By Joyce Lain Kennedy

DEAR JOYCE: Even though I have researched and rehearsed my answers in job interviews, I always seem to go blank and choke when the time comes. What do you advise to get over freezing up when I'm on the hot seat? -- K.B.B.

Either practice interviewing for days on end until you could do it in your sleep, or frame your performance around the following four questions suggested by Nella Barkley, president of the New York-based international life and career consulting firm Crystal-Barkley Corporation (

1) Why are you here?

2) What can you do for me?

3) How can I know you can do this?

4) How much will it cost to get you?

This quartet of basic questions is easy to remember and dead on.

DEAR JOYCE: I'm a liberal arts major, and my internship this year, my senior year, doesn't look as though it will result in a job offer. No more unpaid work for me -- I have loans to pay off, and I need a job that pays the currency of the land. And yes, I've been stalking the campus career center for the last month. What now? -- K.I.

Begin designing your employment plan by getting the job-growth lay of the land. Here's a good start: Peruse the Bureau of Labor Statistics publication, The Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2010. Chase it down online at and scroll down to click on a picture of the cover.

You'll find about 40 pages of new charts summarizing employment prospects for 2008-2018 covering hundreds of occupations. You'll see which fields are likely to sprout, and which are status quo or even withering.

Keep on stalking your campus career center. Even if your facility doesn't list a job of immediate interest to you, it probably sponsors tutorials on how to use social media. (Don't assume you know the finer points of commanding Everything Digital just because you're a millennial.) Additionally, take the center's recommendations on the most useful online job boards -- general, niche or targeted to new grads.

Tip of the week: The gold standard of gateway sites continues to be The Riley Guide (

DEAR JOYCE: I want to apply for a job at a mall store. I was able to get the cell phone number of the store manager. Should I call him on his cell phone first or just show up to apply? -- B.G.

Yes, launch your contact with the store manager on his cell phone if the store is on fire, an army of termites is munching its way through the front door, or an asteroid is about to strike the building.

Otherwise, never make your first contact with a hiring manager via the manager's cell phone, which is considered personal property. Your intrusion would be deemed intrusive and you would look like a clod. Even managers under age 25, who may not be all that familiar with business etiquette, likely will be annoyed to get an unsolicited call from a job hunter on a personal cell phone or home phone.

But speaking of retail hiring, more than 7,000 job openings at Sears and Kmart are being posted on, a social media site. Jobs will be posted by Sign up for free accounts on both sites, create a profile on and link it to Then sign up for any of more than 8,000 job channels. You can link your Twitter account to your e-mail or phone to receive instant notification. If you don't know how to use these two sites, plan to spend a few hours orienting yourself.

DEAR JOYCE: Is it true that employers may be doing less checking of criminal records before hiring new employees? -- M.T.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is working on new guidelines that require empirical evidence for the "business necessity" defense in screening and hiring practices. New guidelines should be out within a couple of years. The issue is complex. If you're dealing with it, go online and hunt for "Special Report on Background Checking -- Burden of Proof."

Available at

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