Getting My First Job

Hi. In 2014, I volunteered to help my daughter’s 8th grade Home Economics class with a talk on “Interviewing”. I have been giving that class every semester since. I have hired a LOT of people (close to 1,000). I have conducted a LOT (3,000 to 5,000) of interviews. I have seen a LOT (15,000 to 50,000) of resumes. I put together my tips on this page so that they can easily be shared and referenced. This isn’t just for your first part-time job interview. These tips will be helpful any time you need to tell someone your story. – Mike

Here is a link to the slides I use during class.


  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills

The hiring process does NOT pick the best person

It picks the person who SELLS (talks about) themselves the best.

The whole process is about CREATING POSITIVE IMPRESSIONS. (And sustaining them!)

  • Your resume
  • The email you send when you share your resume
  • Your voicemail message on your phone
  • How you speak on the phone and in person
  • How you carry yourself
  • How you shake hands
  • How you make and maintain eye contact
  • How you come across on VIDEO

The interviewer is trying to figure out: CAN I TRUST YOU?

  • Hard when you are Face to face
  • Harder when you are on Video
  • Almost impossible with a mask on


  • Get a notebook (fine, use the Notes app on your phone but it has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN that physically writing notes helps with remembering)
  • Track your activities:
    • Sports teams you play on
    • Music – orchestra/concert band you play in
    • Musicals and plays – even if you’re part of the Stage Crew
    • Clubs you belong to
    • Volunteer activities
    • Honor roll appearances
    • Attendance – awesome if it is perfect
  • Track the things you LOVE to do
  • Track the things you are GOOD at doing
  • Update your notebook year by year, semester by semester


Reason 1: Over time, you will start to see the things you LOVE to do.

  • THIS will BREAK YOU OUT OF JAIL eventually. (The system (i.e. school) is designed to churn out factory workers. This is the “jail” I am talking about.)

Reason 2: It will help you figure out your SUPERPOWER – the combination of what you are GOOD at plus what you LOVE to do.

Reason 3: It will show people that you know how to play on a TEAM.

  • If you are not on a team from the above list – FIND A TEAM! Immediately.

By the way…

The story changes!

It SHOULD be changing!

If your story is not changing then you are NOT growing.

What is your SUPER POWER?

  • You need to figure out and then train your superpower
  • If you don’t, you are just another handshake (or wave on video)
  • It is NOT about flexing/coming on too strong
  • It is about making the introduction/meeting MEANINGFUL (Impression point!)
  • If I don’t know your superpower, then I don’t know how you can help me
  • Or how I can help you!

Step 2: Practice your story

  • You need a 5 second story – that’s all the time you get
  • Write it out
  • Hi! My name is Mike. I am a project manager for a major Cloud-based telecommunications provider. I work with our networks and systems teams to deploy and maintain our infrastructure.
  • Memorize it.
  • Record it!
  • Watch it with friends.
  • Keep doing it until it is SMOOTH. Navy SEALS: “Slow is SMOOTH and Smooth is FAST.”
  • This will NEVER change. You will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS need to know your 5 second story.
    • You might hear someone talk about an “Elevator Pitch” – this is the same thing.


Impression Point: Your Resume

  • Triple-check spelling and grammar – don’t trust spell check
  • Have 2 people (you TRUST) review it
  • Crazy Mike Tip: Review it from the bottom up
  • Details matter. Sweat the small stuff. Hint: NOTHING is small.

1st Interview Question: Tell me about yourself

Answer: Tell your STORY.

  • Interviewer is looking for confidence, enthusiasm, passion
  • SPEED of the response IS the response.
  • Controlled. No pausing. No stumbling. No ummms, ahhhs, etc
  • Practice! Practice! Practice!
  • Navy SEALS: “Slow is SMOOTH and Smooth is FAST.”

2nd Interview Question: What do you know about our company?

  • To your notebook!
  • Every company or school you are applying to gets its own page
  • Every company/school has an “About” section – Go there!
    • Capture 2-3 facts from the About Page in your notebook
  • Google the company/school – click the “News” link
    • Capture 2-3 current facts about the company/school in your notebook
  • Memorize them
  • You need to know:
    • the company and why you want to work there.
    • the position or positions you would like to apply for
  • Practice your response. Just like “Tell me about yourself”
    • Read them out loud.
    • Record yourself – this is absolutely b.r.u.t.a.l. – but it is 1000% effective.
    • Practice with your friends.
    • But don’t practice too much. You don’t want to sound rehearsed.
    • You have to make it sound like a conversation.
    • Don’t sound like you memorized answers.

