Employers know that when they hire a student who has competed on the human resources team at California State University, Stanislaus, they are getting the best in the nation.
In a matter of seconds, the students can recite knowledge on a number of complex human resources issues: Employment law. Benefits. Acronyms for government agencies and legislation. Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules. Union rights.
As the team's adviser, Professor Ed Hernandez, read a list of questions drawn from some of those categories on a recent weekday, the students tapped a bell, often calling out the answer before Hernandez could finish the question.
They repeat this exercise several times a week, prepping for an upcoming competition. Cram sessions typically last two or three hours.
Students said it's the level of dedication that sets the team apart from other universities in the human resources games, which feature questions selected from the national human resources certification examination posed in "Jeopardy!"-style matches.
The Stanislaus State team has won the national title for two consecutive years, beating notable schools such as Cornell University. The team won spots in the state competition earlier this month and will move on to the Pacific Western Regional tournament in Long Beach on April 4 and 5. Students rely on fund- raisers and donations to get them to contests.
The human resources competition is more than a game, Hernandez said. It's a tool that will help students launch their human resources careers.
"The real goal is to give them a leg up," he said.
A recent graduate of the team landed a job interview at a hospital in the Bay Area, he said, where the recruiter asked 20 human resources-related questions. The two other candidates, also recent college graduates, answered only a handful of questions correctly. The Stanislaus State student nailed all 20 -- and the job.
"We get to learn stuff that employers value," said Claudia Aceves, 22, a student on the team.
A number of major employers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, including E.&J. Gallo Winery, Foster Farms, Hilmar Cheese and Black Oak Casino, have sought former team members for jobs, Hernandez said.
"It is prestigious to have it on job applications or for graduate schools," said Tim Boone, 22. "People know who we are."
About half of the team members are planning to attend law school. Others are looking into jobs in the human resources field.
James Koelewyn, 28, uses some of the skills at his job in the university's office of information technology, where he assists with hiring other students.
Team member Jessica Hastie, 21, recently applied for a job with a Merced company and was told by a hiring manager: "Your résumé is too good to be true."
Students on the two three-member teams that will advance to the competition in Long Beach include Boone, Tabitha Lilly, Katie Knell, Josh Pinheiro, Demetrious Zarefakis and Koelewyn. Zachary Davis, Hastie and Aceves are backups.
Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-4574.
TEST YOUR HR KNOWLEDGE
Sample questions. What is:
1 A severe state of stress that shows as exhaustion, depersonalization and low accomplishment?
2 A component of employee compensation consisting of indirect financial rewards, usually received by virtue of employment with the organization?
3 The termination of an employee for reasons that are either illegal or inappropriate?
4 The act that guarantees the privacy of personnel files for employees of the United States federal government?
5 The right for bargaining unit members to pay only that portion of the union dues which is attributable to mainline union responsibilities?
3 Wrongful discharge
4 Privacy Act of 1974
5 Beck rights