Get a Job
Searching for your first job or a new career is hard work, and we’re here to guide you every step of the way. The resources below will help you find, apply to, interview for, and get the job that’s right for you. As you learn how to approach the job search process, remember like any other activity, you’ll get better with practice. The steps that follow are meant to help your perfect your job search skills and land the job you want.
- What Employers Want
- Job Search
- Career Fair
- Cover Letters
- Social Media
Employers want to hire the best people for their openings. The first part of the recruiting process is screening out candidates who do not meet the requirements of the job and who don’t have the attributes the employers want. Employers look for the following top three attributes in job candidates to fill their open positions.
1. Skills - Can you do the job?
- Education & training
- Past achievements
- Ability & interest in the area
2. Appearance /Attitude - Do you look and act like the right person?
- Personal Appearance: Do you look like the company image?
- Personal Style, Manner, or Personality: Would you fit in?
- Personal Contact Material: Resume, cover letter
- Phone Etiquette: Are you professional?
- Personal Tone: Positive/Negative
3. Dependability - Can we count on you?
- Good attendance record
- On time, on task
- Can be trusted
- Gets things done on time
- Is effective at his/her job
These are the skills a job requires you to have in order to do the job well. A secretary would need to use a computer, type accurately, file, and answer phones. A carpenter would need to operate a power saw, hang joists, set rafters, do trim work. An employee of McDonalds would need to operate a computerized register, make shakes and prepare sandwiches. There are too many job related skills to list but if you do your research, you will be able to make your own list of what job related skills you will need for the job you want.
These skills are those that make up your personality. Are you “zany” or “sensible?” “daring” or “reserved?” Look at yourself honestly and get to know just who you really are. Then look at the list of self-management skills and find those that you might use to describe yourself.
NOTE: You may want to think about which words you would use in an interview...would you really want to tell an employer you were “zany” or “daring?” No, use words that show your work values such as energetic, hard-working, persistent, patient, creative, loyal, mature, confident, versatile — are excellent, to name just a few.
These skills can be used in most occupations. They can be skills gained from everyday living, as well as from paid or volunteer work experience. Sometimes people overlook these skills and forget to mention them to an employer. Give yourself credit for everything you have ever done. Remember, any special projects you have done for school, home or church may require skills that an employer might appreciate.
What do employers want and expect from you?
Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the emerging workforce and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 5 leadership books including: Fully Staffed (2020), On Fire at Work (2015), and Reviving Work Ethic (2012). Learn more about Eric at EricChester.com.
Employer Advice to Job Seekers
- Gain experience: internships, volunteer work, leadership opportunities, community involvement
- Create connections: build professional relationships while still in school
- First impressions count: present yourself professionally
- Be a professional: in dress, communication and demeanor
- Be prepared: do your research on each organization and practice interviewing
- Be persistent! It is a tough market and you will have to leverage all the tools available to find that first job
- Be open-minded, flexible and realistic: most important!
- Be a 24/7 learner (demonstrate desire to continue learning, be coachable and open to change)
- Shelf the technology and build people rapport (understand the value of personal interactions)
- Act with integrity (be honest, build trust with others, live up to your commitments)
- Take the initiative through hard work (look at what you can do for the employer rather than vice versa)
- Be positive, yet humble (be strong and confident while also asking questions and helping others)
Completing a job application is usually the first step in every job search. Whether electronic or in paper form, all job applications are asking for the same thing: important information from you about your career, education and job qualifications.
The importance of correctly completing an application should not be underestimated. The document provides a tremendous opportunity to sell yourself and to make a good first impression.
Completing job applications can be a very time consuming process without the right preparation because it requires a great deal of detail, from dates of employment to addresses and skills.
Take the time to fill out your job applications, correctly. First impressions are important, and even online applications have the ability to make a good or not-so-good first impression.
- Time-Saving Tips
- Tips for Completing an Application
- Sample Application
- 50 Reasons Employers Reject Applicants
Several strategies can help shorten the time required to complete applications:
- Start by creating a Master Resume.
- Save your data record as a digital file so that you can then simply cut and paste the information into applications as you fill them out.
- “Auto-fill” feature is another time-saving device available on some web browsers and as part of Google’s toolbar. This built-in function allows you to fill out personal data once and then have it automatically populate online applications and other web-based forms.
So, what information do you need for your Master Resume?
- Name, address, phone numbers (home and cell) and e-mail address. Make sure your e-mail address is professional.
- Career information: Your past jobs, the addresses and phone numbers of those companies, your managers in each of those positions and your salary.
- Dates of employment: The month and year you started working, when you left and the reasons for your departures. Write a brief description of your accomplishments/duties for each position. If you do not know the exact dates of your employment, call and verify your dates with Human Resources.
- Other information: Gather any additional information such as: degrees, certifications, honors, special training, hobbies, volunteer activities and other relevant experience that could help you win the job.
Whether you’re filling out a paper document or an electronic form online, completing a job application requires preparation and professionalism. Here are some important things to remember:
- Never use abbreviations, slang or emoticons/emojis.
- Avoid writing “see resume.” Fill out the entire application.
- Avoid negative information, if possible. Never give false information.
- Target your qualifications. Many applications have limited space, so showcase the skills and experience best suited to the job.
- When applying for specific positions, be sure to include the correct job title on the application.
- If you have gaps in your employment history, list positive ways you spent the time while unemployed.
- When asked about salary requirements, provide a range or respond “negotiable.”
