8 Common Job-Hunting Mistakes that Teens Make

teenjobinterview2Work experience gives teens valuable benefits, such as:

  • learning responsibility and professionalism,
  • gaining material for their resume and college applications,
  • using their free time constructively, which helps them avoid trouble, and
  • developing skills in conflict resolution and problem-solving.


Since employment provides such valuable experience and skills to teens, it is well worth their effort to look for a job. Since teens have little to no experience in searching for employment, they tend to make some mistakes in the process that eliminate them from consideration. Parents, and other adults, should take the time to inform teens about these mistakes so that they can avoid them in the future and land a job.

Teach the teens in your life to avoid these common mistakes when seeking employment:

1. Starting a Job Search Too Late

Hunting for a job takes time! It can easily take a month for a potential employer to look through resumes, and another month for them to finish interviewing and make an offer to someone. Teens who are looking for a summer job cannot wait until the summer starts. Teens should begin their search in the Spring, before the college kids return from school (March or April).

2. Excluding Certain Types of Jobs

Teens may prefer not to work in fast food or at a big box retailer, but deciding to exclude an entire industry from their job search is a bad idea for two reasons: 1) it greatly reduces their chance of finding a job, and 2) their reasons for refusing that certain type of job may be inaccurate. Some teens may think flipping burgers or stocking shelves is too tedious or lowly, but any work experience provides ample learning opportunities and looks great to college recruiters and/or future employers. Teens should at least go into the job hunt with an open mind to consider different types of jobs. If they interview and decide it’s not right for them, then they will have made an informed decision.

3. Job Hunting with Friends

It is normal for teens to feel nervous about applying for a job, but trying to bolster their confidence by job hunting with friends is a bad idea. It can give a negative impression to employers to see a bunch of teens come in and ask for applications. Also, if one of the teens gets a job and the others don’t, it can cause bad feelings among the friends. It’s also not a good idea for parents to come in with a teen applying for a job. It implies that they are not capable of handling things on their own. Searching for employment is something a teen needs to do by him- or herself.

4. Using an Unprofessional Email

Teens tend to have cute email addresses – things they chose to reflect their personality or style. This is not the right email to give to a potential employer as contact information! Encourage your teen to set up a plain first-and-last-name account that is professional.

5. Not Following Directions

Many teens, in their eagerness to apply, are not reading the job ad carefully or following the specific directions provided by the employer. For example, in the job description, the employer may ask candidates to ‘Please apply online at somewebsite.com. Please do not send resume.’ If your teen then sends a resume, the employer will disqualify them without even looking at it. Another common mistake is rushing through the application and not filling out all of the information requested. Explain to your teen that a lot of employers nowadays use electronic scanning devices to eliminate candidates. If your teen doesn’t apply in the right format, skips some of the information, and/or doesn’t mention the key skills for which the job description is asking, their application will be discarded before any real human ever sees it.

6. Making Grammar or Spelling Errors

Any error on a resume or application gives a bad impression to the hiring manager. Encourage your teen to have an adult read through the application, resume, or cover letter before they submit them.

7. Giving Up Too Quickly

Not understanding the job search process can discourage many teens. A teen may expect to hear from an employer within a couple of days from turning in their application. This discouragement can make teens want to give up too quickly. Remind teens that it can take an employer months to hire, and that persistent (but polite) follow-up is the key. After a teen has submitted their application (especially if they completed it online), they should follow-up in person at each employer. They should introduce themselves, briefly explain that they submitted an application and are very interested in the opportunity, and ask if they can have an interview.

8. Not Networking or Asking for Help

Networking can feel intimidating, but statistically, a person is ten times more likely to receive a callback for a job if they know someone who works at the company for which they applied, or if they can find some connection to the hiring manager. That doesn’t mean that your teen needs to go to networking events or become a name-dropper. Your teen should simply ask family, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches and other connections to get assistance in their job hunt. Some of these people may have valuable advice on the protocols of seeking employment, know someone at the company to which the teen wants to apply, or have a friend who is hiring teens for some specific purpose. These valuable connections can place a teen on the inside track to a job.

Final Thoughts…

You need to walk the fine line between allowing your teen the independence to take this big step forward towards independent life, but guiding them so that they don’t make common mistakes that will eliminate them from consideration. Additionally, if your teen is having difficulty landing a job, suggest they start their own business providing a service, such as babysitting, mowing lawns, or walking dogs. You can read more about this idea in our previous blog, Teens Starting a Business.

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