Job Application Tips for Teenagers

Two teenage students searching for jobs online.
••• Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Are you a teen getting ready to start applying for jobs? Do you need some guidance on the best way to apply for jobs, fill out job applications, secure interviews, and get hired?

If you're a teenager applying for summer work, or a part-time job during the school year, you should be aware that how you apply can make the difference in getting hired:

  • Your application needs to be completed accurately and legibly, or you can expect it to get tossed into the reject pile. Leaving off important information can have the same effect.
  • Whether you're applying in person or online, it's important to provide all the information the employer requests.
  • Before you start filling out job applications, be sure that you take the time to find out what information you will need to provide to prospective employers.

Consider Writing a Resume

It's a good idea to put together a resume, even though many employers won't ask for one. It will give you the opportunity to organize and categorize your experience, and can be useful when filling out applications to maintain consistency and accuracy in filling in your work dates and experiences.

Plus, it's good to have a starting point that you can add to and edit as you gain experience over the next few years.

Practice Filling Out Applications

Practice filling out an application before you start actually applying for jobs. Here's an example of a job application you can print and use to get started.

If you're not sure about something on the application, ask for help from a family member, guidance counselor, or friend.

If you take the time to practice filling out an application, you'll do better when the real thing comes along. This, in turn, will increase your chances of getting hired.

Tips for Teens Completing Job Applications 

Whenever possible, take the application home. Or fill it out online so you don't have to rush while sitting in an employment office or at the front of a store. Make a list of all the information you need to include in your application prior to filling it out. Not sure what to say when you need to pick up an application for employment? Here's how to ask for a job application.

Neatness counts. Have a friend or parent with nice handwriting help you fill out your paper applications if your handwriting is subpar. Ifyou are careless when completing an application, then employers are likely to think that you might be careless on the job.

Make a copy or take a picture. If you have access to a copy machine, make a copy to use when filling out other applications, since they all ask for pretty much the same information, often even in the same order. You might also take a picture of the application with your phone, so that it's easier to apply next time. It is useful to have an extra copy of your application on hand in case an employer loses it or has difficulty accessing your application. 

Show the employer that you can follow directions by filling in all sections of the application form. If you don't have information to put in a box, you can write "N/A" (not applicable).

Review all of the questions carefully to make sure you understand what they are asking for.

If you don't have formal work experience, it's fine to list jobs like babysitting or yard work, or participation as an officer in a school club or student government. Volunteer work in the community is also worth including in lieu of employment and is viewed by employers as a sign of seriousness and maturity. Request help from a parent or guidance counselor if you need assistance responding to any items that seem confusing.

Check your application for spelling and grammar mistakes and have someone else review it. Put your finger on every word to make sure it is correct, even if you are typing and using spellcheck.

Make sure you emphasize the responsibilities of your past jobs that are most relevant to your target position when completing your descriptions. For example, suppose that you only spent a fraction of your time generating documents in your campus job, but it will be the primary function in the job you're applying for. List that activity first on the application when describing your campus job so that your key qualification is easily noticed. Use action words that denote skills, like "organized," "proofread," and "taught" to lead your phrases when describing past jobs.

Employers of teens value reliability, especially in terms of attendance and punctuality. Try to incorporate references to perfect attendance and punctuality, if possible.

Don't forget to include honors or awards. Employers will likely perceive achievements like a competitive GPA or induction into the National Honor Society as evidence of a strong work ethic.

Assemble a list of referencesMost employers will request three or four references. Be prepared to furnish the names, job titles, and contact information for your references.

People who can vouch for your work ethic and responsibility are fine to use as a character reference if you don't have employment references. If you haven't held a formal job, consider asking families for whom you babysit or have done odd jobs, as well as teachers, coaches, or members of the clergy. You should ask several people if they might be willing to give you a positive recommendation, should they be contacted by a potential employer. 

Whenever possible, give your references a heads-up if you think an employer will be contacting them so that they can be prepared to represent you well. 

Check your voicemail. You will need to list your phone number on the application, so be sure that the voicemail message on your cell is suitable for an employer to hear. Check messages regularly so that you don't miss any calls from employers.

Follow up with the employer to make sure that they have received your application or to determine if they have any questions. Ask if it might be possible to arrange an interview. Eagerness by a teen candidate is almost always viewed favorably by an employer.

What Not to Do When You're Applying for Jobs

Also review this list of what not to do when you're applying for jobs, so you don't make a mistake that could cost you an interview or a job offer.

If you take the time to prepare in advance of putting your applications in, the process will be much smoother – and you'll speed up the process of getting hired.