- Read the application and see what directions are given.
- It is important to follow directions because this is the employer’s first impression whether you follow directions or not.
- Fill in EVERY space unless the answer will throw a red flag and screen you out of the interview. In this case, use a small neat dash or N/A for not applicable.
- Name: Use your legal name, put nicknames in parenthesis.
- Criminal Convictions: Be honest and in space provided for explanation write: Would appreciate opportunity to explain in interview.
- Other Experiences/Skills: FILL THIS IN! SELL YOURSELF! List any volunteer work, or experience, or skills that may not show up on your work record.
- Education: Fill this in completely. On all schools, use the latest one you attended or the one where you received your degree or diploma. If you have earned your GED, check “Graduated.”
- Personal References: You need to have AT LEAST three references. Good references include employers, instructors, co-workers, long time acquaintances, customers, etc. Never use family members.
- Employment: Follow directions. List the name, address and phone number of each business. In DETAIL, list your accomplishments and/or work duties that are related to the job you are applying for.
- Reason for leaving: Think of all possible reasons for leaving and select the most positive and honest ones you can use:
- To further education
- Seasonal position
- Career change
- Opportunity for advancement
- Reduction in force
- Position ended
- Business closed
- Poor personal appearance
- Overbearing, overaggressive, conceited, superiority complex, “know it all.”
- Inability to express oneself clearly - poor voice, diction, grammar
- Lack of planning for career — no purpose or goals
- Lack of confidence and poise, nervousness, ill at ease
- Lack of interest and enthusiasm — passive, indifferent
- Failure to participate in activities
- Overemphasis on money — interested only in best dollar offer
- Poor school record — only just got by
- Unwilling to start at the bottom — expects too much too soon
- Makes excuses, evasiveness, hedges on unfavorable factors in record
- Lack of tact
- Lack of maturity
- Lack of courtesy — ill-mannered
- Condemnation of past employers
- Lack of social understanding
- Marked dislikes for school work
- Lack of vitality
- Failed to look interviewer in the eye
- Limp, fishy handshake
- Loafs during vacations — no job experience, didn’t contribute to own education
- Asks no questions about the job
- High pressure type
- Poor work ethics
- Lack of character
- Sloppy application
- Merely shopping around
- Wants job for only a short time period
- Little sense of humor
- Lack of knowledge in field of specialization
- Parents make decisions for applicant
- No interest in company or industry
- Emphasis on whom one knows
- Unwillingness to go where employer needs to send applicant
- Low moral standards
- Intolerant, strong prejudices
- Narrow interests
- Poor handling of personal finances
- No interest in community activities
- Inability to take criticism
- Lack of appreciation of the value of experience
- Radical ideas
- Late to interview
- Never heard of company
- Failure to express appreciation for interviewer’s time
- Indefinite response to questions
- Lack of preparation
Job hunting involves more than searching for open positions and sending your resume to employers. You also need to make sure you’re a good fit for the job, can catch the hiring manager’s attention and are well-prepared to answer interview questions.
First, identify what type of career you want. This is particularly important for people entering the workforce for the first time or changing careers. Get recommendations from family, teachers, a career coach or family friends. Make sure you have a clear and realistic goal, determine how you plan to reach it, and note what qualifies you for that career path. These steps can help you narrow your job search to positions you are passionate about and will help you advance professionally.
Organize yourself and your schedule to search for jobs more efficiently. Determine how many hours per day or what days of the week you will dedicate to job hunting or networking. Make sure your master resume is up-to-date as it will help you fill out applications faster. Have a list of two to three references and their contact information ready to provide to employers.
Create or update your profile on social media sites and create a spreadsheet to note the jobs you have applied for and the interviews you have received. You might also choose to set up a professional email account to keep your job search messages separate and organized from your personal ones. Completing these steps before starting your job search can make the process faster and easier.
Rather than limiting yourself to manual online searches, take advantage of all job search options. This might include reaching out to companies or hiring managers in person, attending career fairs, searching social media, scheduling informational interviews, attending networking events, or using a career coach service. Use job search engines to find openings on job boards, company websites, professional associations and more. Sign up for daily or weekly job alerts by email.
Interact with people and develop professional contacts both online and in person. Start conversations with people at seminars, social events or appointments. Let them know you’re looking for a job or want to work in a certain industry. They might have connections or advice that can help you in your job search. You might also discover unlisted job openings or people might recommend you for future opportunities.
Most jobs aren't obtained by close friends and family members, but from distant friends and acquaintances. This is because they know completely different people than you do, so make sure to personally reach out to them.
Make sure your resume is ready to go before you begin the application. Ideally, you'll want a slightly different resume for every single job you apply for. However, you should at least have a resume customized for each industry you're interested in. To get started on your resume, check out our resume page:
As you find job listings that interest you, research the hiring companies before applying. This can provide you with information about their company culture, benefits and salary range, products and services, work environment and more. Your research will tell you whether you want to or are qualified to work for that company. It also gives you valuable information you can reference in your resume or interview.
Apply for jobs you are interested in even if you only meet some of their requirements. Depending on the position, employers might hire motivated individuals who learn quickly and provide them with skills training on the job. If you meet a portion of a job’s qualifications but believe you can still succeed in that role, apply. Include examples of your work ethic and ability to learn new skills in your resume. Emphasize how your goals align with those of the company. Remember, every job comes with at least some training for the position.
