Archive for January 2011

Job hunting? Stand out in a crowd

January 24, 2011

Detailed résumé, skills training key tight job market

By Ned B. Hunter – Jackson Sun – January 23, 2011 

Carlisle Tire and Wheel announced in July 2009 that it would hire 440 people when it moved to Jackson.

More than 4,000 people had applied for those positions as of last week.

So far, the company has hired 327.

With unemployment hanging around 9.5 percent, employers are hiring only the best trained, well educated and most experienced prospects to fill job openings.

So how does someone with years of experience, education and on-the-job training stand out in a vast pool of applicants?

“They need to be very detailed on their résumés,” said Barry Hart, professional placement consultant for Manpower West Tennessee Professional Division.

Gone are the days of short, one-page résumés listing a career goal and past employers, Hart said. Companies and job placement counselors want job seekers to expound on their work history, schooling, awards and accomplishments, listing the minutia of each past job. If that information isn’t shared, a person could be overlooked by the computer systems used to screen applicants, Hart said.

For example, if a person simply lists the ability to run Microsoft Office on his résumé, and Hart is searching for someone who knows how to run Excel, the computer will not select that job seeker as a candidate because it will not recognize that Excel is a part of Microsoft Office, Hart said.

“You might as well never even have the résumé,” he said. “It will never be found.”

Manpower’s Professional Division recruits people from all over the country to fill jobs throughout Tennessee. It focuses on finding accountants, engineers, plant managers, human resource managers and others. He said one of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is using the same résumé to apply for every job. He said résumés must be structured to fit each job at each company, even if the applicant applies for the same type of position at different companies. For instance, two companies may be looking for plant managers, but one may want a manager who specializes in lean manufacturing while another may need a manager who can focus on leadership.

“You have to make a résumé fit the job description as best as you can,” Hart said.

That means job seekers need to thoroughly list their accomplishments.

“If your job was cost savings,” Hart said, “then you need to list how you achieved that goal.”

Be ready

The biggest mistake job seekers can make is to let their skills lag during times of unemployment or not learn needed skills they don’t have, said Laura Daniel, a career specialist with the Tennessee Career Center at Jackson. The center has programs that provide training in basic computer skills and other topics.

The center also administers a test that certifies workers for different levels of factory work. It is a three-part test that includes reading for information; reading to find information; and math, Daniel said. The math section includes working with percentages, decimals, fractions, metric weights and measures and other math functions.

She said job seekers who have not taken the test should do so immediately because most companies now require applicants to take it before being considered for a job.

“Some of them have been placing quite a bit of emphasis on the test,” she said.

Job seekers should not be intimidated by the test. The career center has pre-test training programs that have helped many job seekers achieve higher grades.

Job seekers who know they lack some training or skills can take computer classes, reading comprehension, math and trade classes at Jackson State Community College and various community service-based organizations throughout West Tennessee.

But more than the ability to do math, run a computer, or understand leadership skills, job applicants must be drug free, said Kyle Spurgeon, president of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Plant mangers tell us that there are qualified people out there,” he said, “but they fail the drug screening process.”

While some may argue that doing drugs in the privacy of their own home should not affect their job outcome, companies view it differently, Spurgeon said.

“It is not a moral question, but a safety question or issue,” he said. “What if you are under the influence of any drug or alcohol when doing a job? You could kill yourself or fellow employee.”

“A phone interview may be your first step to a new job.”

January 21, 2011

Tip for the day:  “Leadership is a choice, not a position.”  By:  Steven R. Covey

Q:  Dear Connie: I have been applying for jobs and several companies have said the first step will be a phone interview.  I have not done an interview on the phone.  Can you give me some tips? 

A:   For most companies, a phone interview is the first step.  You may do several phone interviews with different groups at a company before you are invited to come in for a face-to-face interview.

The phone interview has become an excellent way for employers to screen out applicants who are not a good match for the position they are trying to fill.  This allows them to “meet” the applicant without the time and expense of a face-to-face interview.  Here are some tips that can help you use phone interviews to your advantage.

