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How to dress for an interview

As if figuring out what to wear in the morning isn’t stressful enough, deciding what to wear to an interview can be seen as added pressure. As soon as you walk into the interview room, before you even get a chance to speak, your outfit contributes to the first impression you leave on the interviewer. That being said, you want to dress to impress! To prevent any last-minute panicking, here are some interview outfit ideas:

Option 1 –  The classic blazer

When I think of interviews, the first thing that comes to my mind is a blazer. Not only can you wear a blazer for numerous occasions, but you can pair it with many different outfits –  with a button down, a blouse, and even a dress. Of course, you don’t need to stick with the traditional black coloured blazer, adding a pop of colour makes things fun and can add a bit to your personality.

Option 2 –  The blouse and dress pants/pencil skirt

Blouses in general, are a very elegant and professional spin to just a normal shirt because they act as the foundation for a stylish, layered look. As they come in different cuts and styles, you don’t have to worry about not finding one that suits you. This versatile top can be paired with either dress pants or some skirt (pencil skirts would be the most professional).

Option 3 –The statement dress

Although you want your interview look to be professional, there is nothing wrong with wearing a dress, especially if it makes you feel confident. With a statement dress, you don’t necessary need to add a jewelry or other accessories because the dress speaks for itself. Make sure, however, that both the neckline and hemline are appropriate because you’re there for an interview with a potential employer, not a night out with your friends.

At GEMinar Three: Getting Your Goals, the panelist Natasha Zdravkovic, Recruitment Consultant at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), said that an important tip is to make sure what you’re wearing is clean: “You want to look like you put effort and care into your outfit because it will project how you feel about the job.”

A little word of advice from Susan Baxter, Vice Chairman for RBC Wealth Management, is that when dressing for an interview, “you should wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.” At the end of the day, if you put too much stress on what you’re going to wear you’ll miss out on the real importance: the actual interview.

Remember: the best thing you can wear is your confidence. So, make sure to smile and let your personality shine through, no matter what you wear.

Answering Interview Questions 101

Why do you want this job? What is your biggest weakness? How much do you expect to be paid? Chances are, you’ve been subjected to at least one of these questions at a job interview. But what is the right answer, and what happens if you can’t think of any response at all?

Don’t fret. Here is Answering Difficult Interview Questions 101.

First of all, why do recruiters ask these questions? The answer is simple: recruiters want to reduce the number of people competing for the same job. If a candidate gives them a bad answer, they may have enough of a reason to move on to someone else. On the flip side, if a candidate gives them a really good response to a tough question, it could make a lasting impression on the recruiter.

Before going into an interview, it is very helpful and effective to write down some examples and key points that you would mention when asked some common interview questions, including the tough ones. These notes do not need to be fleshed out answers because you don’t want to sound robotic as if you memorized them. You want the interview to be like a normal (though professional) conversation. Have an idea of what you want to say, but don’t script the entire interview.

To help you with that, here are some examples of the typical tough questions and how to answer them. Use these tips but make sure to let your personality shine through with each answer. Remember, authenticity is everything!

  1. Why do you want this job?

This may seem like an easy question at first, but beware: employers don’t want to hear that you want this job because you need the money (even if that’s the case). Think about what entices you about this position (not how much you get paid!). Talk about how passionate you are about the job and what the company stands for. This also shows that you did your homework and learned about the company’s values beforehand. You can also explain how you believe that this company is the right match for you. This is a great transition into explaining how you are a great match for them. Here you can speak about your experience and your specific contributions to projects you’ve been working on.

  1. What is your biggest weakness?

This is a tough interview question that is very common. Many people have a hard time answering this because though we all have our weaknesses, it’s scary telling someone that we want to work for our flaws. But the worst thing that you could do is stumble during this question and say “Hmm, this is a hard question. What am I bad at?”. Everyone is bad at something! The interviewer wants to hear an authentic answer. The key here is to “be honest, but not too honest”, as summed up by Laura McLennan, a GEM mentor who works as a recruiter at fishRecruit Inc., show self-awareness and talk about an actual flaw, but make sure it’s something that won’t “raise red flags.”