Expand Your Skills
If you find a job that you're really interested in but not qualified for, think of ways that you can obtain the skills that you currently lack. Consider getting an internship or volunteering with an organization in your desired industry while applying for jobs. Use these opportunities to expand your network of contacts or advance to a full-time position. You might also take online courses or attend workshops to build certain skills or learn technologies and processes relevant to your industry. Update your resume as you gain more experience or accomplishments.
Interviews can be incredibly stressful and tricky. There's also so many kinds of interviews, and each type has their own rules and expectations. Luckily, we have every major type of interview broken down for you below along with some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about interviews.
Be sure to read below and prepare yourself for your upcoming interview, and most importantly, relax. You're going to do great.
- Mock Interview
- Informational Interview
- One-on-One Interview
- Panel Interview
- Behavior-Based Interview
- Skills Test Interview
- Online Interview
What is a Mock Interview?
- A mock interview, also known as a practice interview, is a simulation of an actual job interview. It provides you with an opportunity to practice for an interview and receive feedback.
- A mock interview helps you learn how to answer difficult questions, develop interview strategies, improve your communication skills, and reduce your stress before an actual job interview.
- A mock interview is practice for the real thing, and we all know practice makes perfect.
Your mock interview experience begins the moment that an interviewer greets you in the waiting area. You should start with a firm handshake and an appropriate greeting of the interviewer, using his or her name.
You and your interviewer will go into an interview room. The mock interview itself will last approximately 20 minutes, and the interview is then discussed and critiqued for approximately 30 minutes.
At the end of the mock interview you have the opportunity to talk with the interviewer about any particular questions or concerns you have about the interviewing process. Furthermore, you will receive honest and helpful feedback from your interviewer.
Your mock interviewer can record your interview. After the interview you will have an opportunity to watch the recording with your interviewer, to ensure that you are making the most effective presentation of your skills, abilities, and professionalism.
Be sure to take your mock interview as seriously as you would an actual interview.
- Practice answering interview questions with a friend or in the mirror.
- It is vital to understand your attributes and personality so that you can convey those positive qualities to an interviewer.
- Be sure to dress in professional interview attire.
- Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early, and bring your resume and any other materials you would bring to a real interview.
You Will be Evaluated on the Following:
- Preparation: Prepare questions for your interviewer and research the position and the company or organization for which you are interviewing.
- Appearance: Dress appropriately for the interview.
- Attitude: Your attitude toward work and working with others is crucial in the hiring process. Be sure to convey an attitude that is enthusiastic, sincere, and genuine.
- Body Language: During the interview, be aware of your eye contact, subtle use of hands while speaking, good posture, etc.
- Greeting/Introduction: We recommend that you stand to greet your interviewer with a handshake, using his or her name. Also, make good eye contact with the interviewer, smile, and be professional.
- Oral Communication: Speak clearly and concisely. Try to think out your response before answering a question.
- Responses to the Interview Questions: Do your research, and practice, practice, practice! Know your skills, and be able to express them to the interviewer.
One out of every 200 resumes results in a job offer. One out of every 12 informational interviews, however, results in a job offer.
Informational interviewing is the ultimate networking technique, especially considering that the purpose of informational interviewing is not to get job offers. Job offers just happen to be a delightful side benefit to the valuable practice.
The informational interview is designed to produce information. This information will help you choose or refine a career path. You can learn how to break in and find out if you have what it takes to succeed.
It is an expanded form of chatting with your network contacts. This process of spending time with one of your network contacts in a highly focused conversation will provide you with key information you need to launch or boost your career.
- Identify people who work in fields or companies of interest to you.
- Contact your leads and explain you are seeking personalized information about their field.
- Ask if you can meet at their worksite for an informational interview which would take about twenty minutes.
- Review your research on the field/industry and research the specific company you will visit.
- Call the day before to confirm.
- Arrive 10 minutes early
- How did you decide to become a ____?
- What is a typical day like for you?
- What kind of skills would I need to be successful in this industry?
- What is a typical entry-level salary in this profession? How do the salaries progress after five years?
- What do you like most/least about your job?
- What preparation would you suggest for someone interested in entering this field?
- Do you have any special advice for entering this field.
- Whom do you recommend I contact for more information about job opportunities in this industry?
- May I contact you if necessary in the future?
Be sure to thank the person for their time before leaving.
- Ask for a business card when leaving the individual’s office.
- Write and send a thank you note to each individual with whom you spoke, and send by mail/ email within 24-hours after the informational interview.
Tips For Writing Thank You Notes
- When to Send It: Write and send your note no later than 24-hours after the interview.
- Paper and Envelope: Use a good quality notepaper with matching envelope. Avoid “cute” covers. A simple “Thank You” on the front will do. Off-white and buff colors appear more professional.
- Typed vs. Handwritten: A handwritten note is fine unless your handwriting is illegible or sloppy. If so, type it. Make sure all spelling is correct. You may want someone to proofread it before mailing.
- Salutation: Unless you personally know the individual you are thanking, do not use his/her first name. Write “Dear Pam Smith” or “Dear Ms. Smith.” Include the date.
- The Note Itself: Keep it short and friendly.
- Paragraph 1: Thank the individual for taking the time to visit with you.
- Paragraph 2: Share something you gained from the interview.
- Paragraph 3: Thank the individual again and express an interest in working in his/her field or with the organization in the future.
- Your Signature: Always sign your thank you note. Use your first and last name. Avoid initials and make your signature legible.
