She enters the family-friendly restaurant with her friend, laughing and talking. She is wearing a halter top that exposes her midriff, bra straps not even barely hidden by the strings on the shirt. She wears jeans that are obviously well-used and flip-flop sandals. Chewing gum as she and her friend approach the counter, she says the dreaded four words: “are you guys hiring?”
Twenty years ago, most students were taught the intricacies of applying and interviewing for a job. Some of today’s high schoolers are still given the principles, but few of them seem to be following them. Excuses for poor self-presentations range from “it’s just an after-school job” to “we live in a small town, so it doesn’t matter” to “this is who I am, and if they don’t like it, that’s too bad.”
In a world where oilfield workers who were making $23/hour are now hoping to find something that pays more than $12, high school students today need to make work harder as they apply to get that first job than many teens have in the past.
Create today’s resume
You should have a resume instead of just filling out the forma potential employer as when you apply. The fact that you made one tells the employer you are serious about the job; it makes you appear more professional. Although the information on your resume might be largely the same details you put on the standard application, the resume gives you a chance to highlight what you think are the important aspects of your history.
Many first time job hunters are reluctant to create a resume because they feel they don’t have anything to put on it. Just because you haven’t had a job doesn’t mean you don’t have any skills or experience. Write about volunteer work, things you have done in classes, experiences you have had at home. Many forms today contain a blank for an email address, so be aware and choose a new email address if you need to, as well. Something like sugarlips@beermail is not going to make points with a potential employer. Similarly, make certain your voicemail message is suitable, and make Facebook or other such forums private. Employers today do often make decisions based upon such technology. You don’t need such a strike against you as you apply for your first job.
Dress like an adult
When you enter a business to apply for a job, dress appropriately. You don’t have to wear a formal dress or a suit, but you should look adult. Wear an outfit that also is in keeping with the company you are applying to. If you are applying at a fast food restaurant, then casual is appropriate. Today, that still means avoid shorts, short skirts, jeans, and t-shirts. A decent pair of slacks and a shirt that has no logo is best, along with tennis shoes, sandals (not the kind for the beach) or loafers. For an expensive sit-down restaurant or a place with a more business-like atmosphere like an accounting firm, dress up more. Avoid frills and lace. Men should consider a haircut and shave, and both genders should consider losing excess jewelry. Fair or not, if given two choices, an employer is often more likely to hire the one who has a decent haircut, seems otherwise well groomed, and doesn’t have piercings and tattoos all over in visible places, even though all these are common sights today. Later in your life, it will likely be easier for you to get a job without changing your appearance, but probably not for your first job, not in today’s market.
Have the right attitude
How you act when you apply can also make a difference. If you must go with someone else, have the person wait outside for you, preferably out of sight from those in the business. Remember to be polite and let customers be taken care of before you approach anyone. Have your resume with you. Rather than asking if the business is hiring, ask if you can fill out an application. In today’s economy, it’s too easy for a business to say no about hiring, but it’s more difficult to refuse an application. If you can, complete the application at a table or chair right then so you don’t have to go back. The information you need should be right there on your resume, and be sure to leave a copy with the application. Print neatly. Most people today are used to reading typed scripts, so penmanship is important.
Sell yourself, but know the buyer
Standards of dress and behavior are continually changing. The codes of conduct from two decades earlier are no longer appropriate today, but the dress and behavior modern teens use around their friends are not appropriate for employment situations. The person doing the hiring is typically older, so an applicant needs to be more conservative than normal. A first-time applicant needs to work even harder to make a good impression. While some businesses will hire regardless of a job seeker’s look, experience or attitude, a professional demeanor will greatly enhance an applicant’s chance for success, particularly when applying for that important first job.