Advice for students seeking employment on and off-campus

By Megan Healy

The NIU Career Services Office and local businesses offer advice to students on how to land a job both on and off campus.

When to look for jobs:

“The best time to look for a job on campus is the beginning of each semester. This is normally when most of the openings occur,” said Steve Cunningham, vice president for Administration and Human Resources. “However, if a student does not find a job at the beginning of the semester, they can continue to apply as openings occur throughout the entire year.”

Where to look for jobs:

Aside from hitting the pavement to look for a job, students can use the aid of NIU to do internet job searches.

“The Victor eRecruiting database is exclusive to NIU students and alumni; it should be your first job search engine,” said Cindy Henderson, NIU executive director of Career Services. The database can be accessed with a Z-id at Students can search for off-campus jobs and internships including part-time positions. Other search engines may not be as location specific, Henderson said.

For students who are looking to work within the university, job applications are available online. By visiting the NIU Human Resource Services website, there is an option to view all the student employment opportunities. However, according to, first students must file a general employment application online or by visiting the Human Resource Services in Swen Parson Hall Room 232. Then they can apply for any job that is posted.

There are limitations for students who want to work within the university. According to the Student Employment Guidelines pamphlet, students must be enrolled in at least six semester hours during both fall and spring semesters to be eligible to take part in NIU’s student employee program. The guidelines also state students may work a total of 43 hours in a semi-monthly pay period as long as they keep a minimum average 2.5 GPA.

According to, the university employs between 3,200 and 3,800 students annually.

Finding jobs on campus can be as simple as asking.

“A way to find jobs on campus is just asking professors,” said senior geology major Matt Buter. “I asked [a professor] if he had extra space [for researching assistants] and he said, ‘yeah.'”

DeKalb is always hiring students, said Jim Allen, executive director of DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.

“During the end of October between November, a lot of businesses start hiring for those two holiday months, that is where retail business get 70-80 percent of business,” Allen said.

How to prepare before an interview:

“We recommend students dress professionally whenever they present themselves for an interview,” Henderson said. “At a minimum for ladies, that means skirts at the knee, hose and flats or low heels. For gentlemen, shirt and tie, khakis or dockers, no tennis shoes. We have a number of suggestions on display of what you should wear in our Career Resource Center, Campus Life Building Room 235.”

“When students come into an interview they should be dressed casual and clean cut, well shaven and just presentable,” said Vanessa Leuer Sycamore Jimmy John’s hiring manager.

Leuer said many students come out to Sycamore in search of jobs.

Once the application is submitted, the applicant should wait at least two weeks before checking back with a large business to make sure it was received. If it is a smaller business, applicants can check back after one week, Henderson said

The appearance of a future employee is important.

“Younger people think it’s just a job interview, but the business will look at it as how [potential employees] represent themselves,” Allen said.

Dressing properly can prove to go a long way.

“To my job interview I wore dress pants, button down shirt, got a hair cut and wore dress shoes,” said senior communications major Sean Anderson.

What to bring to the interview:

According to the Career Services Part-Time Job Guide pamphlet, it is important for job hunters to be organized and prepared before they go to look for a job by having a prepared resume and a list of at least three references on hand. The guide also advises to be prepared for an immediate interview with a business owner or manager when applying for a job.

“Also bringing a list of classes you have taken or are in could be helpful to the employer,” Allen said. “This is something I would look for when I was hiring.”

Being prepared for an interview is a good first step to getting a foot in the door.

“To the interview I brought my resume in a work folder to look more professional,” Anderson said. “I believe it helped because they saw I was more serious about working for them even though it wasn’t a big time job; I believe being prepared for an interview will help me get jobs in the future as well.”

What to do after the interview:

NIU Career Services representatives and local business owners agree that showing gratitude after the interview is important for potential employees.

“It is extremely important for the student to send a thank you note after the interview has been conducted,” Henderson said. “It is not necessary to send one when the interview has been granted.”