they are going into a store and sitting down at the computer in the human resource office? What can they do to get it right?

A: When you go, you shouldn’t just have a resume, you should have something I call a cheat sheet. And that is all your information. You should have that before you even step out the door.

Q: What’s on the cheat sheet?

A: It would be all your employers. Your start date, your end date, your reason for leaving.

Q: Employers’ addresses?

A: Yes. Some references, their phone numbers.

Q: E-mails?

A: Yes. And a description of what you actually did at that position. And have a complete history.

Q: And have it ready before you go?

A: Have it ready before you go. Because when you’re sitting at that computer ? some people are intimidated by it. Because some people are not very computer literate as far as typing. But then you can just type that information in. … It should be all accurate so that when you go and put that information in, and that recruiter opens it up, they’re going to see it right there.

Q: Anything else?

A: You need to get some information on what position you are actually applying for. Some people just go, “I need a job, I need a job.” They don’t think about their transferable skills. Say that you worked in an office and you answered phones and you have good customer-service skills. You could transfer that skill into retail, because that’s an important component ? customer service.

Q: So you put your work history, references, and skills on your cheat sheet?

A: The most important thing is to read the descriptions of the jobs so that you can use the same language.

Q: That’s a key point.

A: Very key. When the (human resource person opens) that application and they have on their job description, “Excellent customer service skills,” ? if you have those skills, you need to use that same language.

Q: Don’t say “I am friendly.”

A: Or I’m “people-oriented.” Instead say, “excellent customer-service skills.”

Q: You know what struck me about the cheat sheets? It wouldn’t hurt to make extra copies and laminate them.

A: Or have a folder. In my classes, I always ask, “Is it embarrassing for the employer to see you with a cheat sheet? Should you have that out in front?” Yes. Absolutely. It shows that you are organized, you have your information and it’s going to help the process.

Q: What about job clubs in a place like Goodwill? Is it hard for middle-class people to use services they’ve always associated with needy and disadvantaged people?

A: Exactly, but things have gotten so tough now that people are coming in.

Q: What kind of help can an agency like yours offer? I saw a sign about a free Jobs Club hanging from your building on Route 73.

A: Job club is important because we’re able to give people information, so they don’t have to do the research.

Q: For example?

A: We can tell them, “You’ll probably go through three interviews at Wal-Mart.” Sonic (a restaurant) is opening in Pennsauken. When they are interviewing you, you have to tell them what’s on the menu. If you don’t, you don’t pass. That’s the kind of thing people don’t know, but we can tell them.

Q: Anything else?

A: Our job developers create relationships. For some companies, we help their recruiters. With our clerical school here, (students) are here three months. We have data. Are they on time? How fast do they type? Can they do keystrokes? How well are they doing in accounting? We’re prescreening.

(c) 2009, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.