Young People’s Concerns
One of the first things I did was ask young people in Hamilton what scared them about finding and gaining employment. I wanted to get an idea of what they felt were the hardest aspects of job hunting.
Firstly, here's some real advice from real young people about finding a job and preparing for an interview:
- “Practise interview questions – role play with another friend or family member to get ready.”
- “Research skills they are likely to ask and think about how to answer.”
- “Prepare for the interview by reflecting on experiences that highlight your skills.”
- “Tailor your CV to the position you are applying for and make sure it is accurate.”
- “Have good references if you can.”
- “Network with people, don’t be afraid to ask for a job.”
- “Study the job description – know the job, company and role you are applying for.”
- “Don’t stress! Just be happy, confident and believe in yourself.”
- “Research the company before you apply or go into the interview.”
- “If you don’t feel confident, fake it till you make it.”
- “Relax and smile.”
- “Have a strategic CV that markets your strengths rather than a generic all-things-to-all-people CV”
- “Dress appropriately to create a good first impression.”
- “Apply at lots of places - apply earlier if it is a summer job.”
- “Think about all the different situations you could be presented with in an interview.”
- “Never undersell yourself!”
If you're still feeling a bit bamboozled, keep reading!
During the Application Process:
"I feel so under-prepared – how do I change that?"
You can only prepare so much. Make sure your CV is up to date, that you have researched the company or organisation you are applying to, that you have an easily accessible form of contact, ensure you have a professional email, and believe in your skills.
"Should I apply even if the format and the wording of the job description is unclear?"
See if you can find any information on what that kind of job role entails through the company website. Otherwise arrange to speak to someone from the organisation who can tell you more about the role and see if it is something you are interested in from there. This is also a good way of getting a foot in the door and showing how keen you are
"How do I sell myself without lying?"
Talking yourself up doesn’t come naturally to most but it is vital if you are to secure the position you want. Try to put your inhibitions aside, recognize your worth or potential and think about what skills you have developed through your experiences within school, activities and hobbies, sports, volunteer work or previous jobs. These can be turned into skills that can be valuable within the workplace. For example, playing rugby has given you skills in being accountable and working within a team environment.
"I have no experience relevant to the position I’m applying for, would an employer hire me without experience?"
Employers aren’t necessarily looking for someone who has direct experience within the role. Having no experience gives the employers the ability to mould you to their workplace culture and expectations. They want someone who is eager to learn and develop new skills. Try volunteering to gain work experience if you feel that you need more experience before applying for jobs. Volunteering can often open up paid employment opportunities as well.
"I have a lot of self-doubt, how do I get the self-confidence employers are looking for?"
Search for jobs that you feel match your skill set and that you get excited, even nervous-excited, about applying for. Think about all the skills you have and how they can be applied to the job role you are interested in. If you’re worried that the job is out of your league because of your skills remember that employers will train you in your role - they might just be looking for the right person to train. If you’re not confident pretend you are, picture yourself in a moment where you have been confident and use that as fuel. It is easier said than done but the difference between getting a job and not can be how confident you appear.
"So many people have applied - I doubt I’ll get the job anyway.."
Don’t be afraid of how many people have applied for the job. Employers are looking for someone that fits the role and have what they need. Anyway, what’s the point in worrying about that? How will it help you get the job? Short answer – it won’t.
"The job description/contract for one of my jobs was quite vague and demanding, could I be left open to exploitation once I got the position?"
Ask for the employer to clarify the job role for you, but if you feel your employment agreement is vague you are entitled to seek advice from somewhere like the Young Workers Resource Centre (YWRC). It is your legal entitlement to have a second party read over your contract and recommend any changes before you sign it. Remember to ask the employer to clarify any uncertainties you have in your job interview first. Employers are actually more impressed with applicants who speak up and ask questions during this process, even if it’s something like “how much would I get paid?”
"Will I receive training for the position?"
Employers want workers who can do things the way the business or company does so they will train you. They like people who are keen to learn new things. If they are not providing training, consider negotiating extra training into your employment agreement before you sign it. The period when you are reviewing your contract is your only opportunity to negotiate for improved or extra conditions in your job.
"Will I be able to get any benefits from having this job?"
Aside from the obvious pay-check, developing new skills in any role is always beneficial for adding to your C.V. and for future jobs. Skills learned in one job can transfer into another and creating networks can benefit you in terms of future employment.
"I’m not sure about the hours of work the job would require?"
This can be clarified within the interview, otherwise ring or visit the business before you accept the role to find out.
"How long would it take for me to hear back from the employer about my application?"
Sometimes job roles have a lot of applicants and it takes employers some time to get through them all. If you haven’t heard back for a few weeks give the business a call to see how the progress with your application is going. It doesn’t hurt to ask in the interview how long it will take for them to respond.
"Is the structure and information presented through my CV or cover letter informative enough?"
