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Businesses often seek office employees through school placement offices. That is one reason why good personality ratings in school and the attainment of high grades and specific skills are important. Too often, graduates bypass the placement office and try to get their jobs unaided, despite the fact that the office is there to assist them. Get acquainted with your placement office director whose job it is to help graduates by matching job openings with qualified candidates. It is your responsibility to complete the necessary forms for registration and to report to the office regularly.

Information about job leads may come through friends or relatives. Many companies regard their present employees as their best recruiters of new workers. To follow such a lead is an accepted practice, but it is only the initial contact. From there on, the qualifications of the applicants usually decide whether they get the job.

An excellent job can sometimes be obtained by applying at a private employment agency. The agency will have job candidates fill out application forms and, after assessing their skills, may send them on several interviews. Many companies like to hire people directly from employment agencies, since the agencies first "screen" all applicants and send only those who seem to fit the qualifications. A disadvantage is the fact that a private employment agency charges a fee for its services, usually about a week's salary. However, it is becoming a common practice for the employer to pay the fee even for entry level positions.

Many people prefer to use the facilities of the local office of the state employment service. Representatives of these offices very often visit high schools near graduation to explain to the seniors how to register for a position. The location of the state employment service office is easily determined through the local telephone directory; its services are entirely free. In New York State, for example, joint programs are conducted with more than 700 high schools to provide counseling, aptitude testing, and placement for seniors about to enter the labor market. The service is anxious to help employers find qualified workers and to help workers find the most advantageous jobs for which they qualify.

Positions for clerks are listed in the classified section of the newspaper. There are two kinds of want-ads-blind advertisements requiring a letter of application and complete advertisements giving information that enables the applicant to arrange a personal interview at once. A blind advertisement describes the position but does not identify the employing company. The applicant must address a letter of application to a box number; if the letter is successful, the candidate gets the interview. In the recommended reading list at the end of this book, you will find excellent sources of information about how to write letters of application. You should study these carefully before preparing your own application letter.

Because matching people with the right jobs is so important, companies have central personnel departments where all applicants for positions are screened by trained interviewers. Candidates go to the personnel office for their first interviews and usually have conversations with members of the department who form general impressions of the applicants personal appearance, grooming, speech, and poise. The discussions, which usually revolve around candidates' interests and training, give the applicants an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the job requirements and to indicate how their qualifications meet those requirements.

Applicants are asked to complete application forms. Since much of clerical work involves instructions, applicants should be most careful to complete the forms exactly as they are told. If the last name should be written first, an application from Mary Whyte in-stead of Whyte, Mary will get little attention.

The interview often is followed by a clerical test or a battery of tests which examines for a number of clerical abilities: filing, arithmetic reasoning, spelling, and grammar. Another widely used clerical test involves recognition of similarity or dissimilarity of figures or names. For instance, an applicant is asked to check only the names or numbers that are alike in a list such as:

Applicants for positions as clerks may also be asked to take a test in typewriting. The usual straight-copy test is most often used, but the test may also include typewriting applications, such as preparing a form letter from information given out of context or arranging material properly on the page.

Superior students may have received a certificate for having successfully taken the National Business Entrance Tests in their schools before graduation. Showing the certificate during an interview will improve the applicant's chances of being hired.

After approval by the personnel department, an applicant usually is sent directly to the department in which the vacancy exists for an interview with the supervisor. During this interview, the supervisor discusses the exact nature of the job and also has an opportunity to decide whether the prospective clerk will fit into that particular office and work well with the other clerks already there.
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