While addressing the University of South Dakota's most recent graduates, Larry Long, circuit court judge with the state's 2nd Judicial Circuit, was blunt about the job market: "It's tough out there."
Long shared tips on how to get a job at USD's 34th winter session commencement exercises, held Saturday in the DakotaDome.
"Because the economy is in the tank, finding a job and keeping a job will be tougher for you than it was in my day," he said.
Long said his office recently filled a $26,000-per-year position.
"They received 80 applications," he said. "Fifty applicants had graduated from high school, 13 held two-year associate degrees, 24 were bachelor's degrees, one applicant had a masters degree and one applicant was a lawyer. Ten applicants were invited to interview."
He described these numbers as "typical."
However, Long said the students do have an advantage over many potential employees: "You grew up in South Dakota or were educated in South Dakota," he said.
Long said that when he served as South Dakota's attorney general, he came in contact with employers from across the country.
"These employers repeatedly told me they preferred to hire people from the Upper Midwest (because they) practice personal values these companies seek. So today, thank your parents not only for the financial assistance they gave you, but for the values they taught you. Those values will serve you well," he said.
There are also several things recent grads can do to better ensure they get hired to the jobs they want.
Long said that when applying for any position, you should "have an English teacher edit and correct your resume. Many employers automatically reject resumes that contain spelling and grammar errors.
"The ability to communicate clearly in writing is a very desirable skill," he said. "If your English skills are not good, either improve them or hide that defect as long as you can."
They should also clean up their credit ratings.
"Many employers will ask to check your credit rating," Long said. "The boss wants employees who pay their bills on time and who avoid stressful financial circumstances, so find out what your credit rating is and clean it up if it's poor."
The same holds true for their criminal records.
"Last year, Gov. Rounds issued eight pardons for open container, 15 more for petty theft, another 21 for possession of a controlled substance, and that's usually marijuana," Long said. "Virtually all of these pardons were issued to young college graduates who had been refused employment because of these convictions.
"If you have any items like these in your past, talk to a lawyer and get your record cleaned up," he said.
Perhaps most importantly, employees must be team players. Long said that whenever he hires someone, one of the things he considers is how well they will interact with the other employees.
"An employee who cannot or will not get along with the other staff will eventually destroy the teamwork that the boss has worked so hard to develop," he said.
University president James Abbot also addressed the crowd, praising the continuing efforts of the faculty.
"The academic success of our students is a direct result of our extraordinary faculty, who go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our students thrive in the classroom, courtroom and laboratory," he said. "(The students') education is the reason our university exists."