The 5 Most Common Errors of First Time Job Applicants

Remember when you were a teenager and your parents finally got tired of you borrowing money from them every week to support your stupid reading habit? So they made you get off of your dead ass and get a job so you could pay for your own books to smoke. Or whatever it is that kids do with books -- I'm not much on reading. And regardless of how scary the first day of that job turned out, it paled in comparison to the horror you felt filling out that first application.

For almost 15 years, I worked in a business that hired mostly high school kids because it was a bullshit job where the workers' output far exceeded their pay scale, and right-minded adults knew to stay away. In that time, I've seen thousands of applications, but only dozens of accepted workers ... mostly because it turns out that many teens really suck at filling them out. So if you're a teenager hunting for a job, try to remember that your jobless peers are probably in that predicament because ...

#5. They Make Up Bullshit

When we needed to fill a position at my old job, one of our greatest joys was rooting through the applications and finding the most ridiculous, exaggerated job titles from their previous employment. We've all done it -- we've doctored up our last position to make it sound more important and impressive than it really was. The difference between adults doing it and teens doing it, though, is that adults generally have more work experience, so they've had positions that supply a better foundation for stacking on the piles of bullshit. For instance, "Social Networking Strategist" is a pretty cool-sounding way to title the job of "posted shit on Twitter and Facebook." They had a job with computers, trying to promote a website. That's pretty easy to decorate because it's already tech-related.

But bring in a teenager whose only job has been changing oil at the local auto dealership, and there's virtually nothing to work with. I've seen "oil technician" used more than I'd like to admit. Actually, no, it brings me great joy to admit it: I've seen it about 50 times on peoples' work histories. "But John, that kind of fits, because mechanics are also called 'techs,' and the guy changed oil." Fine, I also used to work at a car dealership as the cleanup guy, washing mud off of the lot cars. The 19-year-old who worked with me referred to himself as an "automotive appearance specialist." He had a bucket and a sponge.
Shhhhh ... he needs his full concentration to pull off this tricky, highly specialized task.

What I found over the years is that the younger the applicant, the more retarded their titles would become. I'm not joking at all when I tell you that I've seen "Dishes Technician" to describe the highly technical task of washing dishes. "But John, if he's washing-" No. No buts. There is nothing wrong with washing dishes for a living -- it's a paycheck. But if you do that job, you fucking own it. You don't try to flower it up with some bullshit-sounding title. You hold your head up high and say, "I'm a dishwasher. I wash dishes. Fuck you, it paid my goddamn rent this month."

The heart of the matter is this: It isn't so much that you're trying to make a mundane job sound important and techy. It's that when the potential employers read these titles, they think, "Do they think I'm fucking stupid? Like I'm going to read that title and decide 'Holy shit, we have to snatch this one up right now before someone else does!'"
"I specialized in the removal and disposal of potentially biohazardous materials."

But slightly worse is the education section, where they ask where you went to school and what subjects you studied. I've seriously seen guys list off every single class they took, right down to fucking PE. If the furthest you've gone in education is high school, you can skip the latter question. They know what you studied because it's the same goddamn thing that everyone in high school studies. All they want to know is if you have some special knowledge or skill set that would make it easier for them to train you. However, almost every teenager's application I've read has padding, like "Fluent in Microsoft Word" or "two semesters of Latin." All you're doing at that point is creating a "one-up" story for some asshole manager later in life: "Oh, you think that one was bad? One time, I had an application from this high school kid ..."
"So I said, 'I see you took Sex Ed? You're definitely going to need that here! Bend over!'"

#4. They Get Obvious Help in the Wrong Way

We were in kind of a bind after one guy went to lunch and never came back, followed by the firing of another worker who had access to a fake doctor's prescription pad and used it frequently. So the timing couldn't have been more perfect when a 17-year-old kid showed up with his dad, looking for an application. Bringing someone with you when you're looking for a job isn't the smartest idea in the first place, but at that age, it's excusable. Some of them are looking for a job to buy their first car, so how else are they going to get there?

While the kid silently filled out the application, his dad got chatty with me and the hiring manager, telling us that it was high time his son got a job because "all he does is sit around the house and play goddamn video games." And "I can't even get him to get off of his ass to do basic chores without hearing him whine about how much it sucks, so he's getting a job whether he likes it or not and learning a little about real life."
"And don't even get me started on his stealing problem. Isn't that right, you little thieving bastard?"

The second he left, we pulled out the Post-it notepad and wrote a big red "NO" to decorate the cover of his application. Then we took a moment to appreciate the dad's honest, unintentional warning that his kid was a whiny piece of shit who had to be forced to do the most menial work. Sorry, Dad, but we're not his fucking babysitter.

Now, given, this was help that the kid didn't ask for, but we got plenty of the opposite, like applications written in two different colors of ink and two distinctly different handwriting styles. If that wasn't enough to tip us off that some of these kids were having Mommy fill out everything but the signatures, we actually watched more than one guy have her do it right in front of us.
"Oh, trust me, he'll fuck it up. He's Mommy's little dumbass."

But our business-wide favorite was the question "How will you get to work?" Since some of our employees were young enough to not have their first car yet, that's a pretty important question. The most common answer we got was "My girlfriend will drive me." Teens, I won't totally lay this one on you, though. This was the most common answer from age 16 right up through age 30. There were fully grown men who couldn't get themselves to work because they can't go one fucking year without getting a DUI.

Our thinking, though, was that if the girlfriend was responsible enough to have her own car and an actual driver's license, could you just send her in for an interview? Because she's the one we want to hire. She's demonstrated that, where life is concerned, she's the one who knows what the fuck she's doing. But on the extremely rare occasion when we did hire one of the "my girlfriend will drive me" guys, the same thing always happened: He started showing up late to work and blaming it on the girlfriend. "I told that bitch we needed to leave 15 minutes earlier, but she wouldn't listen!"
"She just had to keep stopping for Facebook pictures."

#3. They Don't Answer the Questions

Nothing made me happier than getting an application from a teen with a criminal record. And there were many. When most adults got to the "Criminal History" section, they were pretty straightforward with their answers. "Assault, resisting arrest, production of methamphetamine." But when a teen did something wrong, it always had a story behind it. Instead of answering the question "Have you ever been convicted of a crime besides traffic violations?" they put "Ask in person."

Nope, you're never making it to that stage, champ. We just asked you on the application -- there is no option that asks for your story that is guaranteed to start with "OK, so here's what happened: I was just minding my own business, when all of a sudden ..." We don't want to hear about how you were the victim in all of this. Or how you were set up. Or how you were wrongly accused. Unless you're Arlo Guthrie, just write the fucking crime in the fucking box.
"And I also shot a guy. I haven't been arrested for that one, but they're pretty close to catching me."

But even if they weren't victims of The Man's ruthless attempts at destroying their lives with false accusations, we never walked away from an application disappointed, because the "Previous Work" section was still there as a fallback to stupidity. "Why did you leave your last job?" "Boss made me choose between work and family."

Yeah, you read that right, and it wasn't a one-time thing. We got this response quite often. This super passive-aggressive non-answer usually meant that the worker was habitually late in the first place, and then decided to not show up at all for a few days, blaming it on "sick kids." So the boss told him to fix his obvious attendance problems or he'd be fired. I suppose it's possible that there is some dirty boss out there somewhere who gets off on destroying families in the name of work, but I've yet to run into one. "Chad, we're sick of this whole 'family' thing you have going on, and we're about to put an end to it. You either show your loyalty to us by neglecting your wife and children, or you find yourself another job. Choice is yours."
"And don't come back until you murder your uncle."

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John Cheese

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