You accomplish several things when you go out on informational interviews.
- You obtain a great deal of information about your career field and the skills needed to do that job effectively. TIP - It is also helpful, for creating your resume.
- You gain a perspective of work that goes beyond the limitations of job titles, allowing you to see not only what skills are required for the job, but also how you might fit into a work setting.
- You gain insight into the hidden job market (employment opportunities that are not advertised).
- You have the opportunity to make personal contacts with working professionals.
- You become aware of the needs of the employers and the realities of employment.
- You gain confidence in talking with people while learning what you need to know. This exposes you to a variety of jobs and personalities of companies making the search for your “niche” that much easier.
One-on-one interviews are the most common, and gives the greatest opportunity to the interviewee to make a good impression. Here are 5 Tips to help you nail your next One-on-One Interview:
- 1. Engaged Body Language
- 2. Scentless
- 3. Get Off Topic
- 4. Bring a Portfolio
- 5. Don't Get Too Comfortable
Body language is important in any in-person interaction, and it's doubly important in an interview. It's hard to actively think about your body language during an interview so make sure you practice good body language before you get there. Here's some reliable body postures to practice:
- Sit-Up: Shows both confidence and attentiveness.
- Eye Contact: Shows honesty and respect, but this is not a staring contest. You can blink your normal amount.
- Keep Hands in Your Lap: You're welcome to do some talking with your hands, but their resting place should be in your lap so the interviewer doesn't see your nervous jitters.
- Relaxed Shoulders: You haven't been sent to the principal's office. Relax your shoulders so you come across with confidence and not nervousness.
- Stay Still: Don't rock, spin, lean back, or take part in any fidgeting behavior beyond lightly tapping your foot.
- Mirroring Technique: When all else fails, mirror your interviewer. If they are leaned forward, you lean forward. If they cross their legs, you cross your legs. If they relax, you relax.
We've all been assaulted by another person's smell at one point or another, and it's almost never pleasant. Don't distract your interview with smells that they may have an allergic reaction to. Be sure to shower and put on deodorant before your interview but use very minimally scented or entirely unscented products. The interview definitely doesn't want to smell your body odor, but they don't want to smell your body spray from across the room either.
It's common for interviewers get off topic and either ask unscripted questions or talk about some of their own experiences. If this happens in your interview, let the them talk as long as they want. The more off topic your interviewer gets, the more they will probably end up liking you.
Warning: Do not attempt to get the interview off topic as this normally comes across as you being too informal and not professional.
One of the best things you can do in an interview is to bring a portfolio full of information that you can use. A leather portfolio is standard, but this could also be a tablet or just a folder.
Your portfolio should have the following items in it:
- Extra copies of your resume, references, and any letters of recommendation.
- At least 2 questions for you to ask at the end of the interview.
- Some of your research about the company/position.
- Experiences, awards, or organizations that you want to reference.
- Any transcripts, certifications, or documentation of your accomplishments
- Documents needed for pre-hire paperwork (2 forms of identification, direct deposit form, ect)
Most interviews, by design, will give you ample opportunity to divulge more information than you should. It's important to make sure that your answers to every question stay positive and professional. Below is a list of topics that should normally be avoided in an interview:
- Family, no one in your family should ever need to be brought up.
- Negative Talk, whether it's about a person, situation, or just drama, talking negatively in an interview puts you in a bad light.
- Medical Condition, as long as you can form the job functions, with or without reasonable accommodations, there's no reason to talk about medical conditions.
- Pay and Benefits, unless the interviewer brings it up, avoid talking about pay and benefits in the interview. When you're offered the job is the best time to have that conversation.
Panel interviews can be 10x scarier than one-on-one interviews. Never fear, however, as we'll go over what you should expect in a panel interview, and what changes you need to make to your interviewing tactics.
What to Expect
- Questions. All of them will be asking questions. Normally each interviewer will take turns asking one question at a time.
- Different Perspectives. They're all looking for something different. Most of the time, each person on the panel will be regularly interacting with your position. Because of that, all of them have traits they would like the person in that position to have.
- Only One will be hiring someone. Unless the position has multiple supervisors, only one person on the panel will ultimately choose who gets hired. Everyone else is just there to give their opinion.
What to Do Different
- Eye Contact. Eye contact in every interview is important, so it's important to make eye contact with each panelist while answering each question.
- Well-Rounded. Since each panelist is probably looking for different traits, it's important to make it clear how well-rounded you are.
- Multiple Copies. Make sure you have a copy of your resume, references, cover letter, and letters of recommendation for each panelist.
- Focus on the Right One. As mentioned earlier, there's probably only one panelist that's going to make the hiring decision. Make sure you know which one that is and give them a larger amount of your attention. DO NOT ignore the other panelists though. They're important too.
What is Behavior-Based Interviewing?
Behavior interviewing is a new style of interviewing that more and more organizations are using in their hiring process. This method of asking questions focuses on using specific examples of past behavior as a means of predicting future behavior. The STAR Method will help you respond to these types of questions.
Situation: Describe the situation.
Question: Tell me about a time when you provided exceptional customer service?
Situation: Discuss a specific situation or problem that you encountered.
“When I was working at Embassy Suites, I was responsible for booking reception rooms for special events. A woman called two weeks before her daughter’s wedding to cancel her reservation for the reception room due to a death in the family.”
Task: What needed to be done?
Question: Tell me about a time when you provided exceptional customer service?
