Being a student is tough. You have to study all the time, make sure you can afford something to eat when you get home, and pretty much just learn how to do menial adult tasks while you still feel like a kid. And sometimes, we need a little extra to help us get used to this kind of pattern… thus, you jump into the job searching pool.
But hey, you have a breakthrough, and you’ve scored an interview with someone! Nice!
For some people, this moment may be the first time you’re faced with a job interview. When you looked for work in high school, it was a simple task to ask someone you knew about the job and them saying, “Yeah, we could use a few extra hands over the summer.” When it comes to jobs that are part of a company, like administration or data entry assistance, things get a little more serious. Someone asked you for an interview because they think that you might have what it takes to be a part of the team – and represent the company on a small level. That’s no laughing matter, when you think about it.
So, my first piece of advice to anyone when it comes to their first job interview, is to take it seriously. Don’t slack off when your potential employer asks for more details from you, or asks you to meet a certain deadline when replying. Regardless of whether your interview is at a large firm or at a pet store. Every good impression you make counts.
Make sure that your resume/CV is up to date and has all the details that your potential employer will need to contact you. If you’re unsure of how to build a resume, there are tons of websites that will help you “build” it with a template design. Bonus tip: if you open up Word and look under Templates, there will be a few designs that are dedicated to helping you write up your resume/CV. (The templates on Word come with instructions, so all you have to do is fill out the blanks with relevant information.)
Don’t use weird email addresses to communicate with your potential employers, either. A “safe” email address would ideally include your whole name, your initials and surname, or a combination of both. This isn’t a tried and tested formula, but most formal email addresses I come across always include a surname, so maybe it’s a good idea to always include a surname in your formal email address. This sounds like common sense, right? Funnily enough, people have used email addresses like “SexyGirl23” or similar when communicating with potential employers. Cringe.
Prepare for your interview if you think it necessary. Go over some “typical interview questions” and prep some answers. If you get nervous in situations where you’re under pressure, like an interview, then remind yourself that it’s only a few questions and they’ll be over in no time! Being nervous is normal. Once you get to the interview and start talking to your potential employer, the nervousness will ease.
When it comes to the interview, being on time is crucial. Don’t turn up too early – ten minutes before the interview is perfectly fine – but don’t get there late. However: if you being late wasn’t your fault, i.e. you had a family emergency or there was an accident on the road, then explain that to the person giving you the interview and apologise. Note that being stuck in traffic won’t hold up as an excuse if you’re late.
When you’re in the interview, no matter how messy your thoughts are in your head, ensure that you breathe deeply and take it easy. No one’s trying to scare you here. All they’re doing is testing whether or not you are the ideal employee they want. And if you’re not, then that’s totally okay. You won’t impress everyone you meet. As famous burlesque dancer Dita von Teese once said: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
After the interview, take the time to email your interviewer and thank them for making time to see you. Following up on an interview makes you look good, and reminds your potential employer who you are. They might have interviewed dozens of people for this job: you should do your best to stand out from the rest.
If you don’t get a job offer after an interview, especially if you think it was a good interview, it will sting. Try to turn it into a positive experience. Ask the interviewer what you could’ve done differently, or how to improve on your next interview. Most times, people will be happy to answer small questions. Don’t get melodramatic and demand to know why they didn’t pick you, though. That decision was to their discretion, and unless you really, really want to know, they won’t tell you why. If you want to know: ask politely, be reasonable, and thank them for the interview again.
Lastly, don’t burn your bridges if you don’t get the job! Staying on good terms with companies that interviewed you might turn out to be a great deal for you. They already have your resume/CV on file, so if they have a job opening that better suits your skills, you might score another interview.
Of course, there’s another outcome here: you get the job! Yay! Of course, when you’ve gotten the job, you don’t have to do all the other stuff mentioned in the last two paragraphs. You get to start working and earning money! This isn’t usually a common thing for students, especially students who haven’t finished their undergrad degree yet, but you can negotiate your salary based on the skills you have (most employers are willing to negotiate if it’s reasonable – for example, I learned to use most Microsoft Office programs on an advanced level, and that makes me more valuable as a worker). Make sure your employer isn’t a scumbag and that they treat you with respect, and vice versa. You getting the job means that you’ve made it to your first “real” job. Congratulations for that!
Of course, remember to expand your skills while you’re looking for jobs. Some jobs, like administration jobs, will ask if you have experience with some accounting software. Others, like hospitality, will ask you to demonstrate the skills you have through a certificate or previous experience. If you’re lucky, your employer won’t ask for experience or will say something along the lines of “experience not essential, but will benefit employee”. That basically means that as long as you’re willing to learn the ropes they won’t mind teaching them to you, but if you have the experience then that’s perfect.
I wish you a successful job hunt, especially as a student in this day and age where seemingly every job wants a college graduate. We all have to start somewhere, though – and why not start now?