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Search the Job - Pre Interview

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If you leave this chapter with nothing else fixed in your mind, let it be this: All your job-hunting efforts should be focused on one overriding objective-to project a favorable image of yourself during the job interview. All the other steps in your job-hunting campaign should lead to that one objective.

  1. Let's describe the steps leading to the interview:

  2. Make an assessment of your skills, strengths, and weaknesses-be honest.

  3. Choose the field you wish to work in-the intermediate job and the ultimate goal.

  4. Write a resume in which you outline your work and/or school experience, the job you are seeking, and your goal.

  5. Write a cover letter.

  6. Develop a prospect list, including telephone numbers.

  7. Develop a references and testimonial file.

  8. Practice the interview. This should take up about half of all your preliminary job hunting.
Having done these things, analyze your present situation. Unless it is desperate, don't be in any hurry to land a job, any job. You want the best job you can get, given your qualifications. Don't settle for anything less, because you may find yourself trapped in a job you dislike with dim prospects for the future, and there can be nothing worse in life than that.
Don't settle for "security," either. In today's dynamic economy, few jobs can offer real security, so don't place too much weight on supposed security in deciding which jobs to go after.

After analyzing your situation, you can determine how much time you can afford to spend in your job search. Then you can go about planning an organized step-by-step effort with one all important goal: a favorable interview.


In the course of 50 years in the printing and publishing business, the author of this book has interviewed as many as a thousand job seekers, of which a third were hired. And those applicants who were invited for an interview were only a fraction of those who responded to our help-wanted ads and other job search efforts.

Why some applicants were not invited for an interview, and why were some who were interviewed not hired? The answers to these questions will help you in your own job hunting. If you know why someone else has failed, it will help you to avoid the same pitfalls. This is known as learning the easy way. It is infinitely better than learning the hard way.

People of maturity and experience will tell you that all the important events in their lives and business careers had one thing in common. They started with a simple act-the act of sticking out a hand and saying, "Glad to meet you." All the important people in our lives-spouse, teacher, friend, employer-must first be met, one on one. Seen in this light, your first encounter with people is absolutely vital to your success or failure.

When you approach a first encounter with a new person in your life, an alarm should go off in your head. Since you don't know what the future will bring, and you have no idea how important that person may be in your future, you should be at your absolute best at every first meeting.

A successful real estate developer once said, "I will never be so wealthy that I can afford to have even one enemy." This might be paraphrased to apply to a job seeker: You will never be so successful that you can afford to make even one unfavorable first impression. Remember this one important fact: In every case, no employee of our firm was ever hired without making a favorable impression during the interview.

This does not mean that we have hired only people with striking personalities who could talk interestingly and convincingly. Far from it. Favorable impressions are created when the applicant is perceived as sincere, industrious, energetic, and competent. All other factors being favorable, these qualities will lead to a "Welcome aboard!"


In assessing your skills, don't neglect the less definable attributes-your strengths and weaknesses. Here is a list of discussion points that will help you to determine just how skillful you are. It may also help you to unearth some skills you possess but didn't know you had.


In working with others, do you tend to take over the project? Do you get the feeling that the project will fail unless the other team members do things differently? Do you feel a sense of responsibility for the success of the project? If you answer "yes" to these questions, you probably have at least a basic disposition toward being a supervisor. Try positions in which you can progress toward a supervisory role.

On the other hand, if you are content to be a member of the team, to do the job you are assigned to do without questioning it, then you can consider yourself a person who will perform best at a job where the work must be done without risk taking. Some of the most skillful members of the printing community are basically workers with little significant contact with other workers, such as typesetters, camera operators, and paste-up artists.


Are you generally dissatisfied with things as they are? When you encounter a procedure, a grouping of people or things, or any set of rules that have been followed by others in the past, do you have an urge to change them? Do you frequently have original ideas? If so, you should consider a career where creativity is required, such as any art career-layout artist, package designer or letterer.


Are you knowledgeable in such subjects as history, current events, language, and geography? Do you read to advance your knowledge as well as for pleasure? Do you read the editorial page of your newspaper as well as the general news? A person with good general knowledge is an asset in almost any job, mainly because it indicates good basic intelligence.


Are you quick with figures? More importantly, do you enjoy working with figures? In printing, a good mathematical mind is a valuable quality, because so much of printing has to do with numbers: number of pages per signature, number of impressions per hour, cost per page, and so on. Mathematical ability is vital to a cost accountant or printing estimator. If you don't enjoy numbers, you may be better advised to seek employment in the creative side of printing or as a sales representative.


