Job interview tips for school leavers

Job interview tips for school leavers

By Kate Southam

The old saying, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ applies perfectly to job interviews.

Research shows an employer will form an opinion about you in less than 30 seconds so follow these simple steps to make the right impression.

Tip 1: What to wear

Pick out your interview outfit a week in advance and try it on to make sure there are no stains, missing buttons, broken zips, dirty shoes and that it still fits. Dress up not down. Girls, no open toed or party shoes, no cleavage or short skirts and guys, no shorts, runners or tee shirts.

Tip 2: Research

Check out the employer’s website and search the web for information. Make a note of the names of the people you will meet with and if required, call reception to get advice on how a name should be pronounced. Visit the potential employer if appropriate for example if it is a store or restaurant. Also, research yourself. Identify the skills you have acquired in part time jobs, playing sport and school activities and then think how you would use these skills in the new job.

Tip 3: Rehearse

Write out mock questions and hand these to a parent. Practice answering questions such as ‘tell us about yourself?’ or ‘why do you want to work here?’ Take on board feedback about your body language, eye contact, length and quality of your answers and whether you are mumbling. Practising over and over will soothe nerves and get you focused on what you have to offer.  

Tip 4: Tell me about yourself

This is a typical question school leavers will hear in an interview. Be prepared for this question and add it to your rehearsal list. Be concise but friendly. Aim to combine a little personal information with traits that will appeal to an employer and suit the job you are going for.

For example, if the job is as a customer service team member in a call centre then your answer could combine something about team sports or some team activity you have done with a love of helping people.

Tip 5: Respect

Punctuality is vital so aim to be about 10 minutes early. Being too early can be as impolite as being late.

Switch off your mobile before you enter the building and then don’t touch it again until you leave the building. Nothing irritates an employer more than a person who interrupts an interview to take a call or even glance at who has text them.

Smile and be polite to everyone you meet including the receptionist on your way into the interview. It is not unusual for an employer to ask other staff members what they thought of a job interview candidate so keep that in mind.

Use a firm, dry hand shake, good eye contact and a smile when greeting the interviewer. Have some water with you in case you get a dry throat. Remember, you look the part, have researched the company and have prepared well so try and relax.       

Tip 6: Use the interview to learn

Be concise when answering questions but avoid just saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Also, ask questions about the employer and the tasks involved in the job on offer.  A job interview should be a two-way process. Use the interview process to find out about a typical day on the job, what training is offered, who your direct manager would be and a bit about them and to get a sense of the workplace culture.

As a general rule, avoid asking about money. If you are offered the job, then ask about the money. Job hunters have the most power at the point where they have been offered the job but have not yet accepted. Be careful not to over do this though – you are just starting out and need the experience.  

Tip 7: Focus on the skills you will gain

Every CEO, business owner and star performer had to start somewhere – usually at the very bottom. While you might view a job as menial or low paid it could actually be a valuable stepping stone to the future if you focus on what you will learn.

Skills such as customer service, team work, learning processes and software programs  are all great things to put on your updated resume so value every opportunity to learn.

Tip 8: Following up after the interview

It is a good idea to drop the employer an email a day after the interview to thank them for their time and restate your interest in the role. An example could be:

Dear Joanne (or Ms Brown or whatever),

I appreciate you taking the time to meet me and tell me more about the job of x and  XYZ company. I would also like to take this opportunity to restate my interest in joining your team.

Yours sincerely,

Your name.

Article from CareerOne, November 2010.

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