Applying for Your First Job: Application Tips and Common Interview Questions

Today’s job market is competitive for entry-level positions, especially once school lets out for the summer. If you are looking for a job, you are competing with potentially hundreds, even thousands, of other people for the one job. So what? You are totally cool, know everything there is to know and an employer would be crazy not to hire you, right? This is where you need to take a big bite out of the reality pie. The way you dressed, the way you talked and the way you conducted yourself in school is not going to fly very far out there in the real work world.

This author has taught interviewing and job search skills to teens and adults. The difference between the two groups is substantial. Adults already know how hard it is to get the interview and then the job. Teens think they just show up and its, “cool, you’re hired.” Forget what you think you know about getting a job and read this carefully, if you want to get as far and an interview, so that you can be considered for a job.

Having conducted many interviews for a variety of companies and job levels this author has seen all types of mistakes. This article will show you some of the most blatant and most likely to NOT get you an interview or a job. The most recent interviews conducted were for an entry-level position, like the one you want. The required skills were minimal: must be fluent in English, must be able to follow instructions and must be friendly with customers. That’s you, right? The job paid more than fast food, so there were a good number of applications.

The first place you are judged is when you go to the business to pick up or complete the application. Two of the potential applicants showed up to complete their application in sloppy attire, one wearing flip-flops and both shuffling their feet and exhibiting poor posture, like they were so tired (or board) they could hardly move. Their applications went straight into the do not consider pile. If it takes all the energy they have just to show up and fill out an application, how are they going to get any work done? They sabotaged themselves.

As the applications were reviewed, incomplete applications were immediately tossed into the do not consider pile. Why? Because one of the requirements was “must be able to follow instructions.” The application instructed that all areas of the application were to be completed and the application was to be signed. If they could not follow those simple instructions, how could they follow any other instructions? Even if you have a resume, complete the application in the manner instructed. You can attach your resume. This incomplete application situation alone knocked out over 50% of the applicants.

The writing and grammar on the applications was examined. Remember that being fluent in English was a requirement that must be met. Poor grammar, bad spelling, improper words and slang have no place on your application. English is the primary language in the United States. No matter what you speak at home or with your friends, you must be able to communicate in proper English within the workforce.

Out of all the applications received, a total of six were considered for interview. Each applicant’s phone number, given on the application, was called to set up an interview time. Two of the applicant’s numbers were no answer and no answering machine. Employers are busy people, they may try to contact you a couple of times, but if they can’t at least leave a message with a machine or a person, they probably won’t call back.

Two of the applicants’ phone numbers went to voice mail-voice mail that was probably appropriate for their friends, but not for a potential employer. One said, “Hey, whatz up. Leave a message and, if I think it’s important, I’ll call you back. Applicant eliminated. Why? A message like that shows immaturity and the fact that this young person thought a lot of themselves and little about others. It sure didn’t say friendly and that was another requirement of the job. A message was left for this individual that went like this, “If you are giving this number out to potential employers, you may want to rethink your greeting.” Another similar message was set to make me sit through a long rendition of a particularly vulgar song, before I could leave my message. I never waited for the beep; I just hung up. Applicant eliminated.

The other two applicants either had an appropriate voice mail message or someone to take a message for them and were set up with interview times. Of these two remaining applicants, one will get the job. They may not even be the most qualified, but they were able to get as far as the interview. Did I hear you say that’s not fair? Welcome to the real world. It’s not about fair, it’s about the image of yourself you project to the potential employer. Employers don’t want to be babysitters and have zero tolerance for “fooling around.” If they don’t think you’re serious about working, they will not employ you.

If you can’t get as far as the interview, how will you ever get the job? Follow these rules:

1. Any contact you have or expect to have with a potential employer should be one where you put your best foot forward. You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression and that first impression can make or break your opportunity for the interview, let alone the job. In other words, when you go to pick up the application to take home and complete or complete at the employer’s business, dress like you would if you were going to work there (like the people who already work there dress) or better. This doesn’t necessarily mean a suit and tie, but it does mean: neat, clean, and mainstream. People will be watching you, even at this early stage. Leave all the jewelry at home, minimize visible piercings, cut your nails, tone down that nail polish and cover those tats.

2. Complete the application in full; recheck it when you think you are finished. Attach your resume or any letters of reference to the application. Be sure your name and phone number are on any attachments in case they get separated from the application.

3. Give a phone number on your application where you can be reached or a message can be left and be sure the greeting on your voice mail or answering machine is businesslike. Example: You have reached 555-5555, please leave a message and I/we will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you.

4. Ask people if it is OK with them if you give them as a reference. There is nothing that can sink an application faster than a reference check call where the individual says “I don’t now who they are.” or “I don’t know them that well.” This gives the impression that you are lying and the slightest untruth or half-truth on your application can eliminate you from consideration.

5. If you do get an interview, get a good night sleep, brush your teeth, put on deodorant, (omit the heavy perfumes or colognes, just be clean), eat breakfast, dress appropriately (nothing too tight, too revealing or too big-no pants hanging off your butt guys, get a belt and ladies-even if you have great legs, get that skirt down to the knee). Arrive a few minutes early. Be prepared to talk about yourself and look the person interviewing you in the eye. Oh, and don’t forget to smile-they did say they wanted friendly.

Common Interview Questions:

�· Why do you want this job? (Never say because I need the money.)

Ã?· Do you have reliable transportation? (Don’t lie.)

Ã?· Why do you think you are qualified for this job? (Even if you don’t have previous work experience, you do know how to do things. Think about the things you did in school or in sports. Focus on your strong points.)

Ã?· Where do you see yourself in five years? (Don’t say working somewhere else.)

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