How should youngsters go about finding a job?

How should youngsters go about finding a job?  After reviewing more than 110 job applications, interviewing 10 and hiring two folks in the last 30 days, I learned a few things.  Here are five suggestions.

  1. Start with what the person or organization doing the hiring is looking for. I was amazed by the number of applicants who seemed to ignore the skills, knowledge and experience that our job postings listed.  For example, we made it clear in one of the jobs that we were seeking a person who had experience with some form of Dual Enrollment – Advanced Placement, College in the Schools, International Baccalaureate or Post Secondary Enrollment Options.   Most of the 70+ people submitting applications ignored this.
  2. Don’t begin by telling a prospector the kind of job YOU are seeking.  Far better to start off quoting the job posting and say:  “Here are the things you are looking for.  Here’s why I am qualified to do what you want an employee to do.”  Some articles and books I’ve read suggest that an applicant start off describing the kind of position you are seeking.  I disagree.   Most employers are concerned first with what they need in a new employee.  Employers want employees to be happy.  But people are hired to do a particular job. If you can show that you are well qualified for that job, you are more likely to be considered.
  3. Don’t rely on computer programs to make sure your application reflects well on you.  “Spell check” is nice.  But many applications left out words, used the wrong word, featured bad grammar, or had some other mistake that “Spell check”, for example, won’t catch.  Have a friend who writes well check what you plan to send in.
  4. If you apply, employers assume that you want the job.  One person applied but did not respond to either a phone call or email asking for additional information.  Her name was on the answering machine and we used her email.  But she never responded.  Another person who we were very interested in said she could not start until late June.(It’s mid March now, so that’s 3 months.) For many jobs, including those we were hiring for, the expectation is that a person would “give notice” and be able to start in 2-3 weeks.  There are some jobs when waiting 3 months is acceptable, like offering a person a teaching job that starts in the fall.  Check on when the employer wants you to start.  If you can’t do something close to that, it probably is not a good idea to apply.
  5. Ask references if you can give their cell phone to the prospective employer.    One finalist did this. It helped.  Another applicant gave us phone numbers of people who it took several days and numerous calls to reach.  This was not the only factor, but being able to reach references helped. Most employers assume references will say good things about you.  But if the references are not available, they don’t help you.

The two winning applicants in our office followed these rules.  I hope they can help you.

Reader Response:


A very interesting column you submitted this week about job interviews and applicants. As someone who started off doing countless interviews of high school students in the retail industry to now interviewing for salespeople, reporters, and editors, I couldn’t agree with you more. And keep in mind that reporters and editors should have great interviewing skills because that is part of their job.

The one thing that I have learned over the years and that is more important right now is that many people are required to apply for so many jobs a month in order to keep their unemployment benefits.  So when you are looking for an editor and run an ad that you require two years of experience in the same position and experience using In Design, you can expect to get resumes from landscapers who have never written before, Holiday station store clerks who have always been told they can write, or just students in college (with various majors) who will graduate in May.

Also, I can’t tell you how many resumes I get in a font that I can’t even read.  The applicant thinks they need to set themselves out from everyone else but you can’t call them because you aren’t sure where their name is.

My family, including my three teenage boys, went out to Taco Johns last night for dinner. At 6pm, with the place as busy as ever, a teenage boy, dressed in his Goodwill rejected pants and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, waits patiently at the counter for the manager to deliver an order to the counter. He never asked to speak to the manager, just waited until the one in the odd colored shirt comes to the counter and asked, “Are you the manager?” When she said she was, he slides an application across the counter and never says a word. The manager looks down and it takes her a second to shift gears and realize what he is giving her. He never says another word and just stands there while she acknowledges the application by a quick “thank you” and then he leaves.

It was a great opportunity for me to talk about how not to apply for a job.

Jeff Andres
Regional General Manager
Scotsman/ Isanti County News
Princeton Union Eagle/ Mille Lacs County Times/Town & Country Shopper
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