Landing the job

A guide filling out a job application, writing a resumé and acing the interview


Margaret Debenport

Photo illustration. Senior Kayla Teague poses for a photo acting as if she is in an interview.

Story by Phoebe Neff, staff writer

Applying for a job can seem nerve-wracking and complicated. There are many things to be aware of when doing so. Many teens are thrust into the working world without knowing the right way to apply, and not knowing what to do can lead to the fall of confidence and in turn be what causes the loss of a job opportunity. 

To help students looking to join the workforce, Dollars and Sense teacher Amelia Dorsey gives advice, tips and information about what to do and what to avoid when applying for a job.

The application

To begin, it is recommended that you get two copies of the application when you go job hunting if you would prefer to submit one in person.

“One to fill out as a practice, and the other one to use as an actual application you’re going to turn in,” Dorsey said.

As it is found preferable to apply for jobs online, there are still ways to ensure you get the best possible version of your application.

“I would suggest that before you complete that job application online and submit it, that you go through that job application line-by-line,” Dorsey said. “Write down your responses [and] get some help with the questions you can’t answer before you actually submit that application.”

Some questions on the application may be too difficult to answer, if answerable at all. However, it is smart to always double-check to make sure whether or not a question can be answered, and to never leave a blank space.

“If there is someone you can talk to before you actually submit the job application, get someone with some experience and ask them how they would likely respond to it or what would be the best response to that,” Dorsey said. “But if you don’t have a response to it, you will just simply write ‘N/A.’”

Leaving a space blank is a mistake that may cause an unprofessional look. There are many common mistakes people make but are easy to avoid if they are known to be mistakes.

“Some common mistakes are that people write in pencil whenever they are filling out a job application, and you never want to use a pencil. You always want to use a pen. Another mistake that people make on their job applications is that it’s just not neat,” Dorsey said. “[Another] big thing an employer will look at is the salary expectation [space]. Always do the research ahead of time and know what that job is going to pay.”

Another aspect of the application is references. References may make or break your chances of getting the job, so it is imperative that you use people who will speak well of you, but never use relatives or non-work related friends. It’s unprofessional, and they may certainly give a biased opinion on you. It is also important that you either get permission from your references to use them, or to give them a heads up that you are going to use them as a reference.

Finally, never forget your signature. This is the binding part, the part that seals the deal. Without your signature, your application means nothing and is therefore invalidated.

The resumé

Resumés can seem daunting to write. Students may look at them as big, bad, scary essays where you are forced to write about yourself, but you have no idea what the prompt is. Fear not, for resumés are not an essay, and they are certainly not big nor scary.

“You can look at a resumé as icing on the cake to a job application. The job application provides basic information about you, it tells about some of your work experience, but a resumé has categories you can put more emphasis on when you are applying for a job,” Dorsey said. “[A resumé includes] personal information, education, work experience and work history.”

When you first write your resumé, you may feel as though you have no work experience to write about. However, everyone has work experience even if they’ve never had a job before.

“You do have work experience because they’re skills that you have, things that you do at home every day, things that you do at school every day that you may not consider to be work experience, but it is because you have a job skill,” Dorsey said. “Let’s say you were going to JC Penny’s to apply for a job working in the children’s clothing department. If you know how to do your laundry at home, then you know how to sort clothes, and that’s one of the things that an employee will be doing at JC Penny’s. “

There are innumerable things you already know how to do that can be considered work experience or skills.

“If you mow your lawn, you know how to operate small equipment. You use technology all the time, you have those technology skills whenever you’re using your cell phones, whenever you are using your laptop or your desktop computers. You know how to input data,” Dorsey said. “So things that you take for granted as not a job skill are actually job skills.”

As you gain experience through working at different locations, or as you earn higher degrees of education, it is not necessary to write a new resumé. Simply add on and expand upon the one you already have. However, to ensure it’s not too long, trim off the oldest work experiences you have when you add new ones. It keeps your resumé fresh.

The interview

Being interviewed is a stressful experience for many people, especially those new to the process. While it is important that your interview goes well, an employer will be understanding if you are a little nervous. There are tips to follow to ensure your interview goes along smoothly, as well as make you stand out from a crowd of other potential job candidates.

“Always be respectful, always show up on time, don’t allow any distractions during a job interview,” Dorsey said. “You don’t want to chew gum, you don’t want to have your cell phone vibrating or going off.”

A critical part of the interview is the first impression. This is determined by your attire, how you carry yourself, and how you address other people, such as a receptionist as well.

“I always tell my students to remember [that] someone will have been interviewed before you and someone will be interviewed after you. You don’t want to go in over the top as a know-it-all, but you want to go into a job interview being very confident about what you are capable of doing,” Dorsey said. “When you get called in for a job interview, you got that employer’s attention with something on your application. So be confident, know what you can do, and if there’s something you can’t do, always let an employer know you’re willing to learn.”