  • Have a friend call you and roll-play a mock phone interview to gain confidence in presenting your skills over the phone.
  • Make sure that the room you are in is quiet with no pets, children, or TV, music or cell phone interruptions.
  • Have a copy of your resume, a pen, and paper for notes by the phone.  The interviewer will probably have a copy of your resume, and this will help you focus on the areas the interviewer is asking questions about.
  • Dress up before your interview to put yourself in a business frame of mind.
  • Try standing as you talk.  You will tend to do a better job of projecting your voice and sound more confident.
  • Over enunciate your words.  If the interviewer can not understand you, he may assume that potential customers will not be able to understand you either.
  • Answer the question clearly and then be comfortable with silence.  Your interviewer may be writing down your answer.  You do not need to keep talking to prevent silence.
  • Prepare a short summary of your skills and how you can benefit the company so you can end your conversation on a positive note.
  • Have your calendar with you and be prepared to schedule a face-to-face interview if one is requested.

When you have finished your interview, thank your interviewer for his consideration.

Connie’s Career Corner is your source for career information.  E-mail questions for future columns to .

Demand for temp workers on the rise

January 21, 2011

Unemployment rate stuck at 9.4 percent since September
By Bonna Johnson – The Tennessean – January 21, 2011

From lawyers to accountants to customer service reps, the demand for temporary staffing is on the rise in Tennessee, fueling much of the employment growth in the state over the past year.

At Nashville-based Wood Personnel Services, business was up 50 percent in December over the previous year, said president and CEO Bill Wood.

“Companies are in a position where they’ve downsized so much and now they need help,” Wood said. At the same time, though, companies remain cautious and largely unwilling to take on full-time workers.

Despite good job growth, the state’s unemployment rate hasn’t budged in four months, coming in at 9.4 percent in December, the same rate since September. That’s because positive job growth is being offset by a growing labor force, said economist Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

The job sector that includes temporary staffing grew 8.4 percent in December over the previous year, the fastest growing category of jobs in Tennessee, Fox said.

Some 13,700 jobs were added in the state year over year in that sector, which also includes administrative support and waste services. That accounts for half the net jobs that were created in the past year, as reported by the state’s Business Survey.

At Counsel On Call, a firm that places attorneys into temporary positions, business picked up substantially last year after being flat in 2009, said Candice Reed, executive director of the Nashville office.

“I think the economy caused a lot of companies to put new projects on hold in 2009; they were doing the bare minimum they needed to do,” she said. “We’ve started to see that break loose a little bit.”

Nationally, the staffing industry has added 495,000 new jobs over the past 15 months since resuming growth in October 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although growth over November was flat here and nationally, staffing employment nationally was 16.1 percent higher than in December 2009.

Growth expected

“I think 2011 will be a huge year for staffing agencies,” said Johnny Huffman, a staffing consultant for Adecco staffing agency.

“Companies will bring in temps as workloads pick up,” Huffman said. “They like to try before they buy, and once the economy picks up and maintains, they’ll be ready to roll those people into openings.”

As it is, weak sales remain a big problem among small-business owners, which is keeping them from hiring, according to a December survey by the National Federation of Independent Business.

Over the next three months, though, a net 6 percent of owners plan to create new jobs, the best reading in 27 months, the NFIB said.

Huffman says pay rates are nowhere close to where they were in past years. “Companies realize a lot of people are out of work, and they don’t have to pay quite as much,” he said.

Reed said the pattern of her business has changed, as well.

As corporations watch the bottom line, they’re using her force of temporary attorneys instead of outsourcing to law firms as they once did.

“We are cheaper than an outside law firm. Our attorney billable rates are lower,” she said.

Additional Facts

Jobless aid available on cards

Starting this week, unemployed workers can get their benefits two new ways, through either Visa debit card or direct deposit. Unemployment checks will be phased out by the end of the year.

