Basic Knowledge for the First-Time Job Seeker


Yeah, I think at this point we’ve abandoned any pretense at having a theme for this blog.  Welcome to Lost to the Aether, where we talk about whatever random thought floats to the top of my mind on any given week!  Today’s topic: Entry Level Jobs!

High schools and colleges have been having their graduations in recent weeks, or if they haven’t yet, will be hitting them soon.  That leaves a lot of youngsters out there with nothing to do.  Which means a lot of youngsters trying to find jobs for the first time, so they can get money for whatever it is youngsters like these days.  Those Britney Spears albums and Pong arcade machines and what not.  And, since my organization seems to get a couple open entry-level part time positions each year that get a lot of applicants fresh out of high school, and since my organization finds some sort of fiendish delight in making me staff them, a lot of these youngsters are going to be coming through my doors looking for jobs.  And not a lot of them actually know what they’re doing.  It’s not their fault.  They just haven’t gone through the whole process before.  They still waste both my and their time, though.

So, in the hopes that typing this up is going to make at least one prospective job seeker bother me just a little bit less, here’s some common sense things people should know before the first time they apply for a job.  As the title states, this is pretty basic stuff, and mostly for first-timers in the job sphere.  If you’re looking for a full-time mid-level position, this stuff probably isn’t going to help you much.  Because you should know it already.  If not, then shame on you.  Besides, I’m just drawing on my personal experiences as an interviewer, and I don’t handle anything higher level.  But hey, if you’re wanting to bone up before you go for your first job, you’re in the right place!  Let’s get started!


Make sure they have info on you

We’re pretty informal at my office.  We don’t have application forms or anything like that.  When we’ve got an opening, I usually just ask for an e-mail expressing interest and a resume.  Sometimes, because resumes are uncool or something, the applicant won’t even bother sending one.  So all I get is an e-mail saying something along the lines of “Yo, Aether, what up, I want that job.”  Which is cool and all, but it tells me nothing about why we should hire them.  You could be interested in the job.  You could be the most interested in the job.  You could be so interested in the job that you started drawing fanart and writing creepy erotic fanfiction about it.  I don’t care.  I need some reason to hire you, and just being interested in the job isn’t going to cut it.  I’d say that over half the initial e-mails I get tell me nothing about the applicant’s skills, experiences, or any other reason I’d have to spare the time to even consider bringing them in.

Basically, until you make it to an interview, you’re just a list of stats to me.  I need to know what you can do, what you’ll be able to add to the office, what you’ve done that’s related to this job, and anything else that’s relevant so I can stack you up against all the rest of the applicants and figure out which are my favorite set of stats.  If you don’t give me any real information about you, I’ve got nothing to compare.  Just keep in mind that resumes are your friend.  I can’t think of a single position within my own organization or any other organization I work with where adding in a resume will do anything but improve your chances.  Some application forms may cover the sort of information your future employer needs to hire you, but if not, it’s your responsibility to make sure that anything that makes you hireable is known to the organization.  They need to know about you, and all they have to go off of is what you provide.

Be timely

Here’s the thing about these jobs.  If this is your first job, and you meet the qualifications, chances are that any random loser is qualified to fill it.  Meaning that all the random losers are going to apply.  And your sole, shining non-loser application is going to get lost in a sea of random losers if you wait too long.  For our most basic positions, I usually only leave things open for application for a day or two, and I still collect 80-100 people interested in that time.  I’d love to leave things more open, but any longer that that and it’d just get unmanageable.  Most of the other organizations I’ve talked to about this are in the same boat, and also have to take measures to limit the amount of applications coming in.  The more narrow the requirements, the longer the opening can remain so, but for the really basic jobs, you’re going to have to act fast.

Know who you’re talking to

Websites are there for a reason.  Familiarize yourself with them before you apply.  Not only will it give you some insight into whether the organization is right for you, it’ll also help you tailor your application/resume, and… really, you should just know about the organization you’re applying for.  I’m happy to answer specific questions about the job opening, when they come up and they’re not covered in the announcement.  Asking something like “So, what do you guys do?” just gets you sent to the bottom of the pile.  Organizations expect that if you take the time to apply to them, you know something about them.  They’ll want someone who’s actively interested in being part of the organization, not someone who’s applying just because they need a job.

I can not tell you the amount of times a potential hire has called me Professor Aether or Doctor Aether, in spite of the fact that I hold neither of those degrees.  If they had taken the time to look at their website, they’d know that, because my education is spelled out very clearly in my bio.  But if they won’t take the time to learn about us, I generally won’t take the time to learn about them.  Don’t be that guy.

The Interview

Dress Up

I cannot overemphasize this.  I don’t care what job you’re applying for.  I don’t care if you’re trying to be head poop cleaner for the carnival.  Wear some nice clothes to the interview.  I have had to turn away so many promising applicants because they showed up to our business casual environment in tattered jeans, baggy graphic t-shirts, and the like.  I don’t know what the aversion to dressing up is among those right out of high school.  I just know that so many of them show up to their interviews in their street clothes.  And I have never hired a single one of those.