Impression Point:


  • Once it is out there, it is out of your control.
  • Be very aware of what you are posting to wherever you kids are posting to these days.
    • TikTok, Instagram, Reels, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube….
  • Whatever you post is FOREVER. Even Snapchat.
  • Your social media “footprint” is like the wake a boat leaves behind.
  • Things not to put on social media (h/t to CareerSherpa):
    • No references to drugs, alcohol, or smoking (even e-cigs)
    • No references to sex
    • No guns or weapons of any kind. Even if you are a hunter.
  • Oh, and by the way, spelling counts here too. Details matter.
  • To recap – things you should NOT post on social media:
      • No one needs to see your Christmas Haul picture of you standing next to your pile of presents. Its gross.
  • Once you have a resume. Consider putting up a website. Talk to your parents first!
    • Teach yourself how to do it. Then you can list it on your resume as a skill!
  • If you are an artist of any kind, you should have a website. Display your work!

You Are Not Fooling Anyone with Your FINSTA

  • Yeah – I know stuff
  • AI – artificial intelligence WILL FIND YOU
  • It will search the internet at the push of a button. It will bring back all correlated links to you

Impression Point: Filling out an Application

  • Be accurate. Be honest. Don’t lie. Don’t omit anything.
  • Double check your work. Check your spelling. Check your grammar.
  • If you are using a paper application:
    • No cross outs
    • Don’t crumple it up.
    • Don’t spill Mountain Dew on it. If these things happen – GET A NEW FORM.
  • Details matter. Sweat the small stuff. Hint: NOTHING is small.

Submitting Your Application

  •  When you hand in or submit your resume, don’t just hand it to the guy working behind the counter at Clawson’s.
    • Because he threw it in a pile of junk on the counter behind him while asking (to no one in particular) “Are we even HIRING?”
  • Find a manager. Find the Human Resources person. Find someone that is “in charge”.
  • This applies to filling out an application online. Randomly hitting the “submit” button is going to get you NOWHERE.

Sidebar: Build Relationships! Adults Call it “Networking”

  • It doesn’t matter that you don’t have any experience or how old you are.
  • Your goal is simply to provide value to the people you meet, even if it’s something simple like a restaurant recommendation or showing someone a new app on your phone. Have confidence in yourself that you have value to contribute. (h/t to Art of Manliness)
  • Share information about jobs with your friends.
  • It is not about making friends and being popular. It is about gaining and spreading INFLUENCE.
  • You HAVE to get out there and meet people. Always try to expand your circles.
  • OPPORTUNITIES ARE EVERYWHERE. Find the connections between people.
  • CONNECT and introduce your friends to each other.
  • Building relationships is an investment in your future!

Impression Point: Dress for Success

  • Dress conservatively.
  • Match what you wear to the interview to the place of business.
    • If everyone wears a suit, you better suit up.
  • Boys. Shirt with a collar (white!). Nice pants (black or khaki). No jeans.
    • White undershirt. Absorbs sweat. Protects the shirt.
    • Tie not necessarily required. But it is a nice touch. No goof ball ties!
      • Stop with the bow ties. You are not cool enough.
    • Learn how to tie it. Bottom should hit the middle of your belt buckle.
    • Wear a belt. NO SAGGING PANTS!
    • Shoes! No sneakers. No moon boots.
    • Get on your bike and collect cans if you have to.
      • Go door to door and ask to do yard work. Pull weeds. Rake. Shovel. Collect dog poop.
      • Go to Goodwill and get what you need. No one will EVER KNOW.
  • Girls. Nice top/blouse (white!). Pants (black) or knee length skirt (black)
    • Mrs. L says skirt should cover your thighs when you are sitting
    • Shoes! Flats. No heels. No Uggs.
    • Not too tight/too short/too revealing
    • Tasteful nail polish.
    • If you have to ask if something is tasteful – IT ISN’T.
    • Easy with the makeup.
  • Both.
    • No bright colors. Don’t be too trendy or fashionable.
    • Haircuts are always a good idea.
    • Limit the body spray/perfume. Limit means DO NOT USE.
    • Limit the jewelry. Only 3 Alex + Ani/Lokai/Friendship/Cause bracelets at any time.
    • Shower before the interview.
    • Deodorant. It is your friend.
    • Clean clothes/No wrinkles. Ask your parents about ironing.
    • Fingernails, clean, neat and trimmed. Girls – no chipped nail polish.

