Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Motherly to prepare for a job interview...


Do you have teenagers who are applying for their first part time job?
As a Mum of four, the youngest of whom has just applied for, and secured her first part time job, as an employer, and as a Human Resource Manager of many years, maybe I can help.
I worked in HRM in retail, advertising, and consultancy for twenty years, before my sons diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, forced an early halt to my career. However my experience over that time stood me in good stead, and I have continued to use my Interviewing, Training, and Management skills in our own business, and in hiring, training and managing a team of staff to support my son in living independently. No experience is ever wasted. I can vouch for that too. A stint working in a Hospital kitchen taught me much about food preparation and hygiene, and a longer spell in Event management taught me organising, negotiation, menu planning and costing skills that remain an asset to me in my home to this day.
My own sons have all succeeded in their careers, and my daughter did her very first Resume drop at a local shopping centre on Sunday, secured an interview there and then for the next day, and was offered the position at the end of the interview. The Manager said that she was very impressed with my daughters positive attitude, passion, and presentation. You can't ask for much better feedback than that.
So here's my advice, step by step.
 Dress appropriately. Prospective employers want to see that you've made an effort with your personal presentation. If you don't make an effort for your interview, why would they think you'd make an effort on the job? A wise person once said 'you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression'. This is not the time to showcase your fashion sense, unless your interview is in the Fashion Industry. And even then, you're better off presenting as a blank slate, upon whom the interviewer can imagine their stock or their uniform. Basic neutral colours, simple lines, neat hair, light makeup for girls. Long pants, plain collared shirt, closed in shoes for guys. It goes without saying that your hair and nails should be clean, and deodorant and fresh breath are an absolute must. That said, don't go overboard on perfume or after shave. That can be as off-putting as body odour in a small space. Girls, don't wear high heels if you cannot walk in them. Make sure your shoes are clean and in good repair. Tip: a permanent ink felt tip pen is brilliant for touching up black shoes. Remove chipped nail polish from fingernails and toenails (if wearing sandals), and keep jewellery simple and understated. No jangly bracelets, huge earrings, and a ring on every finger for the interview. Remove piercings if you can, unless they're appropriate for the industry in which you're seeking a job. Cover tattoos for now as well, again, unless they're appropriate for the industry. Long hair should be styled immaculately, or tied back neatly, both for guys and girls.
In summary:
Be clean, neat, tidy, and well groomed. That's it. Sounds easy, but seems to make or break a lot of interviews. Honestly.
Tip: Even if you are just dropping resumes, dress as if you're going for the interview. It worked for my daughter, and often prospective employers will interview a well presented candidate on the spot if there is a position available. Timing is everything. Be prepared! 
Keep it short
Nobody expects a student to have a lengthy resume. Your details should be current, accurate, and should show your strengths. I always like to see a cover page with a photograph, as when you're interviewing lots of people, it's hard to remember who's who.

If you're an older person, limit your resume to the last five years, adding that further detail can be provided upon request.

The aim is to get you in the door, in front of the Interviewer, and give you the best chance of securing a job offer. Provide enough detail for them to decide if you're a worthwhile candidate, but save lengthy or personal detail for the interview.


If you rely on your parents, a sibling, a grandparent or public transport to get to and from work, say so, but try to turn that into a positive. You could say 'I can be here in x minutes, because (insert name) is freely available to assist me in getting to work and back'. Or if you're relying on public transport, specify the type, the line, and the time frame, so you'd say 'I can catch the Green line (or Express, or the number of the route and so on), and be here in ...x amount of time. If you have a license and your own car, say so. Knowing who can be called upon on short notice, can also swing things in your favour.
Find your remarkability

