At Advance LA we work with lots of teens and young adults during different stages in life and with different strengths and weaknesses. One question that we have had come up with lots of clients recently is: How do I prepare for a job interview? Many young adults with special needs feel really nervous and are unsure how to prepare for their first job interview. We’ve created some quick tips below that may help you (or someone you know) get started in preparing for a job interview.
Remember: Some of our blog posts may apply to you and your family; some posts may be helpful at a later point in your life or can be implemented with some support; while other topics may never apply to you at all. We hope to share as many resources as possible, covering a wide array of topics, and look forward to your feedback! Please let us know (in the comments or on our Facebook page) if there are any topics you’d like to see addressed on our Advance LA blog!
10 Things You Should Do To Prepare For a Job Interview
1. Create a Resume
When you present a resume to an employer, you’re giving them a snapshot of who you are, your skills, and your capabilities. It tells the employer where you’ve been and gives them a picture of where you’re headed. Having a well-developed resume is one of the most important steps in landing the job that you want. If you’ve never written one before, there are plenty of resources available that are free. Check online sources–there are several resume websites that can start you off in the right direction. You can also check with your college or career center on campus, or an Advance LA coach!
2. Dot your “ I’s” and cross your “ T’s”, Fine Tune Your Resume
Once you’ve created your resume, it’s now time to fine tune it. Double, Triple, Quadruple check your resume. Is spelling correct? Is there any formatting issues? Does your resume flow nicely? Is your resume tailored specifically to the company that you’re applying for? Make sure all these things are addressed before you turn in that paper, because once you hand it in you can’t get it back to fix it. Remember, dot your “I’s” and cross your “T’s”! It’s always a good idea to have someone else read your resume at least once before you submit it. Try asking a parent, friend, teacher, or coach!
3. Do Your Homework, Know Where You Are Applying
Taking the initiative to know the company/employer will help set yourself apart from the crowd. Try researching the history of the company, how they came to be, what projects they are currently working on, or just familiarize yourself with some of the products and services they offer. Understanding what the company/employer has to offer, their vision and values, can greatly impact your chances of getting hired. Doing your homework will not only show your enthusiasm and desire to work for the company, but it will also prepare you for the interview portion of the hiring process. Make sure you have specific questions to ask in the interview if you can’t find the information you need. If you have a disability, research the company policies, availability of training programs within the company, or supported employment options that may be available. There are quite a few companies that employ and work with people with a variety of strengths and struggles- do your research and find out what would be a good fit for you!
4. Prepare a Cover Letter
A cover letter is your introduction to the employer expressing your desire to apply for a certain position. You should take this opportunity to share a little of your personality and highlight some of the skills you possess that would make you a great candidate for the position that you are applying for. Most of the time employers look at the cover letter before reviewing your resume so share your qualities; they want to know more about you. If you need help, sample cover letters are available in Microsoft Word as templates, or you can ask the career center on campus, a college counselor at high school, or your teacher or parent!
5. Do Practice Interviews
The interview portion of the hiring process can be overwhelming for most people. But the scary interview can be… NOT so scary. So what’s the big secret to acing the interview? PRACTICE! Role playing with a friend or family member will not only calm your nerves, but it also won’t leave you looking stumped when it comes to the big day! Many typical interview questions are available online and having a prepared answer for some questions is a good strategy to feel less nervous in the interview. Remember appropriate interview social skills, as well: good eye-contact, hand-shaking, and turn-taking in conversations are important skills in the interview! Your parent, friend or coach should give you feedback on these important social skills during your role playing activities.
6. Look Professional
Now that you’ve prepped your resume, did your homework, and practiced interview questions; it’s time to look the look. Remember the employer only has limited of time to spend with you before deciding whether or not to hire you. Prepare an outfit that’s appropriate for your interview. You want to look professional and appropriate– which means no cut up shirts and no sandals! You want to give off the best first impression as possible. What to wear may differ depending on where you are applying for a job. It’s probably not necessary to wear a full suit to an interview at a grocery store, for example, but make sure that all of your clothing is clean, not wrinkled, and looks respectful!
7. Be Early!
Who wants to be late to an interview, especially when it’s your dream job? Using tools such as Map Quest or Google Maps and knowing how to get to your interview site will help you manage your time efficiently. You’ll be able to find alternative routes in case of traffic issues or the unforeseen, like closed lanes and road blocks. If you’re taking public transportation, look up route schedules and leave enough time in case the bus or train gets delayed. You don’t want get lost, so know where you’re going. If you have a phone that can access maps online, map out the address beforehand and consult your phone en route. Getting to an interview a few minutes early (10-15) is best! That way your potential future employer will know that you are responsible and trustworthy.
8. Get Enough ZZzzZz’s…
You want to make sure that you’re well rested before the day of your interview. It might be a hectic day, so you’ll need all the energy you can get. Catch up on those Z’s, the more the better. Try to get to bed a little bit earlier than normal, in case you have trouble falling asleep.
9. Eat a Good Breakfast
Rest along with having a good breakfast are ingredients to starting off the day right. Having food in your stomach will give you the fuel your body needs to run efficiently throughout the day. If you take medication, make sure that you take it with enough time for it to become fully active before your interview. You want to be clear-headed and focused!
10. Clear Your Schedule
If you know you’re having an interview, try and schedule your activities around it. You never know how long an interview is going to last. It can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour. Clear some time so you have a good window of opportunity to get through the interview without having to worry about being late to something else. If you are having someone pick you up or drop you off, make sure they know when the interview starts and that you have their phone number, so that you can let them know when the interview is over. Always remember that it’s a good idea to turn off your phone DURING the interview!
Of course, if you need help, advice, or coaching on these interview skills, you can always contact an Advance LA coach for more tips!
Contributed by: Yuttigar Jirachachavalwong, Graduate Student and Rachel Round, Graduate Student and Advance LA Life Skills Coach
Edited by: Amy Jane Griffiths, PhD, Director of Advance LA