Do you have a gift for fixing things? Do you try to figure out how a new machine or gadget works when you first see it? If you can answer "yes," you would be happy in the production end of the equipment-intensive printing industry. Printers must understand the capabilities and limitations of the machines they work with, and they should be capable of performing user maintenance. Some machines require the most delicate adjustments, such as the amount of ink or water to deliver to an offset press. A good sixth sense concerning machinery is useful here.


Are you a stickler for exactness? Are you happy with jobs that require working to very small tolerances? Do you try to avoid mistakes in any kind of situation? If so, the printing industry will welcome you. As you have read elsewhere in this book, a printer's mistake means doing the entire job over again, or living with it as long as it exists. Some jobs in printing that require a sense of the precise are lithographic stripper, paste-up artist, camera operator, and paper cutter operator, to mention a few.


Do you like meeting new people? Do you approach a meeting with pleasure, instead of shyness or dread? The person who is easy with others will make a good team member in the printing industry, as well as a good sales representative.
Many large firms require a team of several persons in their operation. A spirit of teamwork is essential to a successful and efficient operation. Of course, it goes without saying that a sales representative must enjoy relating to people.


Do you enjoy a competitive situation, either in sports or in everyday activities? Do you feel challenged by another's accomplishments? This aggressiveness translates into personal ambition, a quality that makes the person possessing it a valuable addition to any working staff. By always striving to be better individually, the person advances the achievements of the whole organization.


What has been your record of dependability over the years? Have you attained a good or better record of attendance at school or work? Do you finish a job you start out to do? The leader of any team or organization must depend on a predictable performance from each member of the team. A good prior record is an excellent indicator of a dependable team player.


Few people will ever admit to a desire for money in the course of the interview. You should assess this trait as thoroughly as your other good or bad points. The desire for money is not a weakness. In the marketplace, it is a definite asset. An honest admission that you desire good pay, as much as you can get, will probably earn more respect from the interviewer than skirting the issue.

Having culled all your assets from the previous pages, commit them to memory. They are as much a part of your selling points as your education and experience. Write a few sentences listing and explaining your assets. Examples: "I am dependable. In school, I was never absent and late only three times in four years." "I am very good with figures." "I had straight A's in algebra and geometry in high school. I am a stickler for perfection. Here's a little brochure I designed and printed." 'That's good quality printing, don't you agree?"

You should memorize similar statements about your own attributes and be prepared to recite them during the interview, as easily as you would your social security number or telephone number. They are every bit as important.


You have made a complete assessment of your skills and abilities, and now you are ready to select the occupation, or at least the general field in the printing industry in which you want to work. You will base the selection on your assessment of your skills and abilities, though you should exercise caution in this respect. An important consideration, apart from your qualifications, is the potential the job offers you in terms of growth and personal gratification.
As we have said before, the fastest-growing segment in the printing industry is the pre-press phase. But a closer look at that growth reveals that much of it comes about because of new labor-saving machines and devices, particularly those in the high-technology electronic and computer-related fields. So, while pre-press operations are on the leading edge of the new printing technologies, it is possible that the job opportunities are more abundant in the other phases: administration, press room, and bindery operation.

The printing industry, like most industries in the computer age, is undergoing rapid change. The qualifications that fitted a person to a job five or ten years ago may now be obsolete, requiring additional new qualifications to perform the same task. For example, press operators on a conventional press in the past needed to rely on their judgment or experience. With today's highly automated presses, press operators instead must be capable of reading and understanding a control panel as complicated as that of an airliner. The seat-of-the-pants skill required a few years ago has been replaced by the seat of intelligence!

In choosing your occupation, you should select an intermediate job and an ultimate goal. If you plan to become a plate-maker or stripper, your ultimate goal might be supervisor of the pre-press operation of a plant. Of course, bear in mind that careers do not always precede in the orderly way you expect. But keep that ultimate goal in mind, and don't be timid about expressing it during the interview.


A resume is a bare-bones outline of your vital statistics, your education and training, your work experience, and your goals. It should be concise, informative, well organized, and easy to read. And since you will be seeking a job in the printing industry, it should be cleanly reproduced on good-quality paper. Here are some tips to bear in mind when you produce your own:


The following structure is recommended by most employment counselors.
  1. Who you are: Name, address, home and work phone numbers and/or E-mail address.

  2. What you are (or would like to be):

  3. Work experience:

  4. Non-work experience:

  5. Special skills:

  6. Education:

  7. Summary:
Description or title of job you are seeking.

List the jobs you have held, in chronological order, starting with the most recent. Don't neglect military service and part-time jobs, however remote the experience might seem from the work you are seeking. On each job, be sure to include the dates, name, and address of the employer, and name of supervisor. While most counselors recommend brevity in furnishing information on the resume, all are agreed that the duties in a previous job should be described fully. Examples: Scouting, church volunteer, hobbies (only if they are in some way related to printing), and civic organizations. Duties, titles, and dates and Language proficiency, teacher or teacher assistant, sports or other competitive awards, or any other special skill or rating, such as pilot's license or first aid certificate.