Essentially, there are two ways to do this. One is to mention a weakness that could be used as a strength. Siobhan Desroches, GEM mentor and Government Affairs & Stakeholder Relations Manager at Greater Toronto Airports Authority, shared a great example to answer this question: “I typically say that I often take the lead on projects and tend to need to have my hand involved in everything. Maybe I take too much ownership. It’s all because I care about the end result of the project. However, this can sometimes result in me burning out. I’m working on that by learning how to delegate and reminding myself to take a step back when others in the group can handle it.”

Also, note that she mentions how she is working on the flaw. This is the second great way to talk about your weaknesses. You can talk about something that you are not naturally good at, but mention how you are managing or working on it.

  1. How much do you expect to get paid?

For this one, you have to remember: recruiters don’t want to hire someone that has unrealistic salary expectations. However, they also don’t want to hire someone who underestimates themselves. In this case, vagueness is your best friend. Tell them that you would be willing to discuss this once you receive an offer for the position. If they really press the issue, mention a range that would represent the average pay for someone in that position. You could use websites like PayScale to search it up.

What happens when you’re asked a question that you really don’t know the answer to? Don’t panic! Even if you don’t know the answer to something, mention something similar that could relate. Of course, it would be less likely that you are asked a question that you can’t answer if you prepare for the interview. Here are some tips that you can use to prepare:

  • As mentioned before, writing down jot notes for some common questions is very helpful. Articulate the reasons as to why you want the job and what you bring to the table. Know how to explain the relevant experience that you have and always know how you contributed to that project/company.
  • Do research on the company and the industry as a whole. This shows initiative and that you took the time to understand the company and the position.
  • Talk to people who have that job and ask for tips and advice.
  • Speak to your mentors, as they may be able to give you tips and help you calm your nerves.
  • Think of some icebreakers that you could have to make the experience less awkward. Susan Baxter, Vice Chairman for RBC Wealth Management and keynote speaker at GEMinar Four: Getting Your Goals, mentioned that she likes to comment on the weather as soon as she enters the room to break the ice.
  • Practice answering the questions at home so that you sound articulate, but not so much that you sound robotic.

Most importantly, realize that you made to the interview stage. This means that they already know you are qualified. Now you just need to be yourself and let your personality shine. Keep calm and be confident. Believe in yourself! And if you don’t get the job, maybe it just wasn’t the right fit for you, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from your mistakes and try again. I wish you the best of luck with your quest for a job, and I hope that these tips helped you.

How To Get Your Dream Summer Job

GEMinar 6 was all about the prepping for interviews and landing the job. It was hosted by GEM mentor Jenna Claires, who gave a wonderful presentation, which involved many activities like; drawing your interview outfit, and interview role play. This served by giving us a better understanding of the situations, and the activities that will help us remember the tips for longer.

We might as well make use of the two months we have off from school to get a summer job, and work experience. The question is, how do you get a job, when you have little work experience? Getting a job can take months of preparation, and requires a lot of attention to the smallest of details. Everything from the shoes you wear to an interview, and to the last line on your resume says something about you.

Resume and cover letters: One of the first things you’ll need to get a job, is a good resume. A good resume will contain a brief description highlighting your objective and the skills you can use to achieve it. It also shows the employer what you have to offer and should be unique as it is at the top of the page.

First Impressions: Arrive on time, and be prepared. Bring a pen, and a note-pad, a portfolio of your work, and a list of your references. Also give a firm handshake, and maintain an appropriate level of eye-contact.

Formalities: It’s important to send a Thank-you letter or e-mail, to your interviewer. Thank them for their time, and when they do receive your letter or e-mail, they will be reminded of you again.

Interview Outfit: Give yourself plenty of time to get ready for the interview. It may even help if you have your outfit picked out and ironed beforehand. Stick to neutral coloured, and modest clothes. Perfume is not recommended, but deodorant is.

Prepare for the Interview: Have someone ask you mock questions that you have to answer on the spot. This way you’ll have a better understanding of what kind of questions to expect, and how to respond under pressure.

If you’re planning on getting a summer job, it is in your best interest to get started as soon as possible. Use apps like the Workin App, and check job postings on LinkedIn, Jobposting.ca, and Youth Employment Services.

AND BIG THANK-YOU to Marc Anthony for the hair product SWAG! We’ll look and smell good at our interviews!

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl.