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Employers offer insider tips on how to get hired at career exploration expo

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When it comes to landing a job in the hospitality or retail sectors, there are plenty of ripe spots to look in Watertown.

Managers who make hiring decisions at the Hilton Garden Inn, Cracker Barrel and Lowe’s offered inside tips for job hunters Wednesday at the Workplace employment agency. Five such workshops featuring businesses from different industries were hosted during the day at the Career Exploration Expo, which also highlighted manufacturing, health care, starting a business and using social media as a resource.

Jody L. Petit, general manager at the Hilton Garden Inn, said the hotel hires 90 to 100 employees a year, including housekeepers, front-desk workers and restaurant workers. Those entry-level positions start with an hourly wage from $9 to $15, she said, and can become a steppingstone to management positions.

When interviewing job candidates, Mrs. Petit said, she asks them about their long-term career plans to gauge how devoted they will be to the company.

“I ask them where they are going to be in two years, if it’s moving on to the next job or advancing within the company,” she said, adding that creating a positive first impression is important. “If you’re well-dressed in a suit and have a smile, you’ll probably get an interview right away. If my co-workers don’t like you for some reason, you probably won’t get the job because they’re my eyes and ears.”

Checking personal Facebook accounts is also fair game when Mrs. Petit makes hiring decisions. Job candidates won’t be hired if they critique former employers on the website, have negative attitudes or post pictures and comments suggesting they’re always partying.

“If you’re talking trash about your past employer, you’ll probably talk bad about me,” she said. “And when people search for the Hilton Garden Inn on Google, our name could come up” with those comments.

When Lowe’s human resources manager Michelle A. DeRoche interviews candidates, she said, she evaluates where they could fit within the company later in their careers. Often those who advance to higher positions are transferred to work at other locations in the region.

Last spring, Ms. DeRoche interviewed more than 500 candidates to hire 47 employees. She hires candidates who find ways to set themselves apart.

“You have to figure out what’s going to put yourself ahead of everyone else,” she said. “I’m looking at what you wear, how you present yourself and for people with energy. I need people who can make decisions in a fast-paced work environment.”

Cracker Barrel is hiring for several positions and will be looking for 25 to 30 employees next spring, said hiring manager Joseph A. Wessner, who has conducted interviews for 25 years and interviewed more than 7,500 people. One of the first things he checks for on resumes is long periods of unemployment, which can disqualify candidates.

“If you haven’t been working for a long period of time, there should be a reason,” he said. “We’re looking for friendly people who will show up to work on time every day.”

Calling to thank employers after the interview, he said, and following up a week later are also important steps that can set candidates apart.

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