High school and/or college, degrees, certificates, majors and minors, any special training.

A statement about references being available upon request. You should include a statement about salary expectations and date of availability.


After writing the resume the first time, try rewriting it several times to get your sentences clear and complete. If grammar is not your strongest point, get someone to help with it. Then "boil it down" so that it occupies one page preferably, two at the most. But don't abbreviate. You are not composing a classified ad. Sample resumes are provided at the conclusion of this chapter.


A cover letter should accompany each copy of your resume, whether you mail it or leave it with the interviewer. The purpose of the cover letter is to advertise the fact that you are job hunting, that you believe yourself to be qualified, and that you seek employment especially in the employer's firm. Cover letters must always be addressed specifically to a single firm or individual, never 'To Whom It May Concern."

The cover letter should have all the features of any good advertising letter. Remember the acronym AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. In the first paragraph of the letter, you should capture the attention of the reader by a couple of sentences that promise a solution to a problem: "It is my pleasure to submit the enclosed resume in response to your advertisement in the city paper for a phototypesetter operator. I believe I have the qualifications necessary for the position."
You have captured the employer's attention because you are responding to the company's need for help. You promise a solution by expressing the belief that you are qualified.

In the second paragraph, you arouse the employer's interest by highlighting your main qualifications: 'The position you advertise especially interests me because I excelled in the operation of the phototypesetter in my four years at Metro Tech. I believe I would enjoy the work, and especially working at Metro Press."

In the third paragraph, you elaborate on the points you made in the second paragraph, arousing the employer's desire to learn more: "My instructor at Metro Tech told me that I had a special aptitude for typesetting. I have always been an excellent speller and possess strong grammatical skills."

In the last paragraph, you pave the way for the employer to take action: "I would greatly appreciate a personal interview to discuss my qualifications further and to show you samples of my work. The interview can be scheduled at your convenience. May I call you early next week to make an appointment?" It is better to leave the initiative in your hands, although if the employer wants to see you sooner, your telephone number is on your resume.

Remember, the cover letter is a supplement to your resume: Don't repeat in the letter what is covered in the resume. Make your sentences short and to the point. Each paragraph should not exceed one or two sentences. The cover letter should not over-whelm the resume-plan it so it does not exceed a single typewritten page, with plenty of white space around it so that it is inviting to read.


Your job search will fall into three different categories: cold turkey, referrals, and classified ad responses. Cold turkey means you send your resume and a cover letter unsolicited to as many firms and individuals as possible. This also is known as "broadcasting" your resume. Referrals means following leads supplied by "friends of a friend." Responding to newspaper classified ads is routine, but don't forget that trade publications carry help wanted ads, too. The major U.S. trade magazines are provided in Appendix D.

Remember this important fact: you can't predict where, how, when, and with whom you will connect. Fully 60 to 70 percent of all jobs are not advertised at all, according to government statistics. The majority of jobs are filled from unsolicited inquiries from job seekers, or from referrals by business associates.

A prospect list is vital to your successful job search. It should contain as many names as you can muster, because you want the list to cover every possibility. The most obvious source for a prospect list is the "Printers" section in the phone book's yellow pages, but don't stop there. In addition to the Printers heading, there are other headings that are less well-known: Color Separators, Copying and Duplicating Services, Engraved Stationery, Lithographic Negatives and Plates, and many others.

Most yellow pages contain an index to make it easier for you to find the headings. Also, there are many printing installations in firms that are not primarily in the printing business. As an example, insurance companies often operate an in-house printing plant to produce insurance policies and other printed material. These captive shops are not listed as such in the Yellow Pages, but you may find that they are members of the local graphic arts professional association in your area. Most such associations maintain a job search exchange which could put you in contact with the in-house printers, although they probably would not permit you access to their membership list. The association normally screens job applicants and forwards promising resumes to interested members. The members then contact the applicant directly. Consult the list of local graphic arts associations given in Appendix C for the name and address of the one nearest you.

In developing a prospect list from among firms in the private sector, don't neglect the other sectors that also offer job opportunities: government, education, and nonprofit. To find federal, state, and municipal offices, look in the white pages of your telephone book.

Federal offices are listed under "U.S. Government," and state and municipal offices are listed under the name of the city and state. In most cases, you will not apply directly to the target printing plant, but to a central personnel office.