If you've held student leadership roles, list them, as these can indicate to an employer that you have a history of going above and beyond, and that your attendance and behaviour history is probably fairly exemplary. If you've played a sport, or a musical instrument or danced, list that as well, including the length of time you've been involved and any awards or the level of exams you've completed, as this indicates an ability to commit to a task and be a good team member. If you've excelled at something, mention that too. If you've volunteered for anything, anything at all, from cooking sausages at a fundraiser, to helping with younger team members at events, if you've been a baby sitter, helped your grandparents with their garden, or led the church congregation on Sundays, mention it.
What has shaped you?
If you come from a large family and you feel you've gained skills in compromise, conflict resolution, and a spirit of generosity from living with lots of siblings, SAY so. If you're an only child and you've learned to be strongly independent and self-reliant from that experience, SAY so. If your parents both worked, how did that make you the person you are? Maybe that's given you experience in thinking for yourself. If you had a stay-at-home parent, how did that work in your favour? Perhaps it's shown you that stability and predictability and dependability are important to you, and those qualities are important to employers as well. Maybe, like so many teens these days, your parents have separated or divorced or you've only ever lived with one parent. How has that impacted on you? What strengths have you gained from that experience? My sons say to this day, that living in a single parent home, taught them the value of hard work, co-operation, and compromise....all important work and life skills.  Can you see where I'm going? FIND things in your personal history that make you look like a person who will enhance the interviewers business, and SAY how those experiences and attributes will make you a valuable staff member.

And even better, find someone ELSE who can vouch for those qualities, experiences and attributes. I cannot stress enough, the power of a flattering personal reference. Who to ask? A teacher, an extra-curricular teacher or coach, your pastor, the guidance counsellor at the school, the Principal (yes, really), a sibling (yes REALLY). Ask them to be honest, but to do their best to turn any perceived faults, into a potential positive. Your brother or sister might say 'My sister/brother can be bossy, but I believe it's because he/she speaks from experience and he/she knows how to get things done'. A teacher might say 'This student has great strengths in these areas....., and in any areas where he/she is lacking, I have found him/her very responsive to guidance.'
In summary:
Be succinct. Include a photo. List your achievements. Outline your transport arrangements. Include good references.  FIND the life events that have shaped you, and SAY, and get someone else to SAY, how they've enhanced qualities that an employer would value.
Practice being interviewed
We used to call this Role Playing. It feels silly, but you learn so many really worthwhile skills, and gain the ability to think on your feet. Why schools don't include this as part of their curriculum, I do not know. You can Role Play with your siblings, parents, grandparents, a friend or a teacher, but do it OUT LOUD. Doing it in your own head, just doesn't work the same way. Find typical interviewer questions on the internet, and print them out, then get someone to actually pretend to be the Interviewer, and practise. Right from walking in the door, sitting up straight, eye contact, introducing yourself, sitting down, and answering questions. Be prepared to answer questions as general and open as 'Tell me about yourself', and 'What are you passionate about?', to 'How do you feel about working split shifts?' or 'What are your salary expectations?'.
You won't feel silly when the questions are asked for real, and you're well prepared for anything. I promise.

