Interview Basics for First Time Job Hunters

by Emily Guier, Head Editor, INALJ Wyoming

Interview Basics for First Time Job Hunters

emilyguierAs the school year winds up, I’ve been thinking a lot about teenagers job hunting for a summer job or internship and approaching the dreaded interview for the first time. A lot of advice I would give a first-time job hunter are basics that are good for library professionals to periodically review as well.

1. Dress the part. Unless you show up wearing a tux, overdressing for an interview is difficult to do. Even for a teen looking for a part-time, temporary job should dress up, and I don’t mean by wearing your least holey pair of jeans. I’ve also found that it’s helpful to dress up for a phone interview. Even if the interviewer can’t see what you’re wearing, dressing as if they can puts you in the right frame of mind to nail those tricky questions.

2. Come prepared. Have a copy of the job description and be familiar with the things the employer is looking for. Prepare a few questions you have about the job: what is the office culture like, is there room for advancement, what qualities do you look for in an employee, etc. if the job requires a resume, bring an extra copy.

3. Turn off your phone, or better yet don’t bring it to the interview at all. Switching it to vibrate is not the same thing as silencing it, and an employer notices when you’re fumbling with a vibrating phone during an interview. Likewise, texting or looking at Facebook while you’re waiting for your interview may not impart the impression you intend.

4. Early is on time, on time is late, and late is a black mark against you. The job market is competitive, whether you’re a professional looking to move up the ladder or a first-time job hunter just entering the market. When you’re competing against many people for the same job, employers will be looking for easy ways to eliminate candidates who aren’t suitable, and punctuality is important in any career field.

5. Practice leaving gap fillers out of your speech. Everyone has a language crutch: um, ah, like, so. Identify what your particular crutch is and start working on eliminating it when you speak. An employer won’t notice you taking a few minutes to really consider a question before answering, and that time will help you formulate a response and leave out the ahs that creep in when you’re speaking off the cuff.

6. Eye contact is important. For teenagers especially, eye contact can sometimes be difficult. This is another skill that may take some practice. You don’t want to look shifty if you can’t maintain eye contact, but you don’t want to stare an employer down either. A firm handshake is also important. These two together impart a sense of confidence to the employer, and they’re easy skills to master.

7. Prep basic questions. Most interviews have a set of basic questions you can count on: tell me about yourself, how did you hear about the job, why do you want to work here, what questions do you have, etc. Brainstorming potential interview questions and rehearsing answers allows you to go into an interview feeling prepared. For those who haven’t interviewed much, practicing with a friend is a good way to get some of the jitters out and work on some of those speech crutches we fall back on when nervous.

Are there other basic interview skills I’ve missed in my list? Any good interview stories from your first job? How about quirks that drive you crazy when you’re interviewing potential employees? I’d love to hear about all things interview from you!

  3 comments for “Interview Basics for First Time Job Hunters

  1. Kendra
    June 7, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Great tips! I’d like to add one more-the thank you note. This may seem like a post-interview tip but if you’d like your note to stand out, you will be thinking about it during your interview. I recently interviewed people for a paraprofessional job. The person who got the job is the person who sent the ‘thank you’ note.

    They were all excellent candidates. There were four I would have hired without reservation. There were three “top” candidates in that they each had a skill our library didn’t have and would have added value in addition to simply filling a position that needed to be filled. I’m not sure why most didn’t bother. Maybe it’s because they thought they were overqualified for the job and thought their skills would make the choice. Everyone was overqualified based on the job description. Maybe it’s because they didn’t want the job after all and this was their subtle, ‘thanks but I’m not interested.’ Maybe it’s because they forgot this was something they needed to do as a matter of etiquette.

    When an employer has many qualified candidates from which to choose in a field filled with awesome people, it is often going to come down to those little things like promptness, ability to acknowledge everyone in the interview in a direct way, and the thank you note. There are a lot of articles out there on how to write a good ‘thank you’ note. My advice is to study them. Take notes in your interview about things you could follow up on in your note. Make sure you contact everyone who interviewed you, not just the “boss.” There are bonus points if you can make each note you send to everyone who was in your interview personal to each recipient. People have been known to compare them. It’s just one more way you can stand out.

    But even if you don’t go that far, just send something to acknowledge the interview. It could make the difference.

    • Emily
      June 9, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      The thank you note is a great tip, and I know I’ve seen a lot of resources online about how to write a good one.

  2. June 6, 2014 at 11:52 am

    By all means silence your phone, but I’d say bring it: you will often be asked for information you don’t know by heart, like phone numbers and addresses. A preprinted reference sheet will avoid most, but not all, of these issues.

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