The state expects electronic payments to save $3.2 million in postage and paper costs annually. Last year, the state issued nearly 8 million unemployment checks.

Workers who opt for the debit card can avoid surcharges and fees by steering clear of ATM machines, said Jeff Hentschel, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Chase Bank issues the debit cards.

• Workers who have bank accounts can transfer money from the debit card to their account with the help of a teller, if the bank displays a Visa logo.

• Workers can avoid ATM surcharges by using a MoneyPass machine. However, a 
$1 fee will be charged for the first two withdrawals and 60 cents after that. ATM balance inquiries are 40 cents each. 
No free ATM transactions are available in Tennessee because there are no Chase banks here, Hentschel said.

• Retail transactions are free if the card is used as credit, or 25 cents if it is used as debit. The cards cannot be used to pay at the pump at service stations.
Workers can enroll for debit cards or direct deposit at For more information about avoiding fees, go to

Job Fair Held Thursday At LP Field – Newschannel5

January 19, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Job News is holding a job fair Thursday, January 20 at LP Field. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The stadium is located at 1 Titans Way in downtown Nashville. 

Job seekers will be able to meet with dozens of employers. The companies planning to attend are Aflac, Allied Health Care Institutes, BSI Consulting, Cellular Sales, Daymar Institute, IADT Nashville/Kelly Brady, Kaplan Career Institute, NADC, New Horizons, Physicians Mutual Insurance Co., Powerhome Technologies, Daily’s Convenience Stores and Wyndham. 

Opportunities range from entry-level to management. Job fair organizers said to be ready to interview on-the-spot. 

Attendees are encouraged to dress professionally and bring multiple copies of their resume. Admission and parking are free. 

For more information on the job fair, visit or call 615-361-8843.  

TN unemployed workers to receive benefits electronically

January 19, 2011

The Tennessean – January 18, 2011

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development says all unemployed workers will start receiving their benefits electronically at an undetermined date in the future.

For now, the department has just announced two new electronic options for receiving benefits — debit cards and direct deposit.

Debit card and direct deposit will be offered to newly unemployed workers as they apply for unemployment benefits. 

Claimants currently receiving benefits by mail can also enroll for debit cards or direct deposit payments online at

Last year, the state issued nearly 8 million unemployment checks, and it is projected electronic payments will save the state approximately $3.2 million annually in postage and paper costs.


Downsized college graduates turn to tech centers for job training

January 18, 2011

In down economy, training boosts odds of getting a job

By Jennifer Brooks – The Tennessean

Jobs 2011 I Part of a continuing series

A college degree is supposed to be the key to a bright future.

But in this dismal economy, more and more college graduates are finding that a degree doesn’t impress employers as much as it used to. Increasingly, college graduates who can’t find work are heading back to the classroom — not to get a degree, but for vocational training.

For years, Bob Podolsky put his degree in business administration to work as an accountant and comptroller at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. Then the economy hit a downturn, and Podolsky found himself downsized.

The state stepped in with money to help him retrain for a new career — one with more job security than the automotive industry. Podolsky, who is pushing 50, opted to study nursing.

He isn’t alone. The state’s unemployment rate topped 9.4 percent in November. Many of the places that are hiring these days require a specialized skill set. That’s where the Tennessee Technology Centers come in.

“It means a second life for me and a more secure career,” said Podolsky, who is enrolled in the licensed practical nursing program at the Tennessee Technology Center in Murfreesboro. Sitting at a table, surrounded by five classmates with college degrees and similar stories, Podolsky smiled. “It’s just a blessed opportunity to be here.”

The Tennessee Technology Centers are the pride and joy of the state’s higher education system — singled out for praise by national organizations for their stellar completion and retention rates and even higher job placement rates. For less than $3,000 a year, students can be certified in a range of fields that are actually hiring these days, from health care to information technology to truck driving to cosmetology.