Task: Explain the task that you had to complete or the ideas you used for resolving the problem.
“The customer was obviously very upset and I knew it was my job to carry out the proper procedures for canceling a room, as well as provide excellent customer service and put her mind at ease about the reception arrangements.”
Action: What did you do?
Question: Tell me about a time when you provided exceptional customer service?
Action: Tell specific actions which you took, steps you followed, obstacles you had to overcome, etc.
“Deposits are generally non-refundable due to the loss of revenue, but since the event was still 2 weeks away, I felt certain I could book another event. I checked with my manager to see if we could refund the customer’s deposit if I was able to do so. We were able to rebook the room with another event, return her full deposit, and I assured her we could reschedule the reception whenever the family was ready.”
Result: What happened?
Question: Tell me about a time when you provided exceptional customer service?
Result: Highlight outcomes, goals achieved, accomplishments, etc.
“The customer wasn’t expecting to get any money back and was very surprised and relieved. She wrote a very nice thank-you letter to my manager complementing the way I handled the situation and my manager commended me for taking initiative with the customer.”
- Responses need to be specific and detailed. Tell briefly about a situation that relates to the question. Include the task, what you did, and the positive result or outcome.
- The interviewer can ask more questions such as “What were you thinking at that point?” or “Lead me through your decision process.”
- Always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification if necessary, and make sure you answer the question completely.
- When preparing for the interview, identify examples of situations where you have demonstrated the behaviors desired by a company/organization.
- Prepare success stories. The stories should represent your skills, qualities, and characteristics. Always give examples of your strengths and successes.
- Refresh your memory regarding your achievements in the past couple of years. Use examples from past internships, classes, activities, team involvement, community service, and work experience.
- In addition, you may use examples you are especially proud of, such as: winning a marathon race, exhibiting paintings in an art show, running for student government, etc.
Skills Test Interviews are when job candidates are brought in to perform a series of tasks in order to test a multitude of skills and behaviors that candidates have. Normally these tasks are very specific to the position/industry, but we'll cover a few tasks that aren't.
- Teamwork: If any tasks requires or even gives the opportunity for you to work with someone else, then be aware that you are being closely watched to see what kind of teamwork skills you have. This can cover everything team related like: leadership, delegation, networking, conflict resolution, respect to authority, and ability to follow.
- Critical Thinking: Sometimes you're given tasks or asked questions that either have no answer or is about something completely unrelated to the job. This is not to make you look stupid, but to give the interviewer a chance to see how you think through problems. It's good in these situations to vocalize your thought process so it's clear what solutions you're considering and why.
- Stress: Most of these tasks are going to be accompanied by difficult or even impossible time limits. The main reason for this is to see how you handle stress. Make sure that you stay calm and don't get frustrated when things don't work out. If you're unable to complete the task in time, don't make excuses as to why. Instead, focus on what you learned how you could do better if given another chance.
So, your résumé caught someone’s eye? Great, you’ve got an interview. The catch is that you’re not being invited to the office, you’re going to be doing it via Zoom or some other video conferencing platform.
If you've never had an online interview before, it can very intimidating as you have many more things to think and worry about than a normal interview. Never fear though, here are 14 Online Interview Tips from Wired.
- 1. Standard Rules Still Apply
- 2. Eliminate Distractions
- 3. Banish the Pets and Kids
- 4. Find a Neutral Background
- 5. Choose a Smaller Chair
- 6. Master Your Lighting
- 7. Prioritize the Camera, Not the Screen
- 8. Test Your Gear
- 9. Check the Time Zone
- 10. Keep Your Eyes Forward
- 11. Wear Some Earbuds
- 12. Practice
- 13. Get in the Mood to Talk
- 14. Make a Cheat Sheet
Just because you’re on video doesn’t mean you can slack off on your appearance. The trend toward casual, devil-may-care attire in the workplace does not and should not trickle down to your choice of attire for a video job interview. Dress one notch above what the company’s typical attire is. So if the office culture favors collared shirts, check that box but also slip on a jacket. “Put your work shoes on,” says Adam Sanders, director of Successful Release, which helps felons find work after reentering society. “It might seem strange to wear your shoes during a videoconference, but it has an important psychological effect on you.” Also, be sure to wear solid colors, as stripes and complex patterns can look awful on video.
Close the door and windows in your room. Shut off the TV down the hall. Silence your cell phone (unless you’re using it for the conference, see tip #7 below). “And make sure the only window open on your computer screen is the video platform you are using,” says life coach Tom Marino. “Silence all pop-ups. The last thing you want is to lose your train of thought.”
More than any other tip, pros said that careful attention to your background is absolutely crucial. A bedroom with a sloppy bed, a home office full of clutter, a kitchen table … all of these connote information about you to the interviewer, none of it good. It’s not only unprofessional, but it also distracts the interviewer, who’ll be busy analyzing your dirty laundry instead of listening to what you have to say.
The most common advice: Set yourself up against a completely blank background (one that doesn’t clash with your shirt). “If you’re struggling to find a professional backdrop, try setting up a folding table near a neutral wall or corner,” says Michelle Vitus, CEO of Slate Advisers, a career coaching firm. But leave some distance: “Never sit right up against the wall,” says Karen Ripenburg, a TV producer and media trainer. “Allow for at least 3 feet minimum between the back of your head and the wall, so you don’t blend into the background and flatten your shot. You will look more confident with some space, and not like you have no escape.”
