Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

I have filled out over fifty job applications: McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Chuck E. Cheese–you name it, I’ve done it. Filling out the forms is fun at first, but after about five, you are going to be beyond sick of writing down your address and confirming that no, you have not been convicted of a sexual harassment charge in the past five years. You will get sick of taking the surveys that ask you if stealing from the company is okay (and don’t believe them when they say there is no wrong answer–saying that it’s okay to take whatever you want as they underpay you is the wrong answer).

We live in the twenty first century. We have a website that can send out college applications to hundreds of schools, so why don’t we have one for jobs? Nearly every preliminary application for food service and retail jobs are identical. They just want to know the basics: social security number, education level, full name, stuff like that. And filling out this same information countless times is a waste of time. And it’s boring.

What You Need to Know

So, now that you know that applying for jobs is horribly mundane and time consuming, you probably can’t wait to get started! Well, before you do, there is some information you are going to need.

1. Social Security Number. You might already have this memorized. If you do, more power to you. If you don’t, do it now. If you don’t know what your number is, ask your parents. They probably applied for one when you were born and are likely keeping it safe with your birth certificate. Beware though, if  you parents are anything like mine, it will likely take them days to find it among all the hand turkeys they have been saving for the past ten years.

2. References. Most job applications are going to recommend, if not require, that you supply them with the contact information of at least two people who will speak to your qualifications or good qualities. Don’t worry if you don’t have any work experience as these people can be volunteer supervisors, coaches, teachers, or even family friends. But do not list any actual family members as references! This looks extremely unprofessional. Also be sure to give the people you list a heads up that you are including their information on your application.

3. Job History. Every application is going to ask what kind of experience you have. Most high school students have minimal experience and employers understand this. However, if you have ever volunteered somewhere for an extended period of time or even done some work for a family member’s business, list that. It can make a huge difference. Don’t discount anything. You might think that the summer you spent volunteering as a camp counselor was dumb, but to a manager that will show that you have experience dealing with people and can handle long days.

The rest of the information that they ask of you should be pretty cut and dry. Hopefully, you know what your address and phone number are. And if you don’t, are you sure you are old enough for a job?

Finding a Job

Once you have all this information compiled, you can start to look for openings! A lot of chain businesses always accept applications regardless of whether they are looking to hire immediately or not. Places like Starbucks, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut work this way.

Typically, they will keep your applications in the system for six months, meaning whenever there is an opening you could be considered for it. Other places only accept applications when they need people. For these places, you just have to keep checking in with them, either on their website or in person. A good place to start looking for jobs is Hire Teen. As the name implies, it is geared towards teenagers and you can do searches for places that hire based on age. Be aware that this site does not tell you if the place is hiring currently, only that it does hire for your age. It does usually link you to the company’s careers page, which is where you find the applications.

When you have finally hit the submit button on your last application is when the waiting begins. In my own experience, companies will call you in for an interview anywhere from two days to a month after they receive your application. If a few weeks go by and you haven’t heard anything, don’t get down on yourself. Remember the the job market is tough and you are not going to get every job you apply for, especially while you are still in high school. Just pick yourself up and fill out some more of those super fun applications. Seriously. When I didn’t hear back from any of the places I applied to, I hopped back on McDonald’s site and applied to every location in my city (eight to be exact). You just have to keep trying. Eventually, everything will click into place.


And when it does click into place, you are going to be asked to interview. You will either get a call or an email, and the employer will give you a choice of interviewing slots, you will choose one, and then you will show up. When you are getting ready for an interview, remember to stay calm. The person interviewing you will probably be nice–this is not a guarantee, however. So remember to be nice yourself.

Come prepared with a smile and wear something nice–don’t go overboard; khakis or an appropriate skirt and top will be perfect. To prepare yourself mentally, take a few minutes before the interview to relax. Watch a funny YouTube video if you only have a few minutes or your favorite movie if you have all day. Don’t do anything that’s going to stress you out. You don’t want to give off the impression that you would rather be somewhere else. But remember it’s okay to be nervous! To try and prevent any stumping questions, do a quick Google search of the company’s name followed by “interview questions”. A lot of corporations use the same questions at all their locations and at the very least this will give you a rough idea of the questions you’ll be answering.

What’s Next?

After your interview comes more waiting. You will usually either hear back from a company in a few days if you got the job. But if you don’t, it is usually safe to assume that you did not get the job and move on. If you did get hired, congratulations! They will probably next ask you to come in with some forms to complete the hiring process. You’ll need two acceptable IDs (they’ll tell you what these can be, but a school photo ID, driver’s license, and social security card are all usable). Also, pay attention to what they ask you to wear. You may need to get non slip shoes if you are working with food, or a specific color or style of pants. When the day arrives for you to go in, leave with plenty of time to spare. And don’t forget the best part: when you are officially hired on to the job, you get to do even more paperwork! And much of it is the same stuff as the application! Sometimes, you even get a bonus prize of a sexual harassment training pamphlet! Woo hoo!

The road to a new job is long and winding. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. It took me well over thirty job applications before I got my first interview, and twenty more before I got my second. You are not alone. And when you do finally get the magical phone call telling you you have gotten your first job, you’ll feel like a million bucks. And if you are working for California minimum wage, it will only take you 125,000 hours to earn that million! Welcome to the working world!

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the author

Kathleen is a Northern California native and incoming freshman at Washington & Lee University. She spends much of her free time obsessing over the future (not in a crystal ball way) and making plans to visit as many countries as humanly possible throughout her four years of college. She loves her dog Morton, Grey's Anatomy, and money. One day she hopes to become the perfect mix of Cristina Yang, Mindy Kaling, April Kepner, and Amy Poehler. Until then you can find her crying over how exciting life is and retaking the Myer's Briggs Test to make sure she really is ENTJ.

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