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CompleteCandidate: Bridging the gap between graduates and their careers

Kathy Chiarella was thrilled when her son Michael graduated college last year, but the excitement began to wane when January rolled around and he was still struggling to find a job.

Fearing he had lost confidence and needed some help, she called CompleteCandidate, a career service for recent college grads co-owned by Bluffton resident Nancy Thomas.

“He was going on these job interviews for things that weren’t even related to his field,” recalls Chiarella, who lives in Harrison, New York.

Thomas and her business partner, Nadine Bilotta of Mamaroneck, New York, came to the rescue, imparting skills they developed over 18 years as executive headhunters. The partners started CompleteCandidate three years ago after friends of Bilotta’s daughter began to graduate college and were unable to launch their careers.

“They were completely clueless,” Thomas says. “So many of them were just kind of going into the abyss on their first job search. They’ve lost all of their confidence and interest, and then they get underemployed.”

So Thomas and Bilotta took on 30 grads as free case studies and developed an 85-page workbook that provides all a graduate needs to know to get a foot in an employer’s door. Since then, the job-search experts report that 98 percent of the 150 grads they have guided through the process have found careers.

Most of CompleteCandidate’s customers have been in the Northeast. They have been placed in such diverse positions as sportswriter and FBI agent. The candidates range from those seeking internships while still in college to recent Ph.D.s.

Thomas says the agency would love to help grads in South Carolina and is trying to spread the word. She and Bilotta have also been approaching colleges around the country to provide their job-hunting workbook and services.

The service typically costs anywhere from $695 to $1,195. Thomas and Bilotta guide the grads through the workbook in hour-long sessions by phone, FaceTime, Skype or in person, depending on where the customer lives. They start with a personal assessment to determine the candidate’s favorite skills and the kind of work they would like to do.

“We tell them you’ve got to do what you love every day,” Thomas says. “And if you do what you’re good at and what you like doing, then the money is going to follow.”

Then it’s on to creating a resume and building a strong LinkedIn profile, guiding grads on the proper buzz words employers in their field want to see. The grads learn how to network with alumni associations and other avenues to find the hidden job market. CompleteCandidate also helps with cover letters and preparing for interviews, even calling the grads for a pre-interview pep talk.

Thomas says she and Bilotta made more money as executive headhunters, but helping young people follow their dreams brings a deeper reward.

“We realized there was a huge need, and we were having so much fun helping them,” Thomas says.

So she and Bilotta have made CompleteCandidate their sole business focus.

Chiarella is glad Thomas and Bilotta made the switch. With their help, her son Michael, a 2015 sports-management graduate of SUNY Cortland, landed his dream job. A lifelong New York Mets fan, he now works in the Major League Baseball team’s ticket office.

“He didn’t have to settle for something,” says his mom. “It’s not even like a job, he has so much passion for the team.”

She says she recently saw Bilotta in the grocery store and had some trouble containing her emotions.

“I just wanted to cry,” she says. “I was so happy.”