by Audrey Payne | copy editor
Applying for your first job can be a terrifying experience. From submitting an application to completing the interview process, it is only natural that some people make mistakes along the way. Learning what mistakes to avoid when applying for a job can help you realize not only what employers are looking for, but more importantly, how to portray a respectable, honest image of yourself.
Sophomore Kristen Pallesen applied for a job as a hostess at Alamo Drafthouse, and after successfully obtaining the position, learned the do’s and don’ts that everyone should know when applying for a job.
“The actual application part is pretty easy, it’s just asking you questions about yourself and what you do, and of course, I was like, ‘I’m in band!’ And afterwards, you give it to them and they’re like, ‘We want to interview you’, if they like your application. And then they talk to you during the interview and are just all, ‘So tell me about yourself’ and you just kind of talk,” Pallesen said. “And since I’m in high school, their main concern was what days I’m going to be able to work. But I mean, they’re pretty nice, you just have to come off really confident.”
When you fill out your written application, it is best to be as succinct as possible. No manager wants to read about your favorite book series for twenty pages in the slot of what you do in your “free time.” While employers do appreciate honesty, try and keep the focus on what personal qualities distinguish you from other applicants, and how you could apply these qualities while on the job.
“I wouldn’t go off on rants about stuff that doesn’t really apply too much about the job. Like if you’re applying to be a hostess, don’t go off on a huge rant about band and be like, ‘Oh, I’m in marching band, and I do this and this…in band,’” Pallesen said. “They don’t really care that much. They just want to know if your schedule is available or not.”
Despite how uncertain you may feel while being interviewed, you should never downplay yourself. Regardless of the fact that you haven’t had any prior work experience, try to discuss the activities you are good at.
“Don’t talk about the bad things that you do. If you’re really unorganized, don’t be like, ‘Hey, I’m unorganized, just to let you know,’ because they probably won’t want you doing sorting things and such, cause they need organized people to do that,” Pallesen said.
When and if you do meet the manager, acting like a jerk sends you on a one way trip back to unemployment. Try to arrive early if you can, look presentable, and maintain eye contact when appropriate. Remember, the manager took time out of their day to interview you.
“Don’t come off as a mean, snide person. Nobody wants to work with mean people. Ever. So nobody would want to hire you if you came off like that. Definitely come off as really friendly,” Pallesen said. “If you’re in a position of authority, and you’re hiring someone underneath you, you want someone that will listen to you and not cause problems because you are on top in the social hierarchy of the place you’re going to apply to. I would always want someone that knows that I am the leader and you can’t back talk me or anything like that.”
You may gripe that managers should have to hire you no matter what your personality type is as long as you do your job, but that’s not necessarily true, especially if you’re considering a job in customer service.
“As a hostess, you’re the first person people will see when they walk into the restaurant. You are the first impression that they’ll get. If you’re mean, they’re not going to accept good service. If they have good service, they’re not going to tip well, because you were mean to them,” Pallesen said. “You’re affecting everyone else’s job then, which thus affects the manager trying to hire you, so [being] friendly is super high up there.”
However, your behavior as a student may be different than your behavior as an employee, adds Pallesen.
“I’ve only had interviews for NJHS and in-school stuff, so this was completely different. This was their job. This was the manager’s money, and the manager’s money is affected by how well we [employees] do. So they want to choose their best person for them,” Pallesen said.
Even though you may not want to follow that typical ‘dress to impress’ cliche, it is important to wear appropriate attire while on the job, whether it’s the required uniform or not. Making sure you establish a good first impression could mean more cash in your wallet.
“When I was getting ready, I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans and my sister was like, ‘Oh my gosh, Kristen, don’t wear that! You’ll come off as someone that doesn’t care,’” Pallesen said. “It’s always better to overdress than to underdress, which I learned. I see some people come in for interviews and they’ll be wearing Nike shorts and a t-shirt and I’m like, ‘Uh..’. Honestly, this first job might not matter to you as much as your dream job, but preparing now is a lot less stressful than just pulling it out of thin air later.”
Another way to make a good impression is to try and exhibit some modesty while in the interview. What you wear conveys a certain attitude, and without respect for your superiors, it could seem as though the job is not important to you- which would definitely not get you hired.
“You have to have manners. They pull you off into a different room to talk to you- one of the managers does. They’ll sit you down and have your application and look over it in front of you and read it. You just have to keep calm. Try to have really good manners, and not be repetitive,” Pallesen said.
And if you’re really trying to make a good impression, you can always try and prepare your responses beforehand. You know, the typical talking-to-a-mirror type stuff. That way, you can distinguish yourself from the semi-prepared applicants.
“Try to think of the things they might ask you before you go in, and then know the answers before you go in. And if they ask you a question and you don’t know what to say, think about it before you say it out loud,” Pallesen said.
One thing to keep in mind: whether you’re not sure how to respond to a question, or nerves just start getting the best of you, avoid lying at all costs. You are only setting yourself up for failure.
“Don’t make up something. Don’t lie, because if you get the job, this is where you’re going to be working so you can’t really hold a lie for very long,” Pallesen said.
Also, in addition to thinking about your responses before actually saying them, try to use respectable language. While your diction doesn’t have to be impeccable, don’t use any foul language. You’re in an interview, not “The Interview.” You’re not best buddies with Seth Rogen and James Franco, so you don’t have a free pass to be R-rated due to language.
“When they know you’re in high school, it impresses them if you use good grammar. But if you don’t, then they’re not going to hold it against you as long as it’s not slang. Don’t use slang or inappropriate language,” Pallesen said.
Finally, leave the interview on a positive note if you can, possibly with a handshake and a, “Thank you for your time.” If you conduct yourself in an appropriate manner, avoid lying and using profanity, and remember to breathe and be yourself, you will most likely succeed and get that highly-anticipated first job.
“The person trying to hire you is not trying to be your friend,” Pallesen said. “Talk to them like your mom’s watching you. Talk to them like your grandma’s watching you.”