First-Time Applicants’ Woes and How to Overcome Them


Applying for a job can be a nerve-racking ordeal regardless of your work experience, but the process can be extra scary for first timers. You might be worried about giving the wrong answer or making a bad first impression. It is perfectly normal for you to feel nervous because the result of the application process could shape the next years of your life. However, although it’s okay to feel afraid, you should not let fear derail you from pursuing your dreams.

Every job and company are different, but there are time-tested strategies you can keep in mind if you want to ace the application process. Here are five common mistakes that first-time applicants make and what you can do to avoid them.

Submitting a Generic Résumé

Your résumé is your ticket to the job market, so you must devote time and effort into making it stand out. A carefully prepared résumé gives the impression that you are really interested in the job. Do a quick online search so you can see résumé templates that you can use as a guide, but make sure you add in all the necessary information to make yours unique. To do this, you have to understand the position that you are applying for, and determine which of your existing skills and achievements best match it.

For example, if you are applying for a copywriter position at an advertising agency, then you will want to highlight relevant skills like your experience as a contributor to your school paper and your personal blog. If you’ve consistently had high scores in your communication subjects in college, then you should also highlight this in your résumé. Make sure to create a portfolio that features sample works that you have written. The same applies if you are applying to technical jobs in industries like photography, architecture, and design.

Giving Dull or Exaggerated Answers

You might not have any work experience yet as a first-time applicant, so it’s important that you leave a great impression during your interview. This does not mean that you should lie your way into the interview just to get the job, though. HR officers are trained to evaluate whether someone is truthful or bluffing. Also, it is standard for companies to do background checks on their candidates, so do not say something you cannot back up.

Since you’re a first-time applicant, the HR officer already knows that you don’t have significant work experience yet, so you don’t have to lie. You can make up for your lack of experience by saying you enjoy learning new things and are a great team player. Make sure to cite specific personal examples that can demonstrate the qualities that you mention.

Do not make your answers generic or boring either. There are probably many applicants vying for the role, so you need to stand out in your interview if you want to get picked. To be more confident with your answers, set aside time to practice. Do a mock interview with a friend days before so you can give clear and coherent responses. Similarly, make sure to review your résumé so you’ll know what to say in case the interviewer asks you to elaborate on something.

Failing a Drug Test

Drug tests are a standard part of any job-application process, and you could get rejected if you fail this critical step. Drug policies vary across workplaces; with the widespread legalization of marijuana, there have been some changes to these policies. If you regularly consume cannabis, it is important that you know what the drug policy is in the company you are applying to. Keep in mind that some employers may enforce a zero-drug-tolerance policy even if they are in a state that has legalized marijuana.

There are many drug-testing methods, and knowing what to expect can help you prepare in advance. For example, most companies require applicants to pass a simple urinalysis. In this situation, you can do a detox to eliminate traces of the cannabis from your system. Other employers may conduct less common drug screenings like a hair test. If this is the case, you can choose to do the Macujo method to eliminate traces of substances from your hair.

Some companies make the health status of soon-to-be employees their top priority so it is best to pass all necessary health exams needed. In general, necessary health checkups and body ultrasounds should also be one of your top priorities, even if you are not applying for a job.

Arriving Late to the Interview

Interviews are designed to gauge not just how well-thought-out your answers are but also how prepared and motivated you are for the job. Tardiness can leave a negative first impression on your employer, and it might make them think that you are not really that interested in the position. Remember, actions speak louder than words. You might tell the interviewer that you are a disciplined person with great time-management skills, but the fact that you arrived late and frazzled suggests otherwise. On the other hand, if you arrive on time and prepared, you actually show the employer that you can be trusted to honor your commitments and deliver what is expected of you.

To get to your interview on time, make sure to research the company address in advance. Sleep early the night before so you wake up refreshed and energized. Pick your outfit, and keep all your documents in one envelope the night before. Make sure to arrive at least half an hour earlier than the scheduled interview.

Breaking the Dress Code

Each company has a different dress code; some may allow their employees to be more casual and wear jeans and sneakers, but others might require more formal attires like suits and office wear. Research the company ahead of time so you have an idea of what they expect employees and job candidates to wear. The bottom line is you need to look presentable and prepared when applying. As they say, dress for the job you want. If you are applying for an entry-level position, then don’t upstage the HR director by wearing a brightly colored suit.

A good tip is to wear something that isn’t too flashy that it might distract the interviewer. Go for neutral colors like gray, brown, black, and white. Make sure your shoes are clean and your clothes are pressed. Sleep early the night before so you are well rested and have adequate time to get ready.

Don’t let the job-application process intimidate or demotivate you from trying your best. The process itself can be a great learning experience, especially for a first timer.


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