Applying for a Job - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

Applying for a Job

Earning money is, of course, great. Earning money while gaining valuable work experience is even better. So how should you go about actually landing the job?

Strange as it may seem, even a part-time job as a fry cook has certain requirements. To get any job, you must convince the employer you are dependable, responsible and willing to do what's asked of you. Jobs that ask you to deal with the public, work in an office or interact with professionals have specific guidelines as well.

The hiring process usually involves four steps:

  • Application
  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Interview

Application

The employer provides these forms. It's a good idea to check for printable versions on the company website and fill them out ahead of time. You can take a completed form with you or use it as practice. Applications usually ask for:

  • Biographical information. Fill out all spaces as accurately as possible. Employers are going to be a little concerned if you put down the wrong Social Security number.
  • Previous employers or work experience. If you've never held a job before, feel free to write "not applicable" in these spaces. But, if you've babysat, worked on a farm or done other odd jobs, use these areas to highlight what you've learned.
  • Education and skills. Even if you haven't completed high school, fill in your school's name and the dates you've attended. In the blank for "degree," you can write that you are currently enrolled. Use the skills area to draw attention to your computer, phone or other office skills.
  • References. Write down adults who know you but aren't related to you. Your school counselor, teachers, neighbors and coaches are good resources.

Resume

Many part-time positions won't require a resume, but some will, and attaching an organized list of your skills, activities and accomplishments is going above and beyond the required application. (Hint: Employers like that.) A good resume includes:

  • Contact information. Make sure you include a phone number and e-mail address where employers can reach you. If your younger sibling is likely to forget to give you a message left at home, include a cell or other number.
  • Summary of skills or qualifications. Describe the qualities you have and employers want in three sentences or fewer.
  • Education. Don't be shy about saying you're a junior in high school. Be sure to include any advanced or unique courses you've taken. If your grade point average is something to be proud of, include it.
  • Experience. Include any odd jobs you've done and the responsibilities they included. Instead of just "babysitting," expand the entry to include the supervision of children, creation of crafts or games, and tutoring in homework.
  • Skills. Don't forget that helping at fund-raising dinners gives you the ability to interact with the public or doing the grocery shopping means you can stick to a budget. Being part of a group or team also gives you special experience. Use creativity to describe your skills, but don't go beyond the truth.
  • References. These can be the same people you include on the application. Make sure you ask their permission so they aren't surprised if an employer does call them.

Cover Letter

A cover letter simply introduces you to your potential employer. If you are applying for the job in person, you may not need this piece, but while you're creating a resume, it's a good idea to write one to send with any resumes you mail or submit online.

Use a business letter format. Address the cover letter to a specific person. If you don't know who will be doing the hiring, call or go online to find out.

Write three short paragraphs that:

  • Explain why you are interested in the job.
  • Show how your skills and experience qualify you for the position.
  • Request an interview and thank the reader for their time.

Interview

The interview is the final, and often most nerve-racking, part of applying for a job. You can minimize your nerves by preparing for the interview, taking care with your appearance, and planning to be your best during the meeting.

  • Preparation
    • Learn what you can about the organization by researching it online or at the library.
    • Think about how your qualifications fit the job and the organization's overall mission.
    • Be ready with answers to questions like, "Why should I hire you?" or "What are your weaknesses?"
  • Appearance
    • Dress appropriately. Wear nicer clothes even if you'll end up wearing a fast-food uniform at the job.
    • Be well groomed. Iron your clothes and make sure your hair is neat.
    • Don't chew gum. Fresh breath is a plus, of course, but no one likes to see you chomping and blowing bubbles.
  • Conduct for the interview
    • Be early.
    • Greet your interviewer with a businesslike handshake.
    • Use your manners and proper English. Say "yes" instead of "yeah" and avoid slang.
    • Relax and answer each question as well as you can.
    • Be cooperative and enthusiastic.
    • Ask questions, especially some that can't be answered by reading the company's website.
    • Show interest with eye contact and good posture.
    • Thank the interviewer when you leave, and follow up with a short thank-you note.
  • Information to take to an interview.
    • Two forms of government-issued identification. These could include a Social Security card, a driver's license or permit, or a school identification card.
    • A copy of your resume or application.
    • References

 

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