Present yourself well

When I’m talking about our potential applicants with my supervisor, the first, and most important, thing she wants to know is how well the presented themselves at the interview.  That means how comfortable they are talking to people, how well they communicate, how easily they handle questions and the shifting dialogue, and how confident they seem in general.  That’s really the purpose of the interview.  I already know your technical abilities from your resume, and while discussing the application of them is important, it’s more important for me to get a sense of who you are, how you relate to people, and how you would fit in the office.

Confidence is the big thing.  That’s eye contact, a straight and open posture, and a clear speaking voice.  Beyond that, just try to hold a conversation.  Give fairly elaborate answers, even if the question’s simple.  If a question doesn’t directly apply, find some way for it to indirectly apply.  Be proud and brag a bit.  The interview’s all about you, so go ahead and use that.

It’s ok to be nervous

This is one of the first things I learned when I started picking up public speaking.  Nobody can tell you’re nervous as much as you can.  So long as you don’t freeze or start blabbering, the signs are nowhere near as apparent as you might think.  I do feel for my interviewees.  They’re immediately thrown off, being interviewed by a sexy man-god who’s not that much older than they are.  It can be nerve wracking, and I know for a lot of them it is, because I shake their hand at the end of the interview and it is often soaked in sweat.  Before that, though, they just seem to be handling everything casually, and that’s what really matters.  If an interviewee isn’t nervous at all, more often then not it means they don’t care about the job.  Getting your nerves a little on edge is natural, and as long as you don’t linger on it, it probably isn’t going to harm your interview any.  So just relax about being nervous.

Leave your parents at home

You wouldn’t think I’d have to include this.  I’d never have thought I’d have to include it.  Experience has proven me wrong, though.  Not getting into specifics here, because the specifics are ridiculous, but if your mom comes into play at any point, you’ve lost the job.  Because that’s just ridiculous.  No, your mom arguing with me is not going to get me to change my mind.  No, I don’t care what your mom has to say about you.  It’s always the mother, too.  This is something you need to do on your own.  If your mom gets involved in any way, you’re not ready to have a job.


Don’t be a dick

Some jobs will send you a rejection if you sent in an application and didn’t get the job, whether you made it to an interview or not.  Some will just send you a rejection if you made the interview.  I’ll actually give a phone call to everyone we interviewed and let them know the results that way, but I understand I’m a little unusual in that regard.  If you didn’t get the job, don’t be a dick, no matter how they let you know.  Rejections don’t usually require a response, but if you’re getting back to them in any way, thanking the employer for their time should be the only thing you do.  I’ve had people get angry with me over not being selected, and the only thing that accomplishes is getting them blacklisted from the organization.

And… that’s about all that comes to mind right now.  For those of you checking in hoping to see some video game related content, don’t worry, we’ll be back to that soon.

5 responses to “Basic Knowledge for the First-Time Job Seeker

  1. All true/useful. Hopefully everyone who applies for a job/internship knows these things, or has the forethought to do a google search on ‘Job Seeking 101′.

    I wish high schools would teach students the basics on interview etiquette and writing resumes. Career Centers at colleges do a lot of this, but some of the stories I’ve heard from various counselors about students’ resume drafts are a tad pathetic. Moreover, not everyone goes to college, and a lot of high schoolers apply for summer jobs before matriculating. They’d find this knowledge useful, earlier.

    • Yeah, I figure most people who’ve already been through a job or two will have picked up on most of this already, but there’s still a surprising amount of people I deal with in these openings that either don’t know or don’t care to put it to work. Also, funny story, I used to be just as bad. I started with the company I work with now in the same entry-level position I’m in charge of recruiting for this summer, and while I did have a resume prepared, otherwise I barely knew what I was doing.

      I remember going to a lot of mandatory career sessions my last two years of high school, but I’m not sure how widespread those are. I know college career centers are usually pretty helpful, but not too many students use them, and yeah, a lot of their resumes are pathetic. We do usually end up with some pretty strong candidates for these entry-level positions, but we have to sort through a fair bit of chaff to get there.

      • It must be a fair bit of irony that you’ve come full circle. I’m not sure how many people use the career center’s resources. There must be statistics somewhere.

        Regarding high schools: mine was fairly decent, even getting a recognition award from the Dept. of Education last year, yet there were no career sessions like you’re describing. It might be a cultural artifact – the guidance office is amazing at college help, since over 95% of seniors apply. But the lack of consistency is a problem. There wasn’t any type of ‘life skills’ class for job searching, finance management, etc, that people need to know.

    • Thanks! And you’re talking the Ocean at the End of the Lane? Yeah, that one’s by Neil Gaiman, although it’s a straight novel, rather than a graphic novel. It’s got words and paragraphs and everything!

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