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Job Search Etiquette for Teens

by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Teens with little or no work experience may be clueless about the art of job-hunting and the etiquette employers expect them to use as they search. This lack of knowledge may have a direct effect on whether they are hired for a job. If your teen is in the dark about job-hunting etiquette, don't worry. There are ways to remedy this challenge, beginning with reminding him that everything he has already learned about courtesy and good manners will also be appreciated in the work world.

Be Presentable

Employers love teens who are neat, clean and well-dressed.

Since first impressions are always the most lasting, discuss with your teen the importance of dressing appropriately, even if he is only approaching an employer for an application. Prompt him to wear clean, wrinkle-free clothing with shirt tucked in, pants belted and secure, and hair styled neatly. If he wears body jewelry or piercings, these should be removed before entering the work environment; if he has tattoos, these should be properly covered. Girls should should follow suit, and avoid clothing that is too tight or too revealing. Strapless blouses, tight dresses and party-wear are no-nos. Advise your daughter to go easy on the make-up and leave the very-high heels at home because prospective employers may want to take them on a walking tour of the facilities.

Be Polite

A little politeness -- like a handshake and a smile -- can go a long way.

Entry-level jobs are more likely to be targeted by teen applicants, new college grads, displaced adults, senior citizens and even retirees in search of a way to supplement their retirement income. This means that competition for a job may boil down to who is the most personable and polite during the job search and interview. Prompt your teen to be at her most pleasant when answering ads and conducting face-to-face interviews. Remind her to smile, extend her hand for a handshake, take written notes and pay attention to the conversation at all times. Also remind her to use her professional voice when answering the telephone at home, because there may be a prospective employer on the other end.

Be Prepared

Teach your teen to compile an interview kit with all the essential documents he will need for the interview.

Most employers are pressed for time and appreciate applicants who are prepared for the interview. Help your teen prepare by pretending to be the employer and asking various interview questions. This will help her stay calm and focused, and help her think on her feet as she composes answers that may be essential in order to be hired. Whether applying in person, by mail or online, help her construct a neat, typo-free resume that displays her background at a glance, including any relevant work experience, even if it is only babysitting, typing or answering the telephone at the school library. She should also have a brief cover letter that explains things her resume can't, like what a particular job would mean to her or what she wants to be after she graduates high school or college. Remind her that the resume and cover letter should be tailored and tweaked for each specific position she applies for. An interview kit with essential items that may be required during the interview, such as driver's license, social security card, business card, resume, cover letter and list of references, is essential to preparedness. Encourage her to research any company she is interested in -- an applicant who demonstrates some knowledge of the business will impress potential employers.

Be Punctual

Punctuality is good practice, and may even land your teen at the front of the line for an interview.

There is an old saying that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If your teen is late for a job interview -- which, in essence, is an opportunity to "sell himself" to the employer -- it's a safe bet the employer will fear he'll be late to the workplace, too. Emphasize the seriousness of being punctual. Encourage your teen to set his alarm an hour earlier so he can practice rising earlier a few days before his actual job interview. This will help him take his work or interview day more seriously.

Be Professional

A little finesse goes a long way. Thank you cards aren't likely to be forgotten.

Prompt your teen to smile, shake hands, stay alert and be polite during an interview or when filling out an application. Remind him to turn off his cell phone, get rid of any gum, candy or peppermint, and play close attention to what is being spoken. In addition to his physical appearance, remind him not to overlook his "virtual" or online appearance too. Tell him that the Internet and social media sites have changed the rules of employment in such a way that employers now check social network pages to see what a prospective employee's pages look like. Even if your teen's pages are uneventful, employers have been known to make hiring decisions based on the types of friends he has or groups he belongs to, and the particular activities they may indulge in. Have your teen send out "thank you" cards to those employers with whom he interviewed -- even if he did not get hired. This shows his maturity and thoughtfulness, and is likely to make a mental impression on the employer, who may one day remember your teen for an future openings.

Resources

  • Teens and the Job Game:Prepare Today -- Win It Tomorrow; Beverly Slomka, MSEd.
  • Hey, Get a Job! A Teen Guide for Getting and Keeping a Job; Jennie Withers, et. al
  • Teen Guide Job Search Audio Version; Donald L. Wilkes and Viola Hamilton-Wilkes

About the Author

Rita Lorraine Hubbard is a former 20-year teacher and the author of "African-Americans of Chattanooga: A History of Unsung Heroes." She is the winner of the Lee and Low Publisher's 2012 New Voices Award, a writer for Rosen Publishing and reviews children's books for the "New York Journal of Books."

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images