How to land your first job

By HealthyPractice | 20 May 2021

Recently graduated and ready to take that big first step into employment? Let's take a look at how to land your first job. 

Your CV

How to write a CV

Your CV is not just a list of your qualifications, skills and experiences. It's the first chance you have to create a good impression with a potential employer. That means it needs to look professional and present the relevant information about you in the best possible light. 

If possible, your CV should also be tweaked to address the specific needs of the employer. Spend some time researching the company, and describe why you think you'd be a good fit for the role. 

Our general advice is to keep it simple and keep it short. Two A4 pages, printed back-to-back is ample. Your employer does not need your life story. They are only interested in how your skills and experience will meet their specific needs. 

Person writing on paper on a brown wooden table with a notebook and white ceramic mug in the background

What to put in a CV

You need to cover off the basic information at the start – name and contact details, education, and perhaps a brief personal statement about who you are and why you'd be a great hire. 

You should then include relevant work experience. If the experience is related to the job, you can go into a bit of detail. If it's more general work experience, a series of bullet-points listing positions, employers and the dates of your employment is enough. 

You should also include the names of two or three people who are willing to act as referees. Ideally, these will be people who can talk about your suitability for the position. However, lecturers, mentors or people you know in the community – a coach, perhaps – might also be appropriate. 

You should never invent any details about your education, your work experience or your interests. These might be illegal in some circumstances, for example if you're claiming a qualification you don't have. Even if it's not illegal, it's not fair to the employer and you should expect these details to be checked before you're offered the job. 

How to format your CV

A final word of advice on your CV – spend some time thinking about the layout. You want it to be easy-to-read and to look professional, so make sure you choose a common typeface (Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana are all typical) and a decent font size (11-12 point). Aim for plenty of white space between the text. And make sure you proofread it multiple times before submitting it – getting a friend or family member to check it as well is also a good idea. Submitting a CV with typos will make an employer wonder about your reliability and attention to detail. 

CV with clock, computer keyboard and pen

The job interview

How to prepare for a job interview

So you've polished your CV, submitted it, and been invited in for an interview. Congratulations! You've made it over the first hurdle and should take heart from knowing the employer is suitably impressed by what they've read that they're keen to meet you. 

Even so, interviews can be nerve-wrecking affairs. There's not much you can do about that. But you can give yourself the best shot at doing well by preparing for them properly. 

Again, it's important to cover off the basics. Make sure you know exactly when and where the interview is taking place. If you're unfamiliar with the area, work out where the venue is and how long it'll take you to get there. You want to arrive with plenty of time to spare so you're calm and ready to go. 

When you're planning for the interview, reread the job description and work out what you think the most important skills will be for the job. Then think about how your qualifications and experience match those requirements. Hopefully, you will have already done this when you were putting your CV together, but it's important to be very clear about why you're the best person for the job. And remember, simply getting an interview in the first place suggests the employer thinks you could be a good fit. 

Do some research into the company by looking on their website, reading any publications they might put out, and asking friends or mentors who might have come across them previously. Not only will this help you work out what they might be looking for, but it will also help you decide whether they're the sort of employer you might want to work with. 

A group of colleagues in an office casually interviewing a young man

How to answer interview questions

Consider the questions you might get asked and work out how you might answer them. There aren't really right or wrong answers to these questions. Each candidate for the job will have a slightly different blend of skills and experience, and the employer is really trying to work out how each person might fit in.

When you're planning your answers, you want to aim for a fairly tight, focused response. If you can keep your answer to a minute or two you're doing well although, once again, there's no hard and fast rule here. The main thing to avoid is a long, rambling, unfocused answer that will leave the interviewer unclear about what you're saying. A good way to keep your responses focused is to offer examples wherever you can. 

At the end of the interview, you might be asked whether you have any questions for the interviewer. It's important to take advantage of this opportunity and to have a couple of questions planned in advance. This will show them you are serious about the job, and it's a good chance to find out more about the company. Perhaps you might like to ask them about a typical day in the office, or find out about what your first month on the job might look like. 

What to wear to a job interview 

A final tip – pay attention to your appearance. The business might seem very friendly and casual from the outside but an interview is still a formal step in the recruitment process and you want to be seen to be taking it seriously. That will come through in your answers and the questions you have for the interviewer. But it will also be communicated by the clothes you wear. Far better to be dressed too formally than to be too casual. Be yourself in the interview but make sure it's the best version of yourself. 

Good luck!

Woman in pink dress being interviewed by another woman

This article has been adapted from HealthyPractice, a resource developed for owners and managers of New Zealand health practices. HealthyPractice provides knowledge, advice, and resources to support your business success. For more information visit HealthyPractice.

This article is of a general nature and is not a substitute for professional and individually tailored business or legal advice. 

© Medical Assurance Society New Zealand Limited 2021.

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