Sidebar: Other Questions You Will Get

  • The interviewer WANTS to check their boxes on you
  • They want to know how you work with others
    • What TEAMS are you a member of?
  • They want to know how you work with customers
  • They want to know about your ATTENDANCE

Sidebar: What Do Hiring Managers Want to Know?

  • Have you successfully done similar work in the past?
  • Will you get along with my team?
  • What do you know about my company? (We’ll talk about this below)
  • Do you know what you are getting yourself into?
  • Are you confident in your abilities? (You are! Because you have an ACCOMPLISHMENT NOTEBOOK!)

Your JOB…your IMMEDIATE JOB…when you are sitting across from this manager is to HELP her answer these questions.
(h/t to Lifehacker)

Impression Point: How you appear on video

  • Test your internet connection!
    • kick everyone off during your interview
  • Test your camera!
    • Make sure you don’t have any filters turned on
    • Check its positioning – no up the nose shots
  • Test your audio!
    • Test the quality of your voice.
    • Figure out your mute buttons. This is a HUGE TRAP!
  • Check your background!
    • You need a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted
      • Siblings, pets, parents!, grand-parents
  • Check your lighting

Impression Point: YOU’RE ON MUTE!

  • Don’t be that person
  • If I have to wait for you to sort out your audio I already hate you
  • I’m saying it twice because it happens ALL OF THE TIME!

Impression Point: Masks

  • The quality of your voice makes a HUGE difference in how people respond to what you say
  • A.R.T.I.C.U.L.A.T.E. – slow down (but don’t drone)
  • Remember: Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
  • Volume! Don’t mumble. (But don’t shout either)
  • Show ENTHUSIASM. Express yourself!
    • Work to show your personality
  • You will have to be Bigger.

Impression Point: SMILE!

  • Practice your smile.
    • And lean forward a little bit – people will respond positively to it
    • People will view you as smarter, more attractive, relaxed, sincere and reliable
    • And it will help YOU relax
  • “In short, each time you smile at someone else, both of you will experience activated reward centers and a release of positive chemicals in your brains.” Read this.
  • Make sure it looks “natural”
    • Not like a serial killer
  • Learn to smile with your eyes
    • Especially important when you are wearing a mask
  • Tyra Banks calls it “SMIZE”
    • Wrinkling the outer edges of your eyes
  • Test out different smiles
  • Practice Practice Practice!
    • So you don’t come across looking like a crazy person

Impression Point: BE ON TIME!

  • In person: On time means 5 minutes early.
  • On video: It means 1 minute early.
  • Not earlier. Too early and I will think you are desperate. Play it cool.
  • If your interview is at 10am and you walk in the door at 10am, you are dead to me and you should just go back home.
  • If you KNOW you are going to be late – CALL ME. I may tell you not to come in. That’s ok. We can move on.
  • Test your internet connectivity ahead of time
    • Day before
    • Hour before. NOT one minute before your call
  • Get everyone off the internet (if you can) – save bandwidth
  • Make sure the video call application is working with your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, whatever you use
    • Do you have a backup solution in case your main device dies?
  • Make sure your camera works
  • Make sure your audio works
  • Figure out your mute buttons – yes, I know I keep mentioning this. It is a problem.

Impression Point: CELL PHONE OFF!


  • If your phone blows up with your Justin Beiber ring tone what happens?
    • Its a bad impression unless you happen to be interviewing with the ONLY other person that likes Justin Bieber.
    • I question your judgement. Not only that you can’t go 5 minutes without your phone but that you like Justin Bieber.
  • BTW – if you have some Bruce Springsteen as your ring tone, I will hire you on the spot.

Impression Point: Be Nice to the Greeter or Host

  • When you go for an interview, the chances are that you are not going to walk straight in to the meeting.
  • You are going to have to check in with someone. Maybe there will be a host on the video meeting.
  • That person is the god/goddess of your universe at that exact point in time. Be nice to him or her.

Impression Point: Bring a Pen! (And something to write on!)

