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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Teen Guide To Looking For Employment

School is coming to a close in the next few weeks and many teens may be thinking about applying for work.  For some it may be a "first job".  For some it may be about getting money together things like a car or college.  So forth and so on.  It can be tough, and even discouraging at times.  We know, and we've all been there.  Over the last 17 years interviewing and hiring people of all ages there are some common things that come up with younger people that often make their job search and landing a job more difficult.  Here's some tips to avoid these things:

  1. Presentation when applying- When you are applying for a job you are "selling" yourself to a hiring manager.  The obvious and not so obvious can say a lot about an applicant.  
    1. Dress presentable (i.e. no shorts and t-shirts) even when just picking up an application.  
    2. Introduce yourself by name when asking for an application or if the business is hiring.  Simply saying, "Can I have an application." doesn't make you stand out.  
    3. Write clearly on an application if the company uses a paper application system and do not use a pencil.  If a hiring manager is going through a stack of applications and can't read the information, it will get passed over.
    4. Mom and Dad, not a good time to be present.  We all know this is a "special" time in your child's life, but you may be creating a distraction and/or sending off the "wrong signals".  The company is hiring your son or daughter and not you.  Overbearing parents engaging too much becomes a distraction to focus on the applicant themselves.  
    5. When applying, it's about getting an interview.  You most likely will not be hired without being interviewed.  So the goal is to get interviews when applying for jobs.  
  2. Be flexible and realistic - Applications will ask for "available time to work".  This is not about "creating your own schedule" nor does it mean if you put down that you are available on weekends that you will have to work every weekend all weekend.  This portion gives the hiring manager a "picture" of whether this person can fit into their scheduling needs.  Being available 3 nights a week and no weekends, is probably not going to get you an interview.  Also realize you may have to work some holidays when others are off.  We'll get into this more in the "Interview" portion.
  3. Interview time - They called and scheduled a time for an interview with you.  This is a time for the hiring manager to get to know you better.  Most businesses will not make the final decision during this meeting so do not anticipate getting hired during this meeting.  It's about helping them get to know you better.  
    1. Again, dress presentable.  
    2. Show up on time.  5 to 10 minutes before is a good rule of thumb.  
    3. Smile!
    4. Be honest here
    5. The discussion can take a couple of different forms.  
      1. General questions verifying or clarifying what you put on the application.  You may have put down that you are not available on Saturdays.  You will probably be asked "Why not?"  Things like "Those are the days I study" are not good answers.  So you study 12 hours every Saturday?  I don't think so.  Likewise, if you put down the reason for leaving your last employer was because of "lack of hours" be prepared to clarify this.  Zero is never better than some, and from my experience this is rarely ever the true reason for leaving.  What often gets brought up is a conflict with the supervisor.  
      2. Situational/behavioral.  These are questions asking you about how you have handled or responded to certain situations.  For teens you can use experiences in school or side jobs like baby sitting.  One of my best hires was a teenage girl who had only done babysitting.  That's a tough job, and she was put in some difficult situations that she told me about and I thought responded to perfectly to those situations.  Her parents were surprised we made the decision to hire because of lack of experience, and I explained why we did.  I personally like to use the "Tell me about a time when . . . " type of questions here.  I'm not a fan of "What would you do if . . . "  These are hypothetical and the person can make anything up which tells me nothing.  These "Tell me about a time when . . . ." questions provide a huge amount of information about a person and what you can expect from them.  For example, the girl I mentioned had a situation where the Mother was running late and needed her to stay longer.  She had studying to do.  She stayed obviously and simply pushed off some social things she wanted to do later to get her studying in.  What I heard . . . flexibility, willing to sacrifice, and can think quickly when the unexpected comes up.  All great qualities.
      3. Be careful what you say.  An interviewer knows their business and is thinking in terms of how you might fit in (or not) by your responses.  For example, a conflict with a previous supervisor is ok and the interviewer is looking to hear how you handled that.  We have all had to work for difficult people but what you perceived as "difficult" may not be in our minds.  Things like, "I had a family thing come up at the last minute and the manager wouldn't let me off even though I didn't request off."  is not about the supervisor being "difficult".  What we hear is that you are inflexible and expect the business to revolve around you.  Likewise, "summer jobs" don't exist in a lot of places today.  In retail, hiring someone is not about getting someone for just a few months.  So if you are looking at not being able to work come the end of summer it's important to be up front and honest about that. 
  4. Following up.  The interview may be left kind of "open ended" due to various reasons, and this is normal.  It's ok to call or stop by in a few days to follow up.  Calling multiple ties each day may not be the best strategy.  Again, it's important to be polite ad courteous.  When stopping in make sure to give your name and the reason you are stopping in.  Managers often have several things going on at one time and may not be able to come over.  So leaving a message that you stopped in and were just following up can be just as effective.  
  5. Spread things out and use this as a learning opportunity.  You are going to need to fill out many applications at many different places and possibly interview with several different people and businesses prior to getting a job.  I've interviewed at a lot of places and have had many jobs I did not get.  Every situation has been an opportunity to learn and understand what I might have been able to do better.  Sometimes I may not have done anything "wrong", it may just be that it didn't work out or someone else got the job.  Yes, it's a downer but I always got the opportunity to learn something.  Maybe the person asked questions I wasn't prepared for or asked them in an interesting/different way which gave me an opportunity to reflect on that and tweak my preparations for the next interview.  
Best of luck to all.  I hope this helps, and what are your thoughts?

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