Entry level job interview problems

At entry level, everything seems like a problem, usually because nobody fills in the blanks about what you need to do.

There are so many myths and fables about entry level it's like the Brothers Grimm, but you have to live through it.

The simple fact is that you have to start somewhere.

Let's kill off a few myths.

  • At entry level you aren't supposed to be experienced. You couldn't be. You're just supposed to have skills, not a work record that's older than you are.
  • If you go for jobs requiring experience, of course you're at a disadvantage. You need to go for entry level jobs.
  • You can't just jump into any job where you have a qualification. (That's one of the dumbest myths of the lot, and leads to a lot of frustration and expectations.) The employer needs to know a bit about you, and where your skills can be used effectively. They're in business, and you have to pay for yourself when you're hired.
  • A degree does help, because they know you have learned the basics, and have some level of practical work behind you. It does not mean you're a shoe in for any job in the field. That's where you have to show some real abilities
  • .
  • At entry level, interviews are extremely competitive. If you don't get a job, it could just possibly be because at least a million other people are also trying to get it.
  • Some people are just plain brilliant at interviews, and they have an unholy habit of showing up when you're going for the same job. It's not you, they just put up a better case.

Not quite the usual set of reasons, is it?

A few of the myths are more or less correct:

  • Economic conditions play a part.
  • Training budgets, internships, and other things are very variable.
  • Some employers do cut back hard on entry level first, to control wage costs and do some reshuffling.
  • Employers can be tough on entry level jobs because of prior experiences.

A lot of this has to do with individual cases, circumstances, and the employer's own big picture. It's part of the realities of the workplace, for which just about everybody is hardly ever prepared.

So, it's up to you.

To deal with these situations, you have to be able to show employers some real skills, and a good combination of talents and proven work in your field.

Forget the cliches about selling yourself.

You're making a case for yourself, for which someone is expected to pay you.

This isn't a garage sale, it's business, yours and the employer's.

Never lose sight of the fact that your job and your career are your business.

Modern employees are rapidly becoming independent or semi independent sub contractors. In 20 years it's possible nobody will be considered an employee in the old sense of the word.

Entry level interviews 101

In some ways entry level interviews are tougher than ordinary job interviews, and it's all learning curve.

Presentation

Presentation isn't about showing up looking nice. It's about how you present yourself as a business prospect.

(Appearance does matter. Virtual encyclopedias have been written on appearance at interview, and it's really very simple. Just wear basic business clothes, and leave it at that, unless you're actually going for a job in the fashion industry.)

You present yourself as:

  • Competent in all the essential skills
  • Knowledgeable
  • A good communicator
  • Motivated, in the career sense
  • Aware of industry issues
  • Practical minded

You deliver:

  • Practical examples of your training and any related work
  • Clear answers to all questions
  • Reassurance to the interviewers that you're fully competent
  • Positive presentation regarding your career goals and the job

From the employer's perspective, the problem with entry level people is there's not much to go on in terms of performance. A good interviewee is preferred because it's a performance measure. The well presented interviewee is always going to win over the poor lost soul at the interview.

Step by step interview techniques

Introduction

At the start of the interview, you are introduced to the panel.

There may well be an assigned training or entry level manager involved. If so, that can work in your favor, because this is the person who has the final say.

Be natural, friendly, and don't even bother getting nervous.

Focus!

The first question

The first question will be basic intro and background, usually just who you are, and what you've done to date.

Simple enough, and stick to that format.

Do not digress into other topics, now or at any other time during the interview.

Qualifications

This relates to your academic record, and any specialties or relevant information. They already have the basic information, they want extrapolation, and/or additional information not contained in your application.

Career path

This is a natural question at entry level, where you want to go with your career. It's also an important question, because it shows how you view the job. Think about this one before you do the interview, and have a good, brief but clear, summary organized.

(This is a question you should have already been asking yourself for a while now, so have a look at your answer. Is it what you mean? Does it make sense?)

Employers look for meaningful answers with this question, and so should you.

Job interview type questions

These will be very basic, because you haven't been in the workforce.

They can relate to

  • Teamwork
  • Relationships
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Your awareness of the organization and its work

These aren't difficult questions, but you should bone up on them, and understand what the interviewers want. Check out our links, and you'll see why these questions need to be asked at entry level as well as at the normal job interviews.

Keep your answers structured, logically presented, and clear.

Work related questions

Do not be surprised if these are the toughest questions of the lot.

There'll be quite a few of these questions, and they're all business.

These will almost definitely be direct questions, including technical questions at your expected level of expertise.

Again, structure is important. Answer direct questions directly. Avoid any off topic content, if at all possible.

These questions can score very heavily in your favor, so do your revision as well as you can. If you're good, you can be ultra competitive. The big advantage is you can show off your knowledge and expertise, and your level of interest.

(The level of interest is extremely important at entry level. Nobody wants to hire a person who doesn't have that extra personal element in their career.)

Many employers will make a point of starting with the basics, because it's a proven entry level hiring process. If they can see you can be trusted to be allowed into the workplace, and have a good grip on the practical work, they'll feel a lot better about hiring you.

Interview techniques vary a lot among employers.

Some people are happier with the standard interview. Others prefer a lot of structure, and pay a lot of attention to information content in answers and do actual comparative analyses of interviewees. Some tailor entry level interviews to their interviewees, some come up with a single standard.

Bottom line: You have to deliver strong levels of useful information effectively, and you're talking to professionals.

Think about your answers.

You're trying to convince professionals that you have the skills, knowledge, and motivation to work in their industry.
You're translating your ideas into answers.
Your presentation is your identity, as far as the interviewers know.
They need to see a credible potential employee.

Some DON'TS:

  • Don't allow yourself to get lost at any point in the interview. If there's something you need to ask, ask it, because you may never find out otherwise.
  • Don't pretend to know something you don't know. Employers are specifically looking for knowledge, and they know how to find any inconsistencies. You just won't get away with it, and trick questions aren't entirely unknown, either.
  • Don't make excuses if things go wrong. Even if you have a perfectly reasonable excuse, tolerating your own mistakes or problems is a very bad habit. The fact is things didn't go the way you wanted them to go. You need to figure out how and why that happened, and prevent it in future.
  • Don't be an anonymous interviewee. They need to see a person. The person who gets the job will be the one they remember, who had a strong presence. They need to know who you are, and what you can do.

Presentation, knowledge, and performance are the name of the game.

At entry level, you really do have to be competitive.

Use your strengths, and really go to work on the interview.