  • From this point forward in your life, BRING A PEN AND SOMETHING TO WRITE ON TO
  • This is a KEY. LIFE. SKILL.
  • Don’t be the guy that I see EVERY.DAY. who shows up to meetings without a pen and paper because “he’ll remember it all”. Really, dude?
  • Don’t be that person
  • Take notes! But don’t bury your face in the notebook (or app)

Impression Point: Your Handshake

  • With COVID – we shouldn’t be shaking hands any more
    • Until we have this thing completely beaten
  • There does not seem to be agreement on what to do instead
  • No elbow taps
  • Seriously – if someone tries to elbow bump you – just leave. You don’t want to work there.
  • If we get to a place where we shake hands again:
    • Wipe your hands. Be subtle. No one wants to touch your sweaty, clammy hand.
    • LOOK THE PERSON IN THE EYE! You will not turn to stone. THE WHOLE TIME.
    • SMILE!
    • Use a complete grip. Space between your thumb and index finger should interlock with the person you are greeting.
    • NO tips of your fingers. You are not a duchess.
    • No ‘bro handshakes. I am not your bro.
    • Use a firm squeeze. This might be the hardest part. Practice with your friends.
      • Let them know you are there but don’t try to break their fingers.
    • 2-3 pumps/shakes. Don’t get crazy.
    • Say something. “Thanks for meeting with me” or “It is nice to meet you.”

Impression Point: Bring Extra Copies of Your Resume

  • If the interviewer has misplaced it/cant find it on their computer/multiple people in the room you will look like a superstar if you save everyone time by having one ready

Impression Point: Eye Contact

  • EYE CONTACT when greeting someone is still critically important!
  • Eye contact while on a video call is essential!
  • There is a balance between being engaged in the conversation and coming off as creepy.
  • Try the “triangle method.” (h/t to Art of Manliness)
    • Look at one of the person’s eyes for a beat, then the other eye for a beat, then at their mouth, and then back at their first eye. Repeat. As you practice this method and get a handle on what good eye contact feels like, you will get into a natural flow

Last Interview Question: Do YOU have any questions?

  • Yes! Yes you do have a question.
  • What can I do to be successful here?
  • You will blow people’s minds with this.
  • The interviewer may not even know how to answer this question. 🙂
  • The answer will be pretty simple: be on time, play well with others, serve our customers. Easy!

Extra Bonus Point Follow-Up Questions

  • Can you describe a typical day/shift to me?
  • Do you think I am a good fit?
  • After talking for a while: what reservations do you have about hiring me?
  • When can I start?

Impression Point: Send a Thank You Note

  • A NOTE!
  • Not an email.
    • Email is ok. Hand-written is WAY better.
  • A physical piece of paper, thanking the person for their time
    • Tell them you are interested in working at their place of business.
  • Put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and MAIL it
  • Give it a week to get there.
  • If they haven’t reached out to you after one week. Pick up the phone and call them.
  • If you don’t hear back after two weeks, move on. It will be ok. I promise.
  • Do NOT stalk the interviewer. Note. Email. Phone call. One each.

Bonus Content: Basic Communication

  • Use the person’s name. Mr./Mrs./Ms.
    • You should have this information BEFORE you meet them.
  • Make sure you are paying attention. FOCUS.
  • Make sure the person you are talking to knows you are listening.

Bonus Content: Don’t Fidget

  • Don’t play with your face, Don’t play with your hair, Don’t babble, Don’t crack jokes
  • Have good posture. Stand and sit up straight. No slouching.
  • Do not cross your arms across your body.
  • Remember: eyes on the person you are talking with – not looking around the room or at your shoes.

Bonus Content: Top Deal Breakers for Getting the Job

  • 86% of interviewees were Rude to the Receptionist/Greeter
  • 71% Checked their phone DURING the interview
  • 58% were late
  • 52% of candidates had bad hygiene

Bonus Content: General Life and Career Tips

    • You have to be CONSTANTLY updating your skills.
  • Let me repeat that –
    • always
    • be
    • learning
  • Learn how to write effectively.
  • Develop the ability to create and nurture relationships.
  • Details matter. Sweat the small stuff. Hint: NOTHING is small.
  • Help others. Pay it forward.
  • Buy and read many times: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
  • Know who you are, know what you are good at doing, know your values.
    • What are you the BEST at doing? What is your SUPER POWER?
  • Read something every day. Snapchat/Instagram don’t count.
    • Find something that interests you and read a little bit about it
  • BE AN ARTIST no matter what path you take.
    • But don’t be a diva.
  • BE A CRAFTSMAN/CRAFTSWOMAN. Take pride in whatever it is you do.
  • Learn to CREATE or MAKE stuff.
  • Devote time to figuring out what you love and then do it.