And if a prospective employer rings and asks whether you can come for an interview today, the answer should always be YES.
In summary:
Role play your interview. Before every interview and in between interviews. You won't regret it.
I found this list on Google (credit to Swiss Miss), and this seemed to exemplify the qualities I look for in staff.
 Be on time...Woody Allen once said "80% of being successful, is just turning up". Never is this more important than when you are going for an interview or starting your first job. Don't be late. Ever. In fact, be 10 minutes early. 9am is your start time, so you need to arrive ten minutes early to allow for a toilet stop, grooming touch-up if necessary, and putting your personal things away. You do not arrive at 8:59 and fluff around for ten minutes. You just don't.
Work Ethic... Work hard, and don't try to take liberties. You know what I mean. Texting on the job, sneaking a break when you're not entitled to one, checking Facebook when you're supposed to be dong something else. Do I really have to spell this one out?
Effort... Strive to be the best you can be. Don't give 50% and think that's good enough. It might just get you through, but is that how you want your life to be? A series of 'just getting through'?
Body Language... Sit tall, stand tall, be interested.
Energy... Make sure you get enough sleep, exercise, eat well. Yes, even those things make you a healthier employee, with greater stamina and good health.
Attitude... Your altitude in life, depends upon your Attitude. Enough said.
Passion... Passion, when aimed correctly, is a powerful tool. Make sure your Passion is aimed in the right direction.
Being Coachable... Seek to learn something new as often as you can. Accept that nobody starts at the top. Appreciate that even the cruddy jobs teach you valuable skills. Really.
Doing extra... Those who do 'extra' are often rewarded when they least expect it. Be that person.
Being prepared.... With your personal presentation, for an interview on the spot, with your resume, and with your interview technique. When you get the job, be prepared to be flexible, willing, and work hard. The rewards will come.
Yes, prospective employers look. I do.
If your profile picture is inappropriate, change it.
If your timeline is full of details of the last party you went to, or has pictures of you doing things that might make an employer think twice for whatever reason, delete those posts.
Temporarily delete your account if you think it's an issue. You can always reinstate it any time you like. Even I know that, and I'm old ;-)
You can change it back later....maybe. Or maybe not. That's up to you.
Accept that getting a job, might have to take priority over your social media profile for a while.
Honestly. Clean it up. It might mean the difference between you and the person before or after you, getting that job.
Here in Australia, NOW is the time to be applying for those Christmas Casual jobs. Get in there. Dress for success, clean up your resume and your social media profile, find your remarkability, and practise your interview questions. Dig out your best interview outfit and clean that up too. Inspect it carefully for spots, stains, missing buttons or unravelling hemlines...fix those things today. Wash it and iron it, and be ready to attend an interview at a moments notice. Show the prospective employer your best self.
Why would you do otherwise?
Good luck!
Let me know how you go!


Since posting this, my daughter has had two further interview requests, and a job offer after a telephone interview! It works, I promise!


  1. Some great tips there, Mimi. I have heard that a lot of teens wear inappropriate clothing to interviews so obviously nobody is having a word in their ear. Your daughter is very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable mum.

    1. Thanks Chel. I used to employ dozens of teens, and back then, they seemed to know what to do. Somehow, it's all got lost in the works. I'm hoping to contribute to rectifying that in my own small way :)

  2. Some great advice there 😘

  3. Such great advice Mimi for young and old! ❤️

    1. Thanks so much Lynn. You're always a pleasure to have

  4. Always good to hear about job hunting, interview hints, especially from an insider. Great post

    1. Thankyou Janie. I'm amazed that these things are not common knowledge. But then, as it's so often said, 'common' knowledge/sense, ain't that 'common' any more! Mimi xxx

  5. Thanks Mimi for sharing all of this helpful information on how to prepare for a job at our Cooking and Crafting with J&J.
    Enjoy the week.

    1. Thanks Julie. Always a pleasure to join you. Mimi xxx

  6. Dearest Mimi,
    I'm finally back and so overjoyed by finding myself here !
    Thank you for your so lovely and useful post, Lovely Lady !!!

    Wishing you a most lovely day, today,
    and wonderful days to come,
    with utmost gratitude

    XOXO Dany

    1. Hello Daniela my sweet. How lovely to see you. I hope your week is lovely. Mimi xxx

  7. Great tips as always, Mimi, thank you for sharing your insights x
    And congratulations again to your daughter on her first job! I hope it is everything she expects it to be :)
    Fiona xx

    1. Thanks Fiona. She actually had a second job offer from another upmarket retailer yesterday, so clearly we are doing something right! Mimi xxx

  8. What a wonderful post Mimi Thank you so much for the time and thought you put into writing such a helpful post My 15 year old son found it so helpful and I suggested he gets all his friends to read it So much useful advice all in one place love your blog such an inspiration to me I have been reading your insourcing entries again for new motivation Thank you. Shelley

    1. Dear Shelley, thanks so much for taking the time to give me your thoughts. I am so pleased you found my post helpful and relevant. Mimi xxx


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