Resume and job searching tips for teenagers

If you are a teenager looking to earn extra cash or get a head start on your career by landing your first job you probably have a lot to learn. But luckily your friends, family, and resources like this are here to help. 

5 Job seeking tips

What you learn in your first job will set you up for a lucrative career, so it is important you learn as much as you can. Asking your friends, family, and colleagues for help and advice is always useful. But, doing your research into job seeking, resume writing, and how to handle yourself in a professional environment is also an important step and always worth the time and effort.

What follows are some of the most important things for teenagers to keep in mind while looking for work, writing a resume, sitting an interview, and joining the workforce.

Do your research

When creating applications and considering targeting a specific industry or job role, it is vital that you do your online research. This way you can fully understand the duties and responsibilities you should expect, and avoid any nasty surprises further down the line.

Consider your commitments

Like most of us, you probably have a busy life with many other important commitments. If you accept a job, then you need to have a good understanding of the hours and days you will be able to work in a given week. Start by making a schedule of your current activities: school, homework, sports and extracurricular activities, family commitments, and your social life. Then, consider which of the above you would be able to cancel or rearrange if you had to dedicate more time to your new job.

Understand yourself

Before you start applying for jobs, you must take some time to reflect on yourself so that you will better understand what available jobs you are suitable for. Analyze and list your strengths, skills, achievements, hobbies, and interests. Feel free to ask your friends, family, or teachers what they think too. This will not only help you decide between jobs but also boost your self-esteem and help you to better understand what jobs you will enjoy most.

Be realistic

Let’s be honest, you have no real work experience and are still a teenager. This means that you will likely start working at minimum wage and with few responsibilities. However, with some hard work, you can quickly show your capabilities and make some extra money. So, be patient and don’t expect to be earning a lot straight away.

Understand what employers concerns

As a teenage job seeker, you may have to try harder than others to prove you are serious about the work. Expert careers coordinator Gale Montgomery, from Simpson College, voices the key concerns when hiring teens: will they keep to the schedule, and are they willing to learn. It is, therefore, important to try to reassure employers of your reliability and eagerness to learn.

Rest assured: it is expected that you will be worried and nervous about joining the world of work. The more preparation you do, the easier the adjustment will be and the more likely you will be to impress your colleagues and managers.

4 Resume writing tips

As a young job seeker, you should carefully consider your current skills and how you feel those skills would help you excel at the type of jobs you will be applying for. Then, highlight these skills on your resume. As you are likely to have little in the way of work experience, you prioritize your skills by moving this section higher up on your resume.

Check your spelling, grammar, and formatting

Your resume needs to clearly communicate your achievements, experience, skills, and effectiveness as an employee. But this will be impossible if your language is full of errors, unclear enough, or if your formatting makes the document unprofessional and hard to follow. It is always a good idea to use online spelling and grammar checkers, and to ask someone with experience writing resumes to take a look for you and make sure you got it right.

Mention any related experience

Although you may not have had a job before, that does not mean you have no related experience. Think back at any extracurricular activities, clubs, volunteering, or hobbies that could help you with the job you are applying for. For example, if you are in the debate team, then perhaps the skills of persuasion you developed there could be used to help you make more sales in a clothing store.


Don’t be tempted to lie

Lying on your resume to make you seem more appealing may be tempting, especially when you are inexperienced and trying to sell yourself. However, it will be easy enough for employers to realize you're not being truthful when they go to check your references or give you a responsibility you cannot handle in the workplace. Needless to say, this could blow your chances of landing the job.

7 Interview tips

The hiring manager will most likely test you with questions to see how well you understand the role’s responsibilities, the business, and maybe even the industry as a whole. Ensure you pass these tests, by studying the jobs spec and reading up on the company online. Researching the job role and company by checking the businesses’ website and social media channels is a good way to get up-to-date on the latest news and info.

Consider how your skills and experience relate to the job

For the requirements on the role's job spec, usually outlined in the job advert, think carefully about how you would handle each one and what skills you have that may be useful for these situations. Try to highlight the reasons why you are likely to do the job better than the other candidates.

Practice your technique

Just like nearly everything in life, practice makes perfect. A great way to overcome nerves and get comfortable formulating answers is to stage some mock interviews with family and friends.

