Congratulations – You’ve landed your first interview! You’re about to take a big step into the working world.
Most people don’t recognize this, but how you conduct yourself in your first work environment lays the groundwork for your later career advancement.
Your first work experiences often have formative learning about basic skills like punctuality (being on time), how to take feedback to improve, and how to operate on a professional team.
We work with employers who employ first-time-employees all the time. So we asked them for their best tips for a successful interview, and found that there are really only 3 things you need to do to stand out from the crowd!
1. Be On Time
Seriously. Be on time. Everyone rolls their eyes because this is so obvious and they think they don’t need to hear this. But trust us. You need to hear this. EVERYONE needs to hear this.
Employers will literally not consider hiring you if you’re late for an interview, no matter how well you think you did in the interview (if they even still agree to meet with you at all!).
This sounds harsh. But let us explain it from the employers point of view:
Employer’s #1 priority is to make sure their business run smoothly. And you are a KEY aspect of making sure the business can operate. Interviews are assumed to be you putting forth your “best” first impression, or the best professional version of yourself. If you are late for your interview, employers will imagine that you will not be reliable, you won’t show up on time, and ultimately that hiring you will damage their existing team too much to be worth the risk. Ultimately, you won’t get hired.
ACTION PLAN: Plan To Arrive 20 Minutes Early & Reschedule If Needed.
Map out the route ahead of time. Planning to arrive 15-20 minutes early allows for transit interruptions, going the wrong way, trouble finding the interview location when you arrive etc.
Showing up on time signals to your future employer that you respect their time and have a genuine interest in the position. It also shows that you respect your time and are ready to join the working world to begin building a great reputation for yourself.
Need to cancel or reschedule your interview?
Not a problem. While employers can be very strict about punctuality, they’re actually quite understanding that sometimes things come up.
The rule of thumb is to let the employer know as soon as possible that you won’t be able to be on time, or attend the interview as scheduled. But this MUST be done before the scheduled start time of your interview.
WorkSolute makes rescheduling your interview so easy! Simply login to your account, navigate to the “Interview” tab, and select the the calendar icon. Employers keep their interview schedules up to date, so you can easily select an alternative interview time if something comes up.
When done with enough notice (and definitely before the start of your interview) this is a professional way to ensure your future employer knows that you’re interested, and ready to take on the responsibilities of your first work experience!
2. Dress Appropriately
“Appropriately” doesn’t necessarily mean a suit and tie! It’s relative to the workplace where you’re interviewing.
For example, if you landed an interview at a place like McDonald’s as a crew member (congratulations – they have a GREAT training program!) the expectation is that you’re wearing clean clothes that are relatively “dressed up”, and your hair and nails, etc. are all tidy and groomed. Choose an outfit that you would wear to a special dinner, family reunion, church or a community event.
Also don’t forget about that breath! We know, gross right!? But this is an easy one to overlook because we often don’t realize when WE are the culprits of bad breath. But trust us the person sitting across from you will notice. Gum isn’t a great option as chomping on gum is seen as unprofessional – so avoid this. But mints or listerine strips will keep you fresh and confident!
ACTION PLAN: Plan Your Outfit Ahead Of Time So You Have Something Clean and Appropriate To Wear. And Ensure You’ve Got That Minty-Fresh Breath!
3. Come Prepared
It’s normal to be nervous in your first interview. Heck, it’s normal to be nervous in your 100th interview. Nerves often mean that something is important to you, so embrace the challenge!
And one of the best ways to ward off nerves, is to be prepared.
Know The Position Requirements
Know what is expected of the position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a host at a restaurant, take the time to study the tasks a host actually does while on shift.
Notice that there is much more to the position than simply what the customer sees. They often need to be organized to manage seating charts, sometimes they will be responsible for clearing tables and perhaps helping out with the dishes, they have to be friendly and represent the brand of the restaurant when guests arrive, and they have to be able to stand on their feet for entire shifts in a fast-paced environment.
Don’t shy away from the fact that you don’t have work experience. Often real life experiences are better. Think of these tasks that you’ve noticed about the position you’re applying for, and how the skills required for those tasks relate to your talents and strengths.
Maybe you’re great at Candy Crush or love lego. So perhaps you may welcome the challenge of seating guests to maximize the restaurant’s capacity, and fairness to all wait staff ensuring the work load is carried evenly. At home, maybe you’re responsible for clearing the table and loading the dishwasher after dinner. This is a small scale example of how you’re not afraid to jump in where necessary and have done something similar before. Perhaps you’ve acted as a program ambassador at your school, or have taken part in volunteer programs that required you to be active for long periods of time. This may make you confident that you will be a great brand ambassador as the first person guests see when they arrive, and are up to the physical challenge of walking around quickly all shift to complete all of the tasks required.