It should also go without saying that this is absolutely not the time for your favorite virtual background or any type of filter.
- Get plenty of light overall so it doesn’t look like you’re cowering in the dark—but not so much light that it creates glare on any eyeglasses.
- Position two lights, if possible, at a diagonal in front of you, one a bit to your right, and one a bit to your left. Table lamps work fine.
- Use natural light where possible; if one of the above lights is a window, all the better. Avoid fluorescent bulbs or other “cool” light sources.
- Eliminate any direct backlighting (like a window behind you) and avoid light shining directly over your head (especially if you’re losing your hair).
This tip may sound counterintuitive, but it’s most important that the interviewer see you clearly, not the other way around. That means prioritizing the device with the best camera in your possession, not the best display. For example, my HP all-in-one desktop has a beautiful 23-inch screen, but the built-in webcam is a paltry 1-megapixel model. Meanwhile, my iPhone 8’s front-facing camera has a whopping 7 megapixels. The quality difference between the two on a Zoom meeting is massive and immediately apparent.
The challenge with using a phone for a videoconference is that it must remain absolutely still, and you’re best hoisting it up to eye level to avoid the dreaded up-the-nose camera angle. You can rig a temporary situation on top of your laptop screen or some other device, or pick up a flexible arm mount.
Sign up for an account on the service your interviewer is using and download the necessary software. Install a backup copy of the software on a second device (for example, install on both your phone and laptop) just in case one device fails. Now draft a friend to help you through a test run on both devices to make sure audio and video are working, and that your lighting is as good as possible. Test your earbuds and keep a back-up pair within reach. The day of your interview, test everything again. On many PCs, rebooting can reset your default camera and microphone, leaving your screen blank or your audio muted, wasting the interviewer’s time and making you flustered while you struggle to get everything fixed.
Speaking of timeliness, the jury’s out on whether you should dial in early. While being the first person on the call makes you look like a go-getter, it can also be awkward if multiple interviewers are joining on the other end. Being early may not be a bad thing, but it’s more critical that you aren’t late.
This takes some practice and feels unnatural, but during your interview you should look at the camera as much as possible, not the picture of the other person on the screen. Looking at the camera is as close as you can get to making eye contact with the interviewer, while looking at the screen will appear to the other side like you’re staring off into space. The good news is that, on a small phone screen, this effect is minimized. If you’re doing your interview on a laptop, you can cheat this by shrinking the size of the videoconference app’s window and positioning it as close as possible to the location of the webcam. Also, elevate your laptop to eye level by stacking books or boxes underneath it. This way, you can stare directly into the camera without slouching or craning.
It’s great that the interviewer can see you clearly, but if she can’t hear you, you’re sunk. “People can forgive bad video, but bad audio will tank your call,” says Ripenburg. “The people interviewing you will appreciate it if you use your headphones instead of your laptop’s built-in speakers. Onboard computer audio is usually lower in quality, which is a recipe for feedback and sound distortion.”
As well, in general, demure earbuds will make you look less crazy than your oversized gaming headset.
Systems like Zoom let you record your meeting, so use this to polish your interviewing skills. “Record yourself telling your story before you go into an interview,” says Nicolle Merrill, a former career coach with the Yale School of Management. “A strong professional story will set a confident tone that offsets the awkward start on Zoom.” Study the recording to help scrub nervous tics, stammers, and other flubs from your delivery.
“It’s hard to answer questions cheerfully and energetically if you’ve been cooped up indoors for a long time,” says Anh Trinh, managing editor of GeekWithLaptop, which employs an entirely remote staff. “Us interviewers can see exactly how tired and unexcited you are for the interview, which gives us a negative opinion of you. Energy and enthusiasm are some of the things we’re looking for in any recruit, so make sure you at least act the part.”
Try doing some jumping jacks or jogging around the block before the interview to get your energy level up—and to help calm any nerves.
- What Will They Ask?
- What Should You Ask?
- How Do You End an Interview?
- What Do You Take?
- What Should You Wear?
There are hundreds of potential questions that you may be asked in an interview. If possible, ask someone you know at that company or in the industry what questions they were asked in their interview.
Here are 15 of the most commonly asked interview questions that you should prepare for:
- Tell me about yourself.
- How do you determine or evaluate success?
- What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
- Tell me about a major problem you recently handled.
- Would you say that you can easily deal with high-pressure situations?
- What personal weakness has caused you the greatest difficulty in school or on the job?
- Why did you decide to seek a position in this company?
- Tell me about the salary range you're seeking.
- If you were hiring for this position, what qualities would you look for?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What kinds of things have you done at school or on the job that were beyond expectations?
- What is the biggest mistake you've made?
- Describe the last time that you undertook a project that demanded a lot of initiative.
- On occasion we are confronted by dishonesty in the workplace. Tell me about such an occurrence and how you handled it.
- Do you have any questions for me?
You should always ask at least 2 questions at the end of the interview. They can be about almost anything related to the position or company. I DO NOT recommend asking about pay and benefits though. The best time to inquire about that is whenever you are offered the position.
Here are 5 good questions you could ask at the end of the interview:
- What qualifications do you consider most important for this position?
- What’s the most common mistake made by new employees in this position?
- What is your vision for this department/business as it continues to grow?
- What did the last person in this position do best?
- What’s the next step in the hiring process?
