Job Seekers Pack the House at our 2019 Fall Jobs Forum!

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Photo of the Fall Jobs Forum 2019 panelists.

What’s a recent college graduate to do when they meet the minimum requirements for a job but lack the requisite experience? How can an older job seeker who hasn’t been on the market in a while ensure their application is seriously considered? What makes one resume stand out among a pool of 60 or 70 qualified candidates? These are a few of the topics discussed at SDI’s 2019 Fall Jobs Forum.

Twenty-nine job seekers with disabilities gathered for the Fall Jobs Forum on November 14 at the Brentwood Community Center. During the first half of the event, a panel of HR professionals from Boeing, Centene, Panera, Express Scripts (Cigna), and St. Louis University took turns answering questions surrounding the day’s theme of how to get on a company’s radar in today’s competitive climate.

The panelists agreed that social media, particularly LinkedIn, has emerged as a powerful tool for sourcing talent. Job listings are shared across numerous social media channels and career sites, reaching a vast audience of would-be applicants. Jeff Parker, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist with Centene stressed the importance of filling out the online application completely, taking time to attach a relevant, professional resume. While this may seem obvious, candidates often fail to provide all of the information required for the most viable application.

The panelists also discussed how their companies prioritize employee referrals. They agreed that applicants referred by current employees always receive careful consideration. With companies placing such emphasis on referrals, networking events like the Fall Jobs Forum have become all the more crucial for candidates hoping to distinguish themselves.

In many cases, disability doesn’t occur until decades after an individual has completed their schooling. This can be a complicating factor for older applicants looking to reinvent themselves professionally. Although most employers haven’t implemented special initiatives targeting this applicant demographic, there are a couple of simple steps for overcoming this obstacle. The panelists encouraged these job seekers to take advantage of opportunities to further their education through online programs and resources. By constantly learning new skills and gaining new insights, job seekers can successfully rebrand themselves. The HR specialists in attendance also recommended older candidates limit the work experience and credentials on their resumes to the last 10 years, a strategy that can help prevent unconscious bias.

Every corporation has its own unique workplace culture, and hiring managers are always looking for candidates who seem to fit the cultural identity of their organizations. The culture of a faith-based university like Saint Louis University differs significantly from the traditional corporate environment of a place like Boeing, and job seekers must be aware of these differences from the outset. Erica May, Talent Acquisition Manager with Panera described how the warm, inviting ambiance of Panera’s bakery cafes permeates their corporate offices as well, with company breakfasts and afternoon “cookie time” bringing co-workers together. Erica pointed out that, while it might be tempting to project a false image during the interview in an effort to meet the company’s cultural expectations, hiring managers take note when candidates are genuine about their values and motivations.

“Cultural fit overall just means it’s the place you call home. It’s that place where you can bring your own authentic self to work and not have to alter anything,” Erica explained. “Don’t do anything differently, and don’t do anything out of the ordinary; you just have to be you.”

The second half of the event gave job seekers an opportunity to sit down with the HR professionals and have their resumes reviewed. They were able to ask specific questions about current jobs available and how to present their application materials in the best possible light. Sharon Miller, a retired school teacher in search of part-time employment, appreciated the feedback she received from Rita McMillan of Saint Louis University.

“I needed to condense my resume down to a single page, and Rita gave me the step-by-step method for doing that,” Sharon said. “She taught me how I can tailor my resume for specific jobs.”

Rita, SLU’s Diversity and Community Engagement Consultant and a veteran of the HR realm, enjoys attending events like the Fall Jobs Forum.

“I love going out in the community and sharing information about our mission and employment opportunities,” Rita said. “I believe my job puts me in the best position to help candidates navigate the application process more successfully.”

Starkloff Disability Institute would like to thank Jeff Parker, Erika May, and Rita McMillan along with their fellow panelists Nathan Savage, Employee Relations Partner with Boeing and Shawn O’Connell, Senior Recruitment Manager with Express Scripts (Cigna).

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