The goal is to have stories and examples from your experience that are relatable to the position you’re applying for. Everyone’s taken part in activities that require basic skills employers look for like teamwork and responsibility. The key is to identify which of these basic skills are required by the position, and show how you’ve done something similar in the past that will help you succeed in your new work environment.
ACTION PLAN: Think About The Tasks Required For The Position Where You’re Applying. Make A List Of Skills You Think Support Those Tasks. Then Think Of Stories From Your Experience That Illustrate That You Have Done Something Similar.
Research The Company
Employers don’t expect you to be an expert on their company when you’re applying for entry level positions or your first work experience. However, a common interview question is: What do you know about our company?
So some level of research on the work place where you’re interviewing is expected. Knowing some easily researched facts like how long the company has been around, how many locations the company has, and in what cities or counties the company operates is always a good start. Some work places may have iconic stories. If this is the type of company where you’re interviewing, then awareness of the company’s “mythology” is also helpful.
ACTION PLAN: Know At Least 2 Easily Googled Facts About The Company Where You Are Interviewing.
Know Your Availability
At some point, you will likely be asked what your availability is for work, and how many hours per week you are available to work.
This is a critical question, and one where employers too often hear: “I’m available to work anytime, as many hours as possible”.
THIS IS THE WRONG ANSWER!
No one is available to work 24 hours per day, for as many hours as possible – and that’s not even allowed under the labour code! Employers also understand that many employees have other aspects of their life that require consideration when scheduling work.
Showing that you’ve thoughtfully considered your existing obligations, and how this position will fit around those obligations shows a level of maturity that is comforting to employers. Similar to showing up on time, it gives them confidence that you are more likely to be reliable, because you’ve considered what will make you successful in this position.
So map out your existing obligations. Know your school and homework schedule, extra-curricular schedule, family obligations, and don’t forget to leave some time for yourself. After that’s done, realistically determine the days and times during the week when you will be available to work. And determine the minimum and maximum number of hours that would be ideal for you.
ACTION PLAN: Map Out All Existing Obligations To Determine The Days And Times During The Week When You Are Available For Work, As Well As The Ideal Minimum And Maximum Hours Per Week You Would Like To Work.
Have All Of Your Documents Available
Employers are always impressed when you come prepared with all the documents they may want to evaluate your application, or need should you be hired.
Common things employers ask for to evaluate your application include your resume and reference. References can be from community or school leaders that you know. A reference letter is not necessary. However, ensure you ask references ahead of time so they’re not caught off guard when potential employers contact them. And then have these names and contact details available.
It’s helpful to have information available that the employer will need if you’re hired. This includes the basics such as your social insurance number and direct deposit information for your bank. But it also includes any certifications that may be relevant to the position your applying for. For example, if you have your food handler’s certification, security licence, or first aid certification, have these available during the interview.
WorkSolute also makes it easy to keep all of these documents secure and easily accessible in your profile. Simply login, navigate to “My Profile” then to “Secure Information”. You can upload documents such as your SIN and banking details to our double encrypted secure database. Your resume information is kept in “My Profile” under “Work Experience”. So ensure you take the time to fill in as much information as possible.
ACTION PLAN: Have Accessible Your Resume, References, Direct Deposit Information, SIN, And Any Certification Relevant To The Position. Better Yet, Fill Out Your WorkSolute Profile Entirely So This Information Is Always Easily Available In Your Profile.
Have A Question Ready For The Interviewer
At the end of an interview, you may be asked: Do you have any questions?
Come prepared with genuine and honest questions to ask at this point. And try to avoid the pitfall of asking questions that have already been answered in the course of the conversation. You can do this by paying attention during the interview, and taking a mental note when one of your questions is already answered.
Employers appreciate questions that show that you understand and are invested in the work that will be required for this position.
Here are some examples:
If I’m hired, is there room for advancement and if so what’s the process? Is advancement seniority based, or is it based on skills?
How would you describe the work environment?
Is there an on-call process if people call in sick where I might be able to pick up extra shifts if I’m scheduled for fewer shifts than normal on given weeks?
Are we required to memorize the menu? What is your uniform policy? What is your cell phone policy? What is your break policy? Do you offer employee discounts, and if so what are the parameters?
Remember, interviews are conversations. While the interviewer is interested in getting to know you to determine if you will be a good fit for their business and existing team, you also want to get to know them to determine if this position will be a good fit for you.
ACTION PLAN: Prepare A List Of Questions In Advance, And Don’t Ask Questions That Have Already Been Answered During The Interview.
Remember to have fun and enjoy yourself! Interviews are just a conversation between two people getting to know each other on a professional level.
By sticking to the Action Plans provided, we’re confident that you’re going to impress employers, and YOURSELF with just how great you will be!
This is an exciting time for you, and we’re so excited to have been able to be a part of it and help get you off to a strong start!
What do you think? Was this helpful? Do you have any interview tips or things that work for you? Do you have any questions for our team? What else do you want to know about?