Teenage Job Seekers – A Message From Your Potential Boss


6 Feb, 2016

To all of you teenage job-seekers, or parents of teenage job-seekers, please pay close attention to what I am about to say. I am going to share with you exactly how managers and Human Resources (HR) people go about working out who to hire for those casual jobs at rock bottom wages at Superscoop Icecream or Instant Plastic Fast Food.

Let’s start with some basics. You are not our only candidate. Most times for a single casual vacancy we get 25-30 applications. If you go for something a bit more meaty such as a Graduate Program or even a traineeship, I have personally been on the other side of 1000 applications. Yours is only one of them.

As a manager we don’t love interviewing. In fact, we will do anything possible to weed people out of our interviews. We are ruthless when it comes to cutting people out of recruitment processes – you don’t get many second chances. If you blow the first impression then you won’t make the cut.

It doesn’t matter how great you are, or what massive potential you have; unless we see a glimmer of it in your application, you won’t make the cut.

Teenage Job Seekers – What we look for

You see, to us each entry level role is the same. We are willing to train you and pay you while you learn (yes the wages suck – but we are paying you to learn).

In return these are the things we look for:

  1. Reliability – Will you turn up on time every time, and not blow off work to hang out with mates?
  2. Willing to learn & listen– Are you someone who can be taught? Are you someone who listens to instructions and follows them without argument?
  3. Presentable– If our company has a uniform – then we are proud of it. Will you wear our full uniform with pride? Will it be clean and ironed? Will you have neat shoes? Will you tuck your shirt in?
  4. Polite– You are our face to our customers. Can you string a few sentences together? Can you be polite and friendly to them? Can you smile?
  5. Team players– Other people work here. Can you get on with them? Will you help them out or will you ignore them when they need a hand? Will you back up your team members or do you prefer to be the star?

That’s pretty much it. That’s what we look for in every single entry level role, no matter if you are cleaning tables, scooping ice-cream, digging plumbing ditches or ringing up sales. If you have these qualities we can teach you the rest.

How do we choose who gets an interview and who doesn’t?

There are whole libraries dedicated to the art, but in real terms it boils down to this. You get 10 seconds – 30 seconds tops, where we look at your resume or CV. That’s it. Unless you grab our attention in those 10 seconds, you get thrown into the “Don’t bother” pile.

If you hook our attention we will take a bit longer to read over your application. You will then go into the “Definitely Interview” pile or “Maybe” pile. At the end of reading all of the resumes, if the “Definitely Interview” contains more than about 5 resumes, the “Maybe” pile gets moved to the “Don’t bother” pile. Game over.

What are we looking for in those 10 seconds?

Remember the top 5 qualities I talked about? Your resume has to show EVIDENCE that you have all of these. Evidence … just like the crime shows. You need to supply evidence that you can do all of this stuff.

Top Evidence: School reports & school references

Yes. We want to see copies of your last two reports. What do we look for? Well you know that column that says “behaviour”? We treat that as a more important clue than your academic results. If you consistently get poor behaviour scores, we take a stab that you may not be such a great employee.

We look at comments about uniforms. “Can be well presented at times” translates to “Generally scruffy and poorly presented”. If our job has a uniform, well guess who goes into the “Don’t Bother” pile.

We look at your extra-curricular activities. Do you take part in team sports, debating, choir or anything where show you can work in a team?

Personal references

If you have never had a job, having your Aunty write you a reference about how you are a good boy or girl does nothing for us. Having the local Pastor or Minister, or the Coach of your sporting team talk about what a great team player you are, or how you have leadership qualities will get our attention. Pick your personal reference carefully.

Your resume

Did you follow all the instructions 100% in completing your resume? Sometimes we ask you to put in reference numbers, to address it to certain people, or to comment on certain skills. These are not optional extras. Do it!

We will look to see if you took the time (2 seconds) to run a spell check over your resume before you sent it in. We also check that you spelt our name correctly and the name of our company. If you can’t spell our name with it written in front of you, we wonder about how good you are at following simple instructions.

It is also amazing to us how many people send in an application to ABC company, when the job is for XYZ company. We know you are going for lots of jobs, but it shows you really don’t care about us and only see us as a meal ticket. It helps if you know a bit about what our company actually does, so do some research and drop in some clues to show us you know what we do. It isn’t hard to check out our website first!

We check out your hobbies and interests. Hanging with mates and playing in garage bands won’t win you any favours job wise. We see that and translate that to, “Gets drunk on weekends and will be too hungover to get to work the next day”. Think about what your hobbies may say about you (and assume we think the worst).

Finally, we look at how to get in touch with you. getdrunkfriday@hotmail will not win you any favours. Watch your email address and if you have to, set up a separate business one (and check it regularly).

We also hate it if you give us mobile numbers that are permanently out of credit. If you can’t return our calls – then you don’t get the job. Simple!

One more hurdle

If you make our “Definitely Interview” pile, don’t get too cocky. We still have another round of evidence to go. Managers these days look for evidence on the internet. We type your name into Google to see what we can find out about you on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all of the other social media.

We look to see what photos you have been tagged in. We check out the photos and videos you post on your page and we read your comments. These all tell us the sort of kid you are. If you have a fight video on your page  then you can kiss your job good-bye. If you rant against ethnic minorities – good-bye. Our customers come from all walks of life – we need you to be able to serve them equally.

If you have comments about wagging school – good-bye. If you talk about how a specific teacher sucks or how much you hate your named school – good-bye. We know you will do the same about us and our company. We take our reputation seriously. Dissing us out gives us a bad reputation – so why would we hire you?

The internet leaves clues. Before you do anything on the net – think before you upload!

Interview time

If you have made it through that hurdle – you may be lucky enough to get an interview. What are we looking for? The same 5 things we talked about before. Cover them off at the interview and you are in with a chance.

Teenage Job Seeker Tips

So, you have a less than squeaky clean trail of evidence. What can you do?

  1. Pick up your act at school. Yes it does matter!  Get your uniform sorted, fix your behaviour and attitude and join some teams.
  2. Get a cynical outsider to check your resume. Get someone who doesn’t know you to read over your resume and tell you how you appear to them.
  3. Get references. Get good references from people that matter. If you say you are good – so what. When someone else says you are great, then we listen.
  4. Clean up your social media act.Take down all your videos, photos and stuff that is not helpful. Get your mates to do the same. Upload good stuff (too many photos of you at Church picnics and we may get suspicious though) and make decent comments. You need to bury the bad under a flood of good.
  5. If you need to, hire someone to help you clean up your act.There are companies out there who can help polish your tarnished social media, polish your resume, and polish your personal presentation. If you are serious – then ask your folks to get you their services instead of the latest iPad. It is a much better investment.

One more thing. If you want a casual job in February – get hired in November. We hire Christmas casuals as our pool of casuals for the year. Outside that time you are lucky to get a vacancy.

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HR Author and Lecturer with over 25 years' experience in human resources and workplace relations in Australia. Lead Author of Instant HR Policies & Procedures, NDIS Direct Employment HR Manual, and Employee Performance Reviews: Tips, Templates and Tactics.

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