So you’re in high school looking for your first job, just graduated post-secondary and you’re on the hunt for a career… or you have a job but you’d like to find something different? You can expect to go through the ever-daunting interview process. I don’t believe I’ve met a single person who enjoys the interview process.
It can be extremely nerve wracking, especially because in North America for each job position there are more than four applicants. How do you make yourself look like the best?
Not to fear! I’m here to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the course of 8 years in the working world through experience and schooling in order to make sure you’re the best of the best!
How to Ace the Interview!
It all starts with the application. If you want the job you have to put time and effort into tailoring a resume/ cover letter to show your interest. I know that if you’re just looking for a part-time job throughout the school year it can seem a bit superfluous but it shows that you care and have initiative. So make sure that you write out a proper cover letter and resume (and get someone to spell-check) before you send it out! When looking for a job I usually set myself a goal of two applications a day– that way I can ensure the cover letter and resume are up to snuff and not rushed.
Do you need a job for two months from now? Think it’s too soon to start looking? No! Make sure to send out applications at least a month in advance to when you want to start work. From experience I’ve found that it can take up to four weeks to hear back, especially if the job was posted on a website. Look at the date that the job applications close so you can get a better idea of when you’d hear back.
Walmart, Home Depot and other large companies tend to have an application website. Have you taken the quiz? This is how they filter their applicants. Make sure to answer it completely honestly and don’t disregard the questions.
So you got the call back! Congrats. It’s not over yet though, if you want the job you have to be prepared. What to bring to an interview can vary depending on the job type. If you’re a design student and applying to a design-related job make sure to bring your portfolio! Along with your printed cover letter, resume, references and letters of reference if you have them.
Always bring your printed cover letter, resume and references to an interview. It makes you look more professional and organized.
Pro Tip: Don’t just print your resume on a normal sheet of paper. Head over to staples (or another office supplier) and buy resume-grade paper. It makes you look much more professional. Plus it will last a long time, so it’s an investment!
You need to sell yourself, and a good way to do that is practice interview questions. The worst thing you can do is be stumped on a question during an interview. Here’s a list of the most common questions (and stumpers!)
Tell me about yourself.
Why would you excel at this job?
Tell me about a difficult situation you’ve had with a customer / colleague and how you handled it?
What are your weaknesses / strengths?
Why do you want to work here?
Why should we hire you?
How do you deal with a problem? (ie. with manager / co-worker / customer)
What do you know about this company?
Why did you leave your last job?
Do you have any questions for me?
Number 10 is especially important. You need to come prepared with at least one question to ask the interviewer. Research on the company comes in handy for this part- for example if a company works in textiles you could ask how they have incorporated sustainability in their manufacturing. By asking a really good and thoughtful question it makes you look genuinely interested in the job. I wish I had known that myself for my first couple interviews.
First impressions are important. One of the reasons I landed my most recent job is the handshake – the owner of the company told me it’s good to know that someone isn’t giving you the ‘dead-fish’ or ‘iron grip.’ Make sure to practice your handshake to get it just right.
Dress the part
I’ve been to countless interviews. When I was 15 I had an interview for a clothing company – when you’re 15 you don’t know too much about job interviews and I went wearing a sweater and jeans. Don’t be me.
Last year I experienced a group interview and a girl there was wearing leggings and a lace t-shirt. Spoiler alert: she didn’t get the job. But I did, I was wearing black dress pants, a white blouse and black blazer. Don’t feel bad about being over-dressed (unless you’re wearing a ball-gown) because it shows that you want to present yourself nicely.
Tattoos, Body Piercings, Hair Colour
This is a tricky debate but if you have tattoos you should over them. I have a tattoo on my forearm and have made sure to keep it concealed for every interview. This was a good decision because even though employers are not allowed to discriminate, if they haven’t hired you they might decide not to because of the first impression.
I was speaking to an employer last year and after working for him for a few months I finally told him about my forearm tattoo. He asked me when I was going to get it removed and that I should keep it covered because it’s unprofessional. He wasn’t being rude – I understand where he comes from because it’s a completely different generation. That’s why it’s good to do research and know who you’re working for.
Similarly, I used to have hot-pink hair – in the Interior Design field it’s rather unheard of to see someone with unnatural hair colours. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. However it doesn’t look professional.
Leave on a good note
Okay, so you’ve completed your interview. You practiced, you dressed the part and now you’re done. So what’s next? Send a thank you note! If you want the job, you should always make sure to thank the employer for taking time out of their day to interview you.
Whether you choose to send an email or card is up to you. For my last interview I decided to send them a hand written card because I felt it would look more sincere. Although I have written emails as well. It depends on how quickly you want to respond (mail can take up to a week, email is instant.)
Get the job!
Hopefully this overview has been useful. If I could go back to my fourteen year-old self I wish I had this information. A lot of life is trial and error and it really depends on your qualifications and what you have to offer. As long as you present yourself well and look professional you should find a job in no time. Never forget that connections are especially important as well – if you know a friend or family member in the industry that you want to work for, don’t feel bad about asking them for job opportunities. They might know someone who knows someone!
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