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How to Land that First Job: Five Expert Tips For Your Teen

“I keep applying for jobs, but I never hear back from anybody.” Sound familiar? It’s a common refrain.

The fact is, the vast majority of first-time job hunters will be weeded out long before they ever get face-to-face with a decision maker. And, they’ll never know why.

I’m a small business owner, and over the years, I’ve received several thousands of “first job” applications from teenagers, most of which go straight into the garbage can. Here are five ways to help your teenager stay out of the “No” pile and snag that first job:

First Job Tips: Getting That First Job

1. Fill out the application completely

The job application is not simply a means of gathering basic information; it’s also a tool to see if the applicant can pay attention to details and follow instructions. Your teen should complete each section, spell check and edit for readability. If a question does not apply, mark it as “N/A” instead of just leaving it blank. Tons of teens get eliminated right off the bat because they don’t bother to complete their first job applications.

2. Respond promptly

If a potential employer emails your teen or leaves a voice message, make sure he responds right away. I can’t tell you how many applicants lose out because it took them as long as two weeks to respond. Two days is sometimes too late.

3. Anticipate questions

Ask your teen some questions she might get during a “phone interview,” and have her practice the answers out loud. Verbalizing answers is a much more effective way to prepare. Here are some sample questions: How often are you late for class? If I called your teachers, what would they say about you? What chores do you do at home? What hobbies or interests do you have?

4. Differentiate yourself

What makes your teen stand out, even if just a tiny bit, from everyone else? Does he play an instrument? Speak a foreign language? Volunteer? Did she win an award? To employers, those things demonstrate commitment, diligence and focus—all positive qualities.

5. Sound alive

The purpose of a phone call is often to check someone’s verbal skills. I want to hear how an applicant sounds because that’s how he or she will sound to my customers. Will your teen sound polite, courteous and mature? Energetic? Or, half asleep and unmotivated? I’ll typically decide on someone’s potential in the first minute or two.

Understanding the weeding-out process is the first step in helping teens survive the interview. Practice with your teens, and they can gain a critical edge over their competition.

Darrell Doepke

Darrell Doepke is a multi-small business owner and author of The Part-Timer Primer: A Teen’s Guide to Surviving the Hiring Process and Landing That First Job.

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