As the interview is winding down, the interviewer will inevitably ask if you have any questions. Not having any is an unacceptable position to take and will certainly ruin your chances of getting to the next step. Asking pertinent questions shows that you have prepared for the interview and are knowledgeable and interested. Prepare a list of questions and follow the five steps in the Call-Back Close, which will come in “handy” when you want to end your interview with confidence.
- Ask Questions
- Thank the interviewer for their time
- Express interest and review qualifications
- Arrange a time to call back
- Ask for a business card
It's easy to get so focused on how to prepare for the interview that you end up forgetting to take something with you, or forget to leave some things behind. Here's a quick list of what you should and should not have with you at the interview.
What You SHOULD Have:
- A smile/positive attitude
- Extra copies of your resume
- Your portfolio (see portfolios tab for a list of contents)
- Pocket kleenex (if your hands get sweaty)
What You SHOULD NOT Have:
- Your cellphone (leave it in the car)
- A backpack, purse, or satchel
- Food or drinks of any kind including gum
- Other people or pets
One of the most common questions is what you should wear to a job interview. Well there's actually 8 steps to make sure your appearance is good for an interview.
1. Get at least 7 hours of sleep the night before.
When you're tired, you may not look or feel your best. Make sure to get plenty of sleep the night before your interview.
2. Shower the day of the interview.
Showering the day of the interview will ensure you are fresh and clean for your interview. It will also help you feel refreshed and confident.
3. Style your hair.
Your hair is one of the first things the hiring manager will notice about you. Fixing your hair will help you look and feel professional.
4. Brush your teeth.
Be remembered for your ideas, skills and personality. Not your bad breath!
5. Use deodorant and antiperspirant.
Interviewing can make you nervous, which can make you sweat. Wearing deodorant and antiperspirant will help you feel more confident.
6. Avoid strong perfumes or colognes.
Although you want to smell nice, avoid wearing a lot of perfume or cologne. Strong odors, even good ones, can distract from your interview and leave a bad impression with the hiring manager.
7. What should you wear? It depends on the job.
As a general rule, for an interview you should dress like the manager of the job you are interviewing for. If you are interviewing for an office job,you'll most likely need to wear a
suit. If you are unsure, ask your instructor or a Career & College Connection Specialist.
8. Check your attire for distractions.
Make a good impression by making sure you look clean and tidy, and your clothes fit properly. Check your clothes for wrinkles, tears, stains, missing buttons and holes. Make sure your shoes are clean and without any scuffs. If you wear makeup or jewelry, keep it simple. Empty your pockets of anything that might fall out or distract from your outfit, including your cell phone.
What are the benefits of attending MNTC's Career and College fair?
- Opportunity to interact one-on-one with employers and college recruiters
- Practice and enhance networking skills
- Gain awareness of organizations and positions they are hiring for and learn about colleges and their admission processes
- Establish professional relationships and gather contact information from employers and college recruiters
- Discover a myriad of internship and job opportunities
What is the MNTC Career and College fair?
The Career and College Fair is an annual event that gives students, employers, and college recruiters a chance to meet one another, establish professional relationships, discuss potential jobs and/or internship opportunities and learn about different college programs.
Who can attend the MNTC Career and College Fair?
There is a common misconception that only current students of MNTC can attend the fair. However, all MNTC students (long-term and short term), alumni, and community job seekers can benefit from attending the fair and are invited to participate.
- Before the Career and College Fair
- During the Career and College Fair
- After the Career and College Fair
1. Create a professional résumé.
- Visit Career and College Connection to have your résumé critiqued and to request multiple copies of your reviewed resume printed on professional résumé paper.
2. Develop and practice an elevator pitch.
- View How To Create your 30 Second Elevator Pitch.
- TIP: It is important that you practice delivering your elevator pitch before attending the fair. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel.
3. Research employers.
- Identify which employers you want to talk to BEFORE the event by researching the organizations attending.
- Research all attendees. You can find a list of all fair attendees on the career and college connection website with a link to the individual attendees websites.
4. Prepare to dress for success at the event.
- View the “Dress to Impress” infographic.
- Visit The Backroom Clothing Company for help with picking out the perfect interview outfit. ????
- TIP: Checkout Professional Attire for Men and Women
5. Attend a career fair preparation workshop.
• Check the Career and College Connection website for the Steps to Success workshop, How to Rock A Job Fair.
6. Consider creating a professional business card.
8. Check your online presence.
- Clean up your Facebook and other social media profiles and put your settings on private.
- Address your “digital dirt" by attending the Steps to Success workshop, Everything Social Media.
- Leave your cell phone in the classroom or in your car. If you must take your cell phone, place on silent and out of sight.
- Do not travel in a group. Groups do not get jobs, individuals do.
- Be positive and confident! • Remember first impressions count - have a firm handshake, make good eye contact, and most importantly - SMILE!
- Scan the location of organizations once you enter the fair. It is always a good idea to visit the employers and college recruiters that are not your favorite so that you can work out your nervousness before moving onto the companies you do want to work for.
- Ask good questions!
- Leave your résumé and a business card, with each representative that you speak with. • Do know that giving a copy of your resume to the representative is not applying for a job with their company. You must "apply online" to be considered for employment.
- TIP - You can stand out right away by submitting your application to companies you are interested in before the fair. This will show initiative and impress the representative.
- Request a business card from the employer (or contact name if employer is not handing out business cards)
- Take notes (in your business portfolio if necessary).
- Apply. Make sure you apply for the positions that you're interested in on the company's website and upload your resume or portfolio.