How many names? This is like asking how long a person's legs ought to be. In response to that question, Abraham Lincoln said they should be long enough to reach the ground. Your list should include every potential employer in your area. How can you be sure that you have all the names? For this you will have to turn to outside help: libraries, local chamber of commerce, and school job counselors.

Libraries have numerous directories and reference materials that might contain the information you seek. Seek out the librarian personally-he or she is usually knowledgeable and eager to be of assistance. Your local chamber of commerce will be glad to offer any assistance it can, which may even mean that it will make its membership list available to you. Job counselors in schools and colleges have access to a great deal of reference material, including books and pamphlets on how to land a job.

Develop a referral network. Along with the development of an actual list of prospects to whom you will broadcast your cover letter and resume, you also should develop a personal reference net-work. Simply stated, this means talking to people. It does not mean that you ask everyone you meet for a job. Your purpose in talking to others is twofold: to learn the identity of any person who might know someone in a printing plant, and to let it be known that you are looking for a job.

Consider this: everyone who is active in business knows at least 500 to a 1,000 individuals, most of them by name and occupation. If you "tap" this resource, by talking to a dozen people you may be sending out feelers to an untold number of connections, any one of which could result in that ultimate reward, the interview... and the job offer.

Once you have a name, you can contact that person for further information about the target employer, such as the name of the hiring executive, size and location of the plant, and kind of work. Now you have two names for your cover letter, which might begin thus: "Dear Mr. Smith: Ms. Helen Jones, who works in your bindery department, gave me your name. She said you are the person I should contact in my search for a position with your company...." The use of a name known to your prospect captures the reader's attention and sets the stage for your selling message.

To sum up your prospect list development: consult the yellow and white pages, seek help from your local graphic arts association and chamber of commerce, and talk to as many people as you can-librarians, job counselors, and the people you contact daily.


There are two main types of references: personal and professional. Personal references are furnished by teachers, ministers, and influential friends. They concern such generalities as honesty, dependability, cheerfulness, and so on. Personal references usually are considered worthless by prospective employers, because no job applicant would submit an unfavorable evaluation. How-ever, even though they have limited effect, your reference file should contain at least three or four such documents. If you're lucky enough to possess one from a very influential person, such as a member of Congress or a prominent citizen, by all means pro-duce it during the interview.

Professional references are more to the point-they have to do with your performance on the job, and they are scrutinized care-fully by the interviewer. They come from former academic teachers and/or instructors at your technical school, supervisors at your previous employment, and from coworkers, this last source not to be minimized..

Because of laws governing unemployment insurance, laws for-bidding job discrimination, and other restrictions, many large corporation lawyers advise against furnishing references to departing employees, fearing that too-detailed references would make them liable to court action in the event of any future claims or charges. As a result, professional references are rare or, at best, so sketchy and generalized as to be ineffective. If you find yourself unable to obtain a reference from management, try going to a former coworker instead.

Here are some questions you might ask the coworker in outlining a professional reference:
  • How long have you known me?

  • What was the name of the firm we both worked for?

  • What were my titles and duties?

  • What was our relationship on the job?

  • How would you evaluate my performance on the job?

  • How was my record of attendance?

  • Would you rehire me if you had the authority?
You should remind the coworker that he or she may be called by your prospective employer to confirm facts. You might even rehearse the replies to questions the employer might ask.

Design a portfolio. One of the most effective ways to impress an interviewer is to assemble all the facts about yourself and your career in a portfolio or scrapbook. Buy or make an oversize (22" x 11") album designed to conveniently display letter size and smaller documents, photos, clippings, and samples of your work. Subdivide the portfolio into personal, educational, work-related, and miscellaneous headings.

Let your imagination run free in designing the portfolio, especially if you're targeting an art-related career. To give you an idea of the kinds of material to include, here is a partial list of typical items:
  • One good photo of yourself

  • Diplomas (use photocopies)

  • Certificates of completion of training courses

  • Personal and professional references

  • A sample printed piece that you contributed to. Explain alongside just what part you played in its production: typesetting, design, stripping, press, folding, or whatever. The sample should be unattached, so the interviewer may remove it from the portfolio for a closer look and feel.

  • Newspaper and magazine clippings. These should be about work or non-work related areas, especially those that demonstrate achievement: winner of spelling bee, appointment to ROTC, Junior Achievement award, and other items of interest.

If this article has helped you in some way, will you say thanks by sharing it through a share, like, a link, or an email to someone you think would appreciate the reference.

By using Employment Crossing, I was able to find a job that I was qualified for and a place that I wanted to work at.
Madison Currin - Greenville, NC
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