Start job search long before graduation
Students who start early have a better chance of finding the right job

During the next few weeks thousands of university seniors across the province will be finishing midterms. With graduation on the horizon, they will begin thinking about where they are going to work when school lets out. But for Joe Lo Dico, and Caroline Ciampini, it will be business as usual.

The two accounting students lined up jobs with C.A. firm Richter, Usher, Vineberg more than a year ago. And while their classmates are scanning job boards and Web-sites, Lo Dico and Ciampini will be concentrating on their studies.

"We're lucky because we can concentrate on other things," said Lo Dico, an H.E.C. student. "In fact after I got hired, my average jumped from a B to an A."

Richter, like many accounting firms, takes its on-campus recruiting very seriously. Markups on the cheap labour that apprentice auditors provide is one of the accounting industry's key profit generators. So the C.A. firms put a lot of time and energy into making sure they get the best people available.

"We look at students after they start their second year," said Michel Delisle, director of human resources at Richter, who is responsible for hiring about 30 new recruits a year. "In most cases we give them for a summer job first, and if they perform well we make them an offer to work full time after they graduate."

Despite the fact that not all sectors have recruiting programs as organized or as forward looking as the accounting industry, according to one recruitment professional, it pays for all university students to start looking for a job long before they finish their studies.

"Preparation is very important. Students need to give themselves the time to examine all the options open to them," said Sébastien Leblanc, general manager of UQAM's business school placement service, which is charged with finding jobs for the 1,500 under-grads and MBAs the department churns out each year. "That means students should start their job search at latest by November of the year before they graduate."

According to Leblanc the market for UQAM business finalists is "excellent," right now, and it's not taking long for most to find placements.

During 2002, there were 2,000 job offers posted on the job boards in LeBlanc'c department, up from 1,500 the year before. And while he concedes that many of the companies also advertise on other university campuses, the increase is significant. What's more, postings so far indicate that 2003 will be at least as strong.

"Companies are looking for a lot of the same things they have always looked for," Leblanc said. "They want students who have some work experience either through summer or part-time jobs, but they also want to see other achievements such as participation in student organizations and so on."

However according to Leblanc many companies are not overly concerned about a student's marks, and many don't even ask for transcripts, the accounting industry being a key exception.

Another trend in recent years is the increasing campus recruiting by smaller businesses, which is compensating for hiring cutbacks in larger companies such as Bombardier and Bell Canada, Leblanc said.

Despite the fact that the job market may be getting better, according to one expert, students still need to be aggressive if they want to get the right position.

"Graduates are so cocky and overflowing with all the knowledge they have acquired, it's very stimulating to be around them," said Michel Huet, president of Ventes Piranha, who gives on campus seminars to students preparing for the job market. "But if they don't learn to sell themselves, they are going to be pouring coffee at the nearest Dunkin Donuts."

According to Huet, students need to prepare themselves for the rigorous hiring process. And that means practicing interviewing techniques. "Recruiters have a big advantage in this game," Huet said. "They usually interview dozens, and sometimes hundreds of students. But the student often goes on only two or three interviews."

Huet tells students to be creative to find a way to stand out. For example one student sent a recruiter a coffee maker with a note attached saying that he was graduating and would like to come over to share a coffee. He got the meeting.

Caroline Ciampini knew early on that she wanted to work for Richter, but was not sure that she would get an offer. So she went to Burean en Gros and had business cards printed up with her name, phone number, E-mail address, her major, and the kind of job she was looking for, and then handed them out to everyone she met at the on-campus recruiting sessions.

The tactic worked. "When the Richter people were discussing potential candidates, one of them pulled out my business card," Ciampini said. "And it turned out that several of the people in the meeting also had one of my cards, so I got the job."

 

 

Photo caption: Like many accounting students Joe Lo Dico and Caroline Ciampini (shown here with Richter's human resources director Michel Delisle) started their job search early. Both will be graduating later this year and have already lined up jobs with Richter.

Sidebar: Finding a job after graduation

o Although the job market for graduates is improving slightly experts say that it still pays to start looking for a job about a year before graduation.
o Concentrate your search by preparing targeted applications to fewer companies, rather than spamming hundreds with your cv.
o Highlight your extra-curricular achievements on your cv, not just your work experience and marks.
o Don't limit your search to big businesses. Small companies have been doing much more aggressive recruiting in recent years.
o Be creative in your approach to stand out from the crowd
o Practice your interviewing techniques

 

Richer, Usher, Vineberg
2 Place Alexis Nihon
Mtl, Qc., 934-3446

 

peter@peterdiekmeyer.com

 

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