- Follow up with the employer by sending a thank you note or email. To checkout our tips for writing thank you notes go to the informational interview section under the interview tab above and look for the Process tab.
- TIP. Send thank you notes within 24 hours.
Write a cover letter to accompany your resume/application for a specific position, encouraging the recipient to grant you an interview. Demonstrate that your qualifications fit the job requirements, and link your background to aspects of the open position. This letter should not be a repeat of the information in your resume.
Writing a cover letter can seem daunting, but following this format will ensure you include all of the necessary information.
- Header - contact information
- Greet the hiring manager
- Opening paragraph - Get the hiring manager's attention with 2-3 of your top achievements
- Second paragraph - Explain why you’re the best candidate for the job
- Third paragraph - Explain why you’re a good match for the company
- Formal closing
Ready to get started? Here are 9 easy steps to help your write a great cover letter, along with sample cover letters and templates.
- 1. Choose a Professional Template
- 2. Use a Header with Contact Information
- 3. Greet the Hiring Manager
- 4. Write an Attention-Grabbing Introduction
- 5. Explain Why You're the Best Candidate
- 6. Explain Why You're a Good Fit for the Organization
- 7. End Your Letter with a Call to Action
- 8. Use a Formal Closing
- 9. Proofread Your Letter
- Cover Letter Samples
As with a resume, it’s important to begin your cover letter with your contact information.
Include the following information:
- Your Name
- Phone Number
- Name of the hiring manager and their title
- Name of the company you’re applying to
Note: As with your resume, use a professional email address on your cover letter. An unprofessional email address makes it difficult for the hiring manager to take you seriously.
Once your contact information is complete, it's time to start writing your letter.
Address your cover letter to the hiring manager, not "To Whom it May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam". By doing this, you are showing the employer you have done your research and are interested in working for the company.
How do you find out who the Hiring Manager is? There are several ways to do this:
- On the job description: sometimes the Hiring Manager can be found on the job description
- On the company website: research the Human Resources department to determine who the Hiring Manager is
Still having trouble? Try LinkedIn. You can research the company there to find the Hiring Manager.
Hiring managers receive multiple applications. Because of this, it's unlikely they will be able to read every cover letter thoroughly.
That's why it's important to start your cover letter off strong!
List 2-3 of your top achievements to grab the Hiring Manager’s attention. Make sure they are relevant to the job you're applying for.
The Hiring Manager not only looks at how good a fit you'll be for the job, they're also looking for someone who is a good fit for their company culture.
Therefore, you'll also need to convey that you're excited to work for their company.
This will require more research. Review the company's website to determine:
- the company’s business model
- the company product or service
- the culture
Once you have this information, explain how you'll be a good fit for their company.
The MNTC Career and College Portfolio prepares students for the world of work through planning, reflection, skill development, and portfolio documentation. Building your Career Portfolio helps you get organized, showcase your skills and accomplishments, and stand out from the crowd. The Career Portfolio is also beneficial for interview preparation, enabling you to more effectively articulate your qualifications, skills, and abilities to employers and colleges.
To learn more about portfolios, please visit our Career Portfolios page
Scrolling through your photos from this past weekend and laughing at the debauchery of your TikTok charades? Ranting about your current job or co-workers because you think you're just among "friends?" Think again. According to a CareerBuilder survey from 2017, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring. So pause before you post – if you think it could be questionable or inappropriate, you should probably not post it. When it doubt, leave it out!
Here are some simple rules to follow if you want your social media to attract employers instead of scaring them away:
11 Things to NOT do on Social Media
- Post provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos, or information.
- Post information about drinking or using drugs.
- Post discriminatory comments related to race, gender, or religion.
- Bad-mouth current or previous employer or co-worker.
- Lie about qualifications.
- Demonstrate poor communication skills.
- Post something linking you to criminal behavior.
- Share confidential information about current or previous employer.
- Have an unprofessional screen name.
- Lie about an absence from work.
- Post too frequently.
11 Thing to do on Social Media to Attract Employers
- Have a LinkedIn account: over 90% of employers use LinkedIn to find and screen job candidates.
- Proofread your posts: make sure you're showing good communication skills by double-checking your spelling and punctuation.
- Demonstrate a positive attitude: use social media to talk about the good things instead of ranting about the bad.
- Show off your skills: instead of just sharing cat videos, make some posts that demonstrate your skills.
- Post volunteering pictures: it can feel narcissistic to post pictures of you volunteering, but if your post focuses on the good things the organization does, then you look better to employers while also encouraging others to support that organization.
- Get a professional profile picture: having a well-lit professional profile picture will give employers a good first impression of you.
- Make yourself easy to find: if your name is common, make sure that employers find your social media instead of someone else by having uniform profile pictures across platforms.
- Understand privacy policies: read the privacy policies that you're agreeing to. You'll probably be surprised on how little of privacy you actually have.
- Update your information: make sure the information in your profile is the same and up-to-date on all the social media accounts that you have.
- Stay civil online: if you get into a discussion online, make sure you stay civil and don't resort to name-calling, belittling, or trolling.
- Create content: sharing posts, pictures, and articles is okay, but make sure you create your own content too.
The purpose of a resume is to present you as a potential candidate with the necessary qualifications to meet the job specifications. It is your advertising or marketing tool designed to sell the employer on your strongest qualifications for a particular position or type of employment. It should be well written, error free and present your accomplishments favorably.
Please check out our Resume page to learn everything about resumes.