Last year, the technology centers boasted a 75 percent completion rate — far higher than the state’s universities or community colleges — and 83 percent of those who finished their certification program found work in their chosen fields, according to a 2010 survey by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

For a long time, these certification programs were viewed as a fallback for students who couldn’t get into college. Now the state is pushing for even more certification programs, and other states are looking to Tennessee as a model.

Rapid re-entry possible

The nation is finally recognizing those programs’ value to the economy, said James King, vice chancellor for the Tennessee Technology Centers. “That’s easy to see when the economy’s the worst it’s been in years, and you have 83 percent of students getting jobs.”

King estimates that 23 percent of the students enrolled at the Tennessee Technology Centers have at least some college classes under their belts. At least 5.5 percent this year have four-year degrees or higher, he said.

Carol Puryear, director of the Tennessee Technology Center in Murfreesboro, has noticed more students enrolling with college degrees — everyone from the retired high school principal with a master’s degree to the downsized health-care industry executive who needed a job, and fast, so he could get health insurance for his children.

“This is probably the fastest place you can go to re-enter the work force,” Puryear said.

No one is arguing that Tennessee doesn’t need more workers with four-year degrees. The state has one of the lowest rates of college completion in the nation and is the midst of a major initiative to improve graduation and retention rates.

But for those who need a job quickly, the technology centers are an increasingly attractive option. David Gashaw has a bachelor’s degree in recording industry management. This might be Music City, but the job offers weren’t exactly rolling in for the 2009 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.

“Down here, you can’t fling a rock without hitting someone in the music industry,” he said. So he did some research and enrolled to become a surgical assistant.

“There’s always going to be work in the medical field,” Gashaw said.

Complete College America, a national nonprofit working to increase the number of Americans with degrees, ranks Tennessee’s certification programs among the best in the nation and sent a team of researchers to the state to study the technology centers in action, King said. It’s a bright spot in a state where only 31 percent of young adults ages 25 to 35 have a college degree.

Job almost ‘guaranteed’

Certificate programs at the technology centers range from 18-month training programs for licensed practical nurses to just a few months for other fields. Students can enroll in most programs at any time of the year and work at their own pace toward certification.

Some of the faster-growing career fields — including licensed practical nurses and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians — require only certificates, Complete College America reported this year.

Ten years ago, Kyle Rolston was a star on the basketball court at Tennessee State University. But the bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies he earned didn’t lend itself to a clear career path.

He ended up working as an airport skycap. It’s a good job, he said, “but that’s not a career.” Especially not now that he’s the new father of twins. He’s in the practical nursing program in Murfreesboro’s tech center.

Starting salaries for students fresh out of the technology centers average $35,000 a year for licensed practical nurses, $33,000 for welders and $40,000 for trained machinists.

“I have a bachelor’s degree, but after 17 years, I forgot everything I knew,” joked Sally McEnery, who lost her job as a paralegal in the downturn and is retraining to become a surgical technician.

She has a daughter who’s headed to medical school, and she hopes that, one of these days, they end up working in the same operating room together.

Enrollment at the technology centers has jumped 40 percent in the past four years. Again and again, students give the same reasons.

“You’re pretty much guaranteed a job,” said Pamela Luketic, who earned an engineering degree at MTSU that led to a 22-year career with DuPont — until she got laid off. This time around, she was determined to find a career that was virtually recession-proof, and surgical technician was the career that appealed most.

More jobs on the way in Nashville

January 11, 2011

But slow growth means full recovery is years away
By Getahn Ward – The Tennessean – January 9, 2011

JOBS 2011 I Part of an occasional series

Business owners and economists see a slightly brighter outlook for the Nashville area’s job market this year — with one projection calling for a 1.3 percent increase in employment that should slightly exceed the national average.

But with more people seeking jobs than the number of positions available, it will take some time to cure all the economic wounds inflicted by two years of recession and belt tightening.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the recovery has begun; however, there’s still fragility in the job market,” said Read McNamara, executive director of the career management center at Vanderbilt University’s Owen graduate business school. “A full recovery is still several years away.”

