Updated 14 May 2013

Dealing with your first job interview

Before getting a casual job, it is often necessary to go through an interview beforehand. What happens here and how should you behave during this?

Many teens have part-time jobs to earn pocket money. These cover the full range from occasional baby-sitting to pizza deliveries, to working as cashiers or packers in supermarkets, to waiting on tables or working as extras on movie sets.

Many of these jobs are found by word of mouth, but it is also often necessary to go through an interview beforehand. What happens here and how should you behave during this?

An interview gives the employer an opportunity to meet you, to form an impression of you and to decide whether you are the kind of person he/she will want to employ. So what are the things you can be expecting? And what shouldn't you do in an interview?

One-on-one. For casual jobs you will usually not be interviewed by more than one person. Expect questions about your interests, your experience and why you want to work for that particular company.

Personal details. If you have never worked before, a detailed Curriculum Vitae (CV), which is a document detailing your personal details, work experience, interests and so forth, is probably not necessary. What would be enough is a short document containing your personal details (name, date of birth, address, contactable telephone number, educational level) and the name of two references (people who can vouch for your character, such as a teacher, a previous employer, a religious minister).

Dress for success. This is always important. No evening wear, nothing too bright, too revealing, too tight or too casual. No flashy jewellery. Remember that first impressions are lasting and the interviewer is going to judge you on what you are wearing. Black jeans and a white shirt and plain shoes always do the trick. Make sure your hair is clean and neat.

Better never than late. If you are late, you might as well not bother to pitch for the interview. If you cannot be on time for the interview, will you ever be on time for work? Make sure you are there at least ten minutes before the time the interview is scheduled.

No chewing gum. This simply looks unprofessional and far too casual. Would you want to employ someone who is going to chew chewing gum while serving customers?

Be prepared. If the interviewer asks you why you want the job, or what your interests are, be prepared with an answer. Sitting there blushing and giggling is not going to do the trick. Think of possible answers beforehand. Also have your personal details ready and know things like when you would be available to work.

Be friendly, not chatty. This person is potentially your boss and there is a certain formality to this situation. Don't crack jokes, don't make remarks that could be misinterpreted and don't volunteer too much information. Speak when you are spoken to, and have a question or two ready in case you are asked, but don't speak out of turn. The last thing any employer wants is a smart Alec whose going to spend all the time at work cracking jokes with other employees.

Never flirt in an interview. Even if the interviewer is the man or woman of your dreams, don't even think of flirting. If you do, you may be getting the job for the wrong reasons, or you may end up with a situation where this person harasses you. Stranger things have happened. You're looking for a job, not a date – stick to your agenda.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2009)

(Picture: Teen in business clothes from Shutterstock)


Can you remember your first job interview? Come and share your stories with us.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Mental health & your work »

How open are you about mental illness in the workplace?

Mental health in the workplace – what you can do to help

If you know that one of your colleagues suffers from a mental illness, would you be able to help them at work? Maligay Govender offers some helpful mental health "first aid" tips.

Sleep & You »

Sleep vs. no sleep Diagnosis of insomnia

6 things that are sabotaging your sleep

Kick these shut-eye killers to the kerb and make your whole life better – overnight.