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 ...
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!'"
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."
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."
They Wipe Their Ass With the Application
I've seen everything on an application from footprints to blood. Now to be fair, I can see some of this happening, because accidents will happen, things will be spilled, and so on ... so the point gets a bit of forgiveness. But that forgiveness only goes so far when someone returns one wrinkled to hell and with dirt ground into it from top to bottom. It's obvious that it's just been lying on the floorboard of their car for a week, and they couldn't be bothered to fill out a new one.
I'm also perfectly aware that this may have been one of our personal pet peeves, but the one that really used to piss us off in the office was pig shit. No, seriously, pig shit. As in the actual animal eating food, then digesting that food, then expelling the unused nutrients from its asshole, which then ends up smeared across an application for employment.
Sometimes, they'd turn one in with a whole pig attached to it.
See, we live in a farming area, and many of our potential hires were the teenage sons of those farmers, looking for something to replace their current chores of shoveling animal poop. The problem is that many of them wouldn't change clothes before making the trip to town. And even though they were wearing knee-high rubber boots to keep the shit off of their pants, the shit was still on their boots, dried up chunks falling off onto our just-mopped floors. Then when they got the application, they'd toss it in the back seat and forget about it for a few days. Eventually, those boots would make it back there, too, and boom: shit-stamp.
Look, I'm not suggesting that you treat a job application like the fucking Dead Sea Scrolls, but holy shit, you're turning that thing in with the hope of getting a job. The condition of that piece of paper is a pretty good indication of how seriously you're taking it. Even if it's not on the extreme level of pig shit, simply leaving a pop can ring and Cheetos fingerprints all over it is enough to show them that you just plain don't give a fuck. Or at the very least, that you're an incredible slob who will treat the premises with the same "Fuck it, my mom will clean it up" attitude.
"Why does your application smell like pizza and balls?"
They Misspell Virtually Everything
My favorite application of all time came from a 25-year-old dishwasher who had just lost his job at Cracker Barrel, a family restaurant that you can find every hundred feet in the Midwest. We knew it was going to be a good one when in his work history, he referred to the business as "Cracko Barrow." This was made even worse when we realized that he could clearly see the restaurant's sign from where he was sitting. But it gets so much worse, you're going to swear I'm making this next part up. I sadly assure you that I am not.
On the "How will you get to work?" question, he wanted to write the word "bicycle," but didn't know how to spell it. He made three attempts before giving up and drawing a stick bicycle, complete with a stick man riding it, and an arrow pointing to the bike itself. Obviously, I don't have the application, but this is my best, unexaggerated re-creation of what we saw on that page:
At first, we felt kind of bad for laughing at it, because what if he had some severe learning disability ... but aside from those two things, the rest of that application was perfectly fine. What wasn't fine was when we saw a steadily growing pattern of teenagers' applications being turned in written partially in text speak. For instance, in response to the question "How far from the business do you live?" we'd get answers like "not 2 far frm u mybe 3 mls."
And from an employer's perspective, it's extremely hard to not immediately think, "Man, this person is a complete fucking idiot. Put it in the folder marked 'Only if we legally have to.'" I've seen people misspell their own fucking name who didn't get ridiculed as much as a person who fills out an application in text style. It just sends such a clear message, intentional or not, that says, "I don't have time to fill this shit out. And I most definitely don't have time to learn how to write in my own language. Let's just whip through this shit and move on."
"I've got some goddamn back flips to do, baby!"
But, hey, if all else fails, just draw a stick figure of what you mean. At the very least, you'll become a legend at the job you were never hired at. Or if you set the bar really high, you could end up being made fun of in a Cracked article.