Look at the description of the position - does your CV match what they are looking for? Create a simple CV that is easy to read and highlights your strengths. While your CV should include attributes that are transferable between positions, it is important that your CV is reflective of the position you are applying for. One employer we spoke to mentioned how they received a CV that indicated that the applicant was looking for a specific job within the field of zoology, however they applied for a job at a restaurant. While it can be good to note future goals, your CV needs to target the job you are going for. This is also why it can be good to look at different styles of CV’s to find the right one.
Cover letters can be important to an employer and a great way to highlight your strengths and experiences.
Sometimes employers place more emphasis on the content of a cover letter than a CV so it pays to include one in any application unless otherwise stated. And be creative! Try to write it in a way where it will stand out amongst other applications. You can use a cover letter to demonstrate how your skills and strengths reflect the desired characteristics for the job. For example if they state that you need to work well in a team you could say: “Through my studies I have become a strong group-worker. I had to work with a variety of different people with different strengths and backgrounds, and find a way to best utilize all our attributes. I found it very rewarding.”
Flattery doesn’t hurt either. Tell them why you would like to work for their particular company, incorporating the company’s attributes and reputation into your statement.
During the Interview Process:
"How do I find good examples to give about my skills and how do I answer the questions correctly?"
Think about what situations you were in that allowed you to gain the skills you have stated in your C.V. Search different questions that employers could ask you such as “can you describe a time when you demonstrated your ability to problem-solve”, and figure out the best answer using your real life examples. In terms of answering correctly the employer just wants to know that you genuinely do have the skills you say you do. So by demonstrating to the employer that you have gained this skill through experience you can maximize the power of your answer. Preparing things like this will also help you relax during the interview, especially if you practice a mock interview with a buddy.
"How professional do I need to look?"
It usually depends on the role, but tidy presentation is always good when going for a job interview. Do you know anyone that works at the place you are applying to? If so ask them about the accepted dress code. Submitting an application in person by going to the company’s physical address is also an opportunity to scope out the current employees and how they dress for work. Plus it makes you look keen.
"Should I negotiate and communicate what I want/need in a job?"
Don’t be afraid to let the employer know what you are looking for without being overly demanding. It is another way of displaying confidence.
"A lot of the questions they asked did not relate to the job but were more about myself, my beliefs and how I work with other people, why did they ask me these?"
Employers will ask you questions about yourself to get to know your personality. They want to know that you will fit in with their business culture and other employees. So in a sense these questions do relate to the job. Be prepared for these kinds of questions, practice your answers with friends and family. However, be aware of questions that could open you up to discrimination, such as questions relating to your age, culture, faith etc. Employers are not allowed to ask questions that might lead them to discriminate against you.
"How formal should I be in a group interview?"
In a group interview employers want to see how well you interact with other people. It is much like any other interview except instead of the employers doing most of the talking, they are letting you, the applicants, demonstrate your ability to communicate and get a better sense of your personalities. Like any other interview presentation is always key to making a good first impression, so ensure your appearance is tidy. Be conscious of what you are saying, speak as if you were talking directly to the interviewer or employer, not to your friends, and maintain a friendly manner.
"I’m still not sure what the conditions of the job are?"
During the interview the employers should give you some time to ask any questions you have for them. If they haven’t thoroughly explained the role during the interview, ask them if they can elaborate on what the job entails.
"Is it inappropriate to ask how much the pay rate would be?"
Not at all! However, don’t ask at the beginning of the interview, reserve it till the end when they ask if you have any questions.
"Would the future employer’s initial perceptions influence the outcome of the interview?"
Sometimes employers know exactly what they are looking for. However attitude can have a big impact on employers. They want to know whether your personality will fit in with their business and other staff. Create a good first impression through your presentation and communication. Prepare beforehand so that you can present yourself better in the interview without the added stress of thinking about answers that you haven’t thought about earlier.
"What should I do if I walk in for the interview and decide I don’t want the job early on?"
Of course, you don’t have to accept the job if they offer it to you. If they offer it to you during the interview, say you need some time to think and that you will get back to them soon. Decide on a mutually agreeable time-frame to get back to them so they can consider the other applicants they have had. Even if you decide at the beginning of the interview that these employers aren’t for you, take the interview as an experience that you can use for other interviews.
"So they got me in for an interview, but told me I had to do some aptitude tests beforehand, how should I prepare for those?"
Aptitude tests enable an employer to gain a prior understanding of your suitability for the role. An employer may also ask you to do other tests, such as a personality test, however the aptitude test is becoming more commonly used. It can be a mixture of test topics such as verbal, numerical and logical reasoning that are all intended to reveal your compatibility with specific skills relevant to the job. There are many websites where you can practice these tests until you feel confident enough to do the actual one requested by the employer. Just search ‘aptitude practice test’ and look around for one that suits you.