Also make sure to check these common interview questions so you can have an idea of what you should be asked. While practicing, pay careful attention to your body language and handshake, as these are both vital to making a good impression.

Dress smart and professionally

In general, you should try to dress one level up from the job you are applying for. This means smarter than the clothes you would be wearing if you landed the role. For teengares, most job interviews will usually call for a business casual look, so that is a good place to start. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid in your look from professional career counselors:

  • Open-toed shoes or sandals
  • Heavy makeup
  • Revealing clothing: short skirts, tight-fitting tops, etc.
  • Visible piercings and large earrings
  • Large, visible tattoos
  • Wrinkled and unwashed clothes and shoes
  • An outrageous haircut or hair dyes (if possible). 

Be prepared for unexpected interviews

Teenagers joining the workforce should expect impromptu interviews, as managers will often use parts of the day when business is slowing down to do quick interviews. So, if you are handing out resumes to your local shops, please be ready to do an interview the very same day. That means, dressing appropriately, planning some questions, and preparing some answers. If you are lucky you could get hired on the spot.

Put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode

In your interview, eliminate all possible chances of unprofessional interruptions by turning off your phone. Do not check your phone during the interview and leave it in your bag or pocket if you think you will be tempted to.

Write a post-interview thank-you note

This may seem excessive, but sending a quick message via email or text to say thank you to the hiring manager after your interview is likely to remind them of your interview and put you ahead of the competition. Especially when you consider that only around 1 in 20 job seekers send thank you messages.

6 Tips for the workplace

One major problem many employers identify when hiring teens is communication. Perhaps, due to a lack of confidence, many teenagers talk in a mumbled, too quick, quiet, and unclear way. This can be confusing and difficult for both colleagues and customers, so you must learn how to articulate yourself clearly. Practice talking more clearly and professionally without using slang or swearing, especially if you are likely to be using the phone in your new role.

Communicating clearly is more than just how you speak, you also need to display the correct body language, so avoid slumping in your chair and make good eye contact with the people you are speaking to. Also, when you are writing, try to ensure your writing is as clear and error-free as possible.

Listen and learn

Listening is an important thing in education and the skills you developed for hearing and absorbing information are equally important in the workplace. Most jobs come with lots of key terms and different ways of talking, so ensure you listen carefully to your manager's instructions, take notes, pay close attention in meetings, and to the work your colleagues are doing around you. Joining the workforce can be a steep learning curve, but the more you watch and listen the quicker you will understand your position in the workforce and the better impression you will make.

Don’t be shy to ask for help

If this is your first real job, nobody will expect you to get everything right the first time. However, making constant mistakes because you don’t understand something and are afraid to ask for help will impress nobody. Keep in mind that even the most rigorous training will often leave out vital information, so don’t be worried about asking your colleagues or managers to repeat or explain something in greater detail. Ultimately, this will improve your productivity, effectiveness as an employee, benefitting your reputation and the business as a whole.

Only interrupt if it is urgent

Just like in school, and other formal situations, when your colleagues are talking business together, and especially when someone is dealing with a client or customer, you need to wait for your turn to speak.

When you stop to think about it, usually there will be no need to interrupt. But if there is a high-pressure emergency that you feel warrants an interruption, be polite and say ‘Excuse me…’ or ‘Pardon me...’.

Be careful what you reveal to customers and clients

There will always be sensitive topics and information that your managers and colleagues would rather customers and clients don’t know about. So, if in doubt, always ask for a private word with your colleagues before revealing potentially sensitive information. Here are some examples of topics to definitely avoid:

  • Discounts given to other customers or clients
  • Personal client or customer information 
  • Financial information e.g. the percentage the business makes for each sale.  

Keep to the dress code

Many employers will expect you to keep to a specific dress code or uniform, which should be easy enough to follow. However, if you are asked to ‘dress appropriately’ it can be a good idea to ask for some clarification. Many places hiring teens will be fine with jeans and a t-shirt, but even in the most relaxed environment it is usually best to avoid wearing the following:

  • Unwashed or ripped clothes
  • Shirts with anything that could be seen as offensive
  • Open-toed shoes and sandals.


Vicky Blom

As a professional recruiter, I have over 10 years of experience helping candidates find work with businesses that match their skills, personalities and goals. Here on Resume Supply, I share some of the key things I have learned over my career to help job seekers with resumes, applications and interviews.