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Christina O’Connor

“As the economy continues to improve here in the Islands, more companies are starting to expand their workforce to keep up with the growing demand,” Klein points out.

Staffing agency Express Employment Professionals, which served nearly 2,500 employers last year, has witnessed an up-swing in clients’ needs. As owner of the Hawaii franchise, Lisa Daijo noticed many of her clients had a difficult time hiring a few years ago.

“They had to pull back a little,” she recalls. “They had to make some changes.”

Many of Express Employment’s clients had to get rid of their front office staff or their sales divisions.

From her observations, those changes are coming back around now. One field doing particularly well is sales and marketing, which she says is a good sign overall that companies are looking to increase their sales.

“It’s extremely busy; everyone is hiring out,” Daijo says. “I am very optimistic about our future.”

“We are growing quickly,” notes Sheri DeFreitas, human resources manager at Aqua Hospitality, the umbrella group for properties that include Pagoda Hotel, Luana Waikiki and Lotus Honolulu.

At the Career Expo, Aqua Hospitality hopes to share some of its opportunities with the public – and maybe walk away with some new employees. Currently, it is seeking candidates for key positions in its corporate offices that include a vice president of finance, a senior sales manager for Asia (based here), and a corporate revenue manager. A few of its various properties also are looking for a hotel manager and guest services manager.

“It is not just coming in to apply for a job. That position can eventually become your career,” says DeFreitas. “We have had people who were in maintenance who are now hotel managers. We have people who have been night auditors who now are in our corporate accounting offices.”

School bus company Ground Transport Inc., another participating group, is looking for about 30 drivers, as well as a route dispatcher and three technicians to beef up for its DOE transportation contract next school year.

“We are actually expanding our operation,” says president Louis Gomes.

Alternate Energy director of marketing Michael Ito acknowledges that the solar industry has been a volatile one.

“Like everyone else, we have had to let go of a lot of technicians just to maintain moving sideways,” Ito says, “but what we are trying to do is build up and diversify our products and services.”

Trying to put a positive spin on the recent industry slowdown, Alternate Energy is in the process of launching an air conditioner installation division, as well as expanding its electrical contracting work. It’s seeking journeymen for the new division, as well as sales representatives and electrical journeymen.

But even with signs that the economy is improving, applicants still have to jump a number of hurdles to land a job.

Here, a few experts and hiring managers featured at the Career Expo dish on how to get your ideal job.

MW-COVER-032614-CareerFairGroupDRESS FOR SUCCESS

“No T-shirts, low-cut dresses or short skirts,” Daijo says.

Instead, Daijo recommends a below-the-knee pencil skirt and a collared blouse for women, and a collared shirt or aloha shirt and slacks for men.

Plus, there’s always what has been dubbed the “lab coat effect.” A 2012 study by Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University looked at the psychological effects of people wearing clothing associated with high performance. The study found that those wearing a white lab coat, which is associated with doctors and scientists, scored higher on a series of tests. The idea is that if you look the part, you just might become it.

Dressing professionally at the Career Expo also has its advantages. Express Employment will be looking for attendees dressed for success. Those who are could receive a free admission voucher.

TAILOR EACH APPLICATION TO THE POSITION

In looking for new employees, Alternate Energy has been sifting through piles of resumes in recent weeks. But when Ito sees an application that doesn’t address what the position is calling for, he just throws it out.

“It looks like some people just blast their resumes out there, and they should really consider what the employer is looking for,” Alternate Energy marketing coordinator Shannon Nagaoka says.

“Read the description of what they are looking for and tailor your resume around that,” Ito adds.

TAKE YOUR INTERVIEW SERIOUSLY

“You want to make like you are on a date – you want to show them your best side,” says Daijo regarding the interview process. “I think people are going into job interviews a little bit too casually now.”

To her, taking a job search seriously entails not only dressing the part, but also coming prepared. Applicants should research their prospective company thoroughly prior to an interview – and have a list of questions for their interviewer, as well. Daijo cautions, however, that asking the right questions is even more important.

“You want to ask questions that make you sound like you are so excited for this opportunity and opportunities for growth,” she says.

That means questions about benefits, vacation time and working overtime are best left until after you receive a formal offer. Those aspects obviously are important, but too many of those questions may make it seem as if you don’t care about the position itself.

MAINTAIN A STRONG ONLINE PRESENCE

Before Nagaoka joined the marketing division at Alternate Energy about three months ago, she already was working at a marketing and ad agency and wasn’t actively looking for a job.

But she always made sure to maintain her LinkedIn page, keeping in touch with former colleagues and connecting with others in the marketing industry, like Ito.

“I think it is a good habit to be in,” Nagaoka says. “You never know when somebody is going to Google you. It is a good way to keep and grow your network.”

When Alternate Energy was looking for a new hire, Ito recalled Nagaoka’s profile and brought her in for an interview.

DON’T SETTLE

Given the economy in recent years, a lot of job seekers probably adopted an “any job is a good job” mentality. So, it may seem counterintuitive, but across the board, employers and experts agree that job seekers shouldn’t be settling when it comes to accepting an offer.

SHRM tells prospective employees to apply what it calls the ACE measurement: Alignment (is the company’s mission in alignment with what you want to achieve in your career?), Capabilities (do you have the skills and knowledge to be able to do the job?) and Engagement (are you passionate about the position?).

“It’s not necessarily about finding the first job or the best job,” Pavlicek explains. “It is finding the one that is right for the employee.”

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