How Teens Can Get That First Job

So, your teen is finally ready to enter the job market, but they don’t know how to actually get hired. It can be overwhelming to a young person beginning this process, but it becomes manageable when you break it down. If you have a teen in your life who would like to find work, then print out the advice below for each stage of the job search process: making a resume, applying for a job, and interviewing. 


A resume is an essential tool in your search for a job but it can be particularly difficult to write one when you have little or no work experience. Just remember that a resume is an outline of your experiences that will promote your skills and abilities to potential employers.

Look online for standardized formats; do not try to be fancy. Use basic fonts, and never use a font smaller than 10. Use a heavy-weight white or off-white paper. Your first resume should never be longer than one page.  Be sure to be honest; deceptions will be fairly obvious to an employer and will ruin your chances for an interview. Here are the general parts of a resume:

Contact information. Include your full name, address, a primary contact number, and a cell phone number and email address, if you have them. If your current email address has a cutesy name, consider opening a free email account with some variation of your actual name.

Objective Statement. Include an introductory paragraph of 2 or 3 sentences telling the employer about your strongest and most desirable skills and/or personality traits. Tailor this to highlight those traits most applicable to the job for which you are applying.

Work Experience. If you truly have no work experience, don’t try to make some up. Instead list your volunteer work, odd jobs (babysitting, yard work, etc), or work experience through a course at school. Be specific. If you babysat, list how many families, how many kids, or how many hours. If you mowed lawns, list how many lawns you mow a week. The details will distinguish you from everyone else.

School Accomplishments. List course work at school that you feel is relevant to the job. Include any academic achievements or awards.

Extracurricular activities. List your activities such as sports, church or youth groups, school committees, etc. If you have a position in any of these groups (such as team captain or treasurer of the Spanish Club) make note of it and describe your duties as if they were a job.

References. You can list people who have had good relationships with you. These may include teachers, coaches, employers, neighbors, etc. If you do not want to list references on the resume, be sure that you have names and phone numbers available for the application process. It is appropriate to let the person you are listing know in advance that you are going to use them as a reference so that they are not caught off guard and can prepare for a possible phone call.


When you want to drop off a resume or fill out an application, always visit the business during off-peak hours. Showing up at the busiest time of the day or just before closing will only frustrate the person in charge of hiring.

First impressions matter. You want the people who are in charge of hiring to remember you in a positive way. So, have your resume and cover letter ready, which shows that you are mature and responsible. Be polite at all costs. Make eye contact. Dress neatly. You can be casual, but avoid overly trendy clothes, jeans, or possibly offensive items, such as a political t-shirt.  Remove facial piercing that might be objectionable and keep tattoos covered.

Politely approach the first available employee (never interrupt a conversation) and ask to speak to the manager.

If the manager is not available, ask for the manager’s name and the next time they will be working so that you can try again later. You can ask the person you are speaking with if they are hiring and if so, request an application – some employers allow you to take them with you, while others will have you fill them out on the spot.

If you will be filling out the application at the place of employment, be sure that you have all necessary information needed to fill out the application, such as references, social security number, hours available, etc. Sometimes, instead of filling out the job experience on the application, you can attach your resume and simply note on that section of the application to refer to your resume.

Once you do speak to a manager and fill out an application, follow up with them in a few days by calling or stopping by and restating your interest in the job.  If you are applying for a job that you have heard about through a friend, be sure to mention how you heard about the job when you drop off your resume.


Applying for the job is only the first step… it’s the interview that will actually determine whether you get the job. Here are some tips for making a good impression.

Before your interview, do the following:

  • Research on the Internet standard job interview questions so that you know what to expect and consider your answers in advance. For example, many interviewers will ask “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?” It’s a great idea to practice with a friend or parent beforehand.
  • Be sure you know your resume inside and out so that you can highlight your positive qualities or experience without reading them.
  • Know a little bit about the company and the details of the job you are applying for. Try to answer your interview questions with references to those things if appropriate.
  • Develop a couple of questions for the interviewer beforehand such as what are the specific job responsibilities, hours available, salary, etc. Many interviewers consider this an important statement on the potential employee. One important question to ask is when they expect to make a decision about the job.

Show up 10 minutes early for your scheduled interview. Do not show up too early as this may be an annoyance to an interviewer, but never show up late. Dress appropriately (see suggestions above in the “applying” section) – it is better to be overdressed, than underdressed. Shake hands, make eye contact, state your name with confidence, and thank the interviewer for their time.

Keep your answers concise and to the point. If you don’t understand a question or you didn’t hear it do not be afraid to ask to have it rephrased or repeated. Be very honest in all your answers. Throughout your meeting, smile and make eye contact. Be optimistic. When an employer decides to hire you, they are making the decision that they want to (or are willing) to spend a good chunk of their time with you. You will never make a favorable impression with a poor attitude or by speaking negatively of a previous employer. When the interview is done, be sure to thank and shake hands with the interviewer again.

Send a thank-you note immediately afterwards. Follow-up with a phone call after a couple of days.

Good luck! You may not get the first job that you apply for. Don’t be discouraged. Keep trying until the right job for you comes along.

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