For many, a first job is working part-time on the weekend or after school – and it can be a first taste of what it’s like to be part of the workforce. With this in mind, applicants might not have much of a work history, and so experience in going through the interview process will be minimal, putting extra pressure on a candidate that may already be lacking in confidence.
A past work history is not necessarily what every employer is looking for: there are other key skills that could take precedent over and above experience – for me, they are certainly more important. Give me someone with the right attitude and an eagerness to learn over past experience any day, but for someone trying to get their foot in the door, with nerves shot and confidence dwindling, it may be hard to get those traits you posses across at the interview.
The old adage “never judge a book by its cover” is a nonsense, because it’s simply human nature to make a snap decision about someone from the way they look or act – we all do it, and once that opinion is made, it’s very hard to change. It might seem a little basic, but there are some things to take care over to send the right first impression in an interview situation.
- Your appearance. Clean hair and clean shoes complete the top-to-tail package you are presenting. If you are going to be customer-facing, many people will be judging you every day, so give them reason to approve.
- Your dress code. Whatever the interview is for, always dress “just a little bit better” than the other team members. If you have done your homework and spotted the hiring manager who might be conducting the interviews, take note of what they are wearing and dress just a little better. If they are in uniform, it is a little trickier, so do some research and let the company’s brand guide you. For example, if you are interviewing for a position at Gucci or another luxury brand, you had better dress in a luxury way – a suit or very stylish outfit will be expected. If you are interviewing for Walmart, this might be a little over the top, but a clean pressed shirt and skirt or trousers will be more appropriate.
- Your personality. If you are going to be dealing with customers every day, your personality will also be on show, and as people buy from people they like and trust, it is very much an asset to you. Whether you are helping someone find the right clothing item, or serving them a burger and fries, everyone likes to deal with a personable person. In an interview situation, when you are feeling a little nervous and not quite yourself, it can be hard to get this across, so practice answering questions about yourself with your friends or family beforehand. Focus then on the key points or words you want to get across during your actual interview.
- Your resumé. If you don’t have much work history, fill your application out with other information about yourself, such as volunteer projects you may have worked on, community initiatives or events you led in school – anything that highlights the type of person you are.
Above all, just be yourself because you can’t fake who you are for very long. The interviewer will realize you have not had many interviews, and take this into account, but if you turn up inappropriately dressed with not much more on your resumé than your name, you will have a lot of work to do to change their already made up opinion about you. Good luck.
Linda Coles is a Speaker, Trainer and Content Creator. She is the Author of “Start with Hello,” founder of The Say Hello Project. Photo Credit wwarby. SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent. Check out more interview tips on our blog.