So, you're out there trying to land your dream job. This is it—the real deal, time to sink or swim. Taking that next step toward employment can be scary, but with the right attitude, tools and resources, you'll be swimming laps around the competition!
Before you land the interview, your résumé needs to be stellar. Here are some tips to make a great first impression:
Résumé Writeup. Even if you have minimal work experience (or none at all!), type up a résumé that showcases who you are and what you can do. List school activities, clubs, honors, awards, volunteer experiences, community involvement, and so on. If you do have work experience, put it down!
Contact Info. Make sure your résumé and application are going to the right people. Do your homework. Find out the name of the human resource manager or hiring manager who will be reviewing your paperwork. Address your information directly to him/her and get a phone number to follow up.
Professional Edge. Ditch the sassy or edgy email address (hottie411, evilfreak85) for something that's not only more professional, but easier to remember as well. Stick with a combo of your first and last name or initials. Don't forget to check this account often and follow up with the prospective employer ASAP.
Neatness Counts. First impressions begin with the application. Be neat and accurate (no lying!). Watch for spelling or grammatical errors. Have a teacher or parent review it for any mistakes.
So, they like what they've seen and now they want to meet you in person. Congrats! Landing an interview is a big accomplishment. Now it's up to you to sell yourself.
Dress Nicely. Leave the jeans and school gear at home. Girls: A nice skirt (no minis!) or dress pants are great. Pair them with a professional looking sweater or collared shirt (no low-cuts!), and you're in business. Keep the makeup subtle and the jewelry low-key. Make sure the shoes look professional, too. Guys: Khakis with a dress shirt and tie will really make a great impression. Leave the Nikes at home and settle on a pair of black or brown dress shoes instead. And, as for tattoos and piercings—conceal them as best as you can.
Come Prepared. Know why you want the job. Know a few things about the company for which you want to work. Have a strong list of your personal strengths and what makes you a great candidate for the job. Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer about the position.
Act the Part. Make eye contact and smile. Don't shift your eyes around the room. Avoid slang (i.e., "Yeah" and "like") and speak respectfully and professionally. Begin and end the interview with a handshake. Don't chew gum and be sure to silence your cell phone!
Stumped? If you're caught off-guard by a question, say, "That's a good question. Let me think about that for a second." This will buy you some time to gather your thoughts. Don't know an answer? Be honest and say something such as, "I don't know about xyz, but can you tell me more about it?"
Closing the Deal. At the end of the interview, after you've asked a few of your prepared questions, close with a final statement that sums up your interest in the job. Ask the interviewer what the next steps will be in the process and if you can have a business card. Thank the interviewer for his/her time and make sure you end with a firm handshake.
Following Up. Once the interview is complete, there is still some work to be done. Send a handwritten or typed thank-you note (on nice stationery!) to the interviewer within two days of the interview. Be sure to state one or two things you enjoyed or learned during the interview. Restate your interest in the job. Wait a week or two before following up via telephone.
SIDE NOTE: If you're planning to attend college, you can use these same guidelines when filling out college applications and going on campus interviews.