National soothsayers also see some gains as consumers seem more willing to spend, and at least some businesses cast off their past reluctance to add to their payrolls.

Through 2011, employers will add 183,000 jobs a month, or more than double last year’s pace, according to the average forecast of 28 economists surveyed by USA TODAY.

Job gains will touch every state, including Tennessee; and 98 percent of the nation’s metro areas will see at least small job gains, according to an in-depth forecast by economic researchers Moody’s Analytics.

If that pace is maintained, the U.S. jobless rate should ease to 8.9 percent or so by the end of the year, Moody’s Analytics predicts.

That would still leave about 13 million Americans jobless by year’s end, and many economists say it will take at least five years for unemployment to return to a normal 
5 percent to 6 percent rate.

In short, things are improving, but even the most optimistic forecasts underscore that job gains won’t be roaring and that a fair share of employers intend to continue holding down costs by asking existing workers to work harder or by calling for furloughs in which employees take time away from work without pay.

Meanwhile, companies that can afford to be picky in hiring are requiring more job-specific and multi-tasking skills — a trend that rules out most low-skill job seekers.

This year, health care and education, professional services, and perhaps construction or auto manufacturing probably will lead job growth here, Moody’s Analytics and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development predict.

Employers’ perceptions about the economy will be a key indicator of future hiring, said Bill Gittens, director of the Career Development Center at Tennessee State University.

In the recent downturn, employers mastered making do with less and many remain reluctant to add jobs, especially entry-level positions, he said. “If you had five people doing five specific tasks, you now have two people doing multiple tasks, and as businesses expand, they’re looking for another person to do multiple tasks,” Gittens said.

Jobs require training

For some job seekers, landing a new job means learning and mastering new skills.

Chris Doss of Lewisburg, Tenn., now installs solar panels after losing his job of 21 years as a machine operator at a pencil-manufacturing plant that folded in 2009.

“It was something new — I didn’t think there would be that much competition as far as jobs,” said Doss, who was part of the first class of 14 graduates of a solar panel installation training program funded by federal dollars.

Energy Source Partners of Nashville, which is riding interest in renewable energy, hired Doss and a handful of other graduates.

“We’re looking to hire more people right away — about five in the next two weeks,” said Ron Merville, Energy Source’s CEO.

Ralph Paul Conrad, another Lewisburg resident, is still on the job hunt 3½ years after losing his job as a team leader at a pen products manufacturer in Shelbyville.

“It’s just like a black hole — really unbelievable,” said Conrad, describing what he sees as a poor local job market across Middle Tennessee. “There will be jobs created, but everything is low-wage.”

But analysts who study the economy closely are generally more upbeat about 2011.

Nashville in good shape

Alex Miron, an associate economist at Moody’s Analytics who tracks the Nashville area, said a little stronger jobs forecast for Nashville reflects — at least in part — less overbuilding in the housing market here versus in other areas.

Staffing firm Manpower Inc.’s latest survey of employers shows the Nashville metro area with the nation’s fifth-best employment outlook. About 19 percent of companies here interviewed said they planned to hire more employees in the current quarter, up from 14 percent a year ago.

Sectors with the best job prospects include manufacturing, transportation and utilities, retail and wholesale trade, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, among others.

Others see more demand in technology. One estimate based on research by the Nashville Technology Council and Vaco Technology suggests there were 1,065 job openings here during the October through December quarter, up sharply from the previous three months.

Hospital systems including HCA, Community Health Systems and Vanderbilt along with Vision Consulting, a Franklin-based hospital information technology company, had the highest number of technology-related job openings.

At HCA’s corporate office, the greatest need is for information technology employees, with 70 open positions, including 40 related to electronic health records.

McNamara, who oversees career placement of MBA graduates at Vanderbilt University, has seen a moderate increase in recruiting by employers and corporate visits on campus. Still, companies in consumer goods and brand management lag a bit in hiring.

“As consumers begin to spend again, companies will increase hiring. Right now, it’s relatively flat,” he said.