CHAMPAIGN – Curley Lee recently interviewed a job applicant at his Ford of Champaign dealership and was surprised by one of the man's questions.
"What kind of car do I get to drive?" the eager applicant asked.
"Probably the one you rode up in," Lee replied.
Lee recounted that story as an example of what not to ask when you go to a job interview. Lee was one of five area business people who spoke to area job seekers Thursday at Parkland College about what employers look for when hiring.
One of the worst things Donna Caldwell, director of human resources at Volition Inc., has been asked came when she was interviewing someone from the Chicago area with experience in the video gaming industry.
"He asked, 'Is it easy to meet girls in Champaign?' That was the only question he asked," Caldwell said.
Sharon Sims, director of human resources for Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana, supplied a whole list of things not to say in job interviews.
"Don't let your first question be, 'How much does the job pay?' and 'How much time off do I get?'" she said. "Don't bad-mouth former employers or anybody else."
As for what to wear, "don't come in revealing too much of your form," she said, nixing too-short shirts and too-tight pants. "You're not there to make a fashion statement, but to show you're efficient and reliable."
Lee added another thing to the list.
"If you don't have tattoos, don't run out and get one before the interview, or you may hear me say, 'Let me get back with you,'" he said. "It is not a corporate image. Anything you feel may not be a corporate image, change it before you go out for an interview."
But don't think you have to be perfect to work at Ford of Champaign, he said.
"I want honesty and integrity. If you went to the 11th grade and quit, that's OK with me. Just tell me about it," he said. "If you don't have a resume, call my wife. She'll help you put one together."
Lee said his first job was washing cars at a Louisiana dealership at age 16.
"I used to stutter and had a bad inferiority complex ... but I told them where I was, and they gave me an opportunity," he told the 50 people in the audience. "You can do the same thing. It's not where you start, it's where you finish."
Lee said he believes the secret to business success lies in relationships.
"It's not how many people you know, but how many people believe in you," he added.
Angie Hannagan, employee relations manager at FedEx Ground in Champaign, said her company is hiring part-time package handlers, a line-haul service manager and a part-time service manager. She said turnover has been cut by a third since FedEx began giving pre-employment tours to applicants, even before they're interviewed. On one recent afternoon, "19 took the 3:30 tour, and six left because it wasn't the job for them," Hannagan said. All came away with a greater understanding of what package handlers do.
Chip Hall, field representative for Laborers Local 703, said the union doesn't have apprenticeships open right now. But it's taking applications for when apprenticeships come available.
People can apply from 8 a.m. to noon the first Tuesday of each month at the union hall in Urbana, he said. They should bring a photo ID.
Caldwell said Volition is looking for quality-assurance testers, programmers and artists. Testers can expect to be asked several "logic" questions, such as "How would you explain the Internet to a grandparent who has never used it before?" or "How would you explain to an alien how a telephone works?"
Sims said Cunningham Children's Home is looking for people to be role models and mentors for youths. She said applicants can expect to be asked what accomplishment they're most proud of, what their biggest mistake was and what they learned from it, and what process they use for making tough decisions in life.
Thursday's panel, "Connecting The Job Seeker and The Employer," was presented by the Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services, in cooperation with Parkland College and the Illinois Employment and Training Center.