Dear Job Applicant: Why I Didn’t Hire You

One thing I wasn’t prepared for when I purchased a retail store was the steady stream of high-school and college kids walking in my store to ask ‘Are you hiring?’ I don’t know if it’s the dragons and the unicorns or the herbs and the incense, but my New Age store draws young people who not only want to hang out here; they think it would be unbearable cool to work here as well.
We always allow these off-the-streets applicants to fill out our pre-printed application forms, but unfortunately, very few of them will ever be called back for an interview. Whether subconsciously they really don’t want a job, or because they are just clueless, a large percentage of job applicants sabotage themselves before they even walk through the door.

So consider this the clue-sheet. Here’s some of the reasons various walk-in applicants disqualified themselves from consideration, as well as tips for avoiding their fate.

APPLICANT # 1 – You scare me
Or rather, your body art makes it clear that you hope to scare me. My store is more liberal than the average retail employer, and most of our younger staff have their share of piercings, tattoos and ‘attitude garments’. But there’s a world of difference between the message sent by a fairy-tattoo, or an eyebrow ring, and that sent by a tattoo of a skull with blood pouring from its mouth. Fourteen visible piercings about the neck tells total strangers that you have ‘comformity issues’ before you open your mouth.
You may argue that because we have a large youthful clientele, we can afford to go slightly ‘weirder’ in what’s acceptable on-the-job appearance, and indeed we do. But although young people make up a large percentage of our shoppers, they spend the least amount of money; it’s the older women – professionals to doting nanas – that keep us in business. If employing you is going to make our most supportive customers disinclined to linger, you, alas, will not be employed here.

HOW TO AVOID APPLICANT #1’s FATE – If you are not now covered in body art, do some serious soul-searching before submitting to the tattooist. What message do you want to send to the world? Are you sure you’ll want to send this message five years from now? Is having what many would consider an objectionable tattoo important enough to you to have to spend your working hours in long sleeves? Or limit your employment opportunities to tattoo parlors, adult fetish shops and game arcades? If you think you really want a tattoo, try a henna tattoo first. These are hand-painted by tattoo artists (or you can buy a kit that comes with printed patterns) and last four to six weeks. You may find out that six weeks is long enough to be a billboard.

APPLICANT # 2 – Your life is too busy for a job.

If you expect your employer to schedule around your extracurricular activities, you may not be ready for employment. While we go out of our way to schedule around our staff’s schooling, other job or children’s daycare, it’s expecting a bit much of us to keep up with all your hobbies and sports. If Wednesday is your ‘gaming night’, that’s one thing. But if you ‘game’ on Wednesdays and do Karate on Thursdays, and every Monday is band practice and alternate Tuesdays are your must-attend poetry slams, and there’s a big tournament coming up in December (only our busiest season) that you’ll need to take off for, you’re not going to be on my list of people to interview.

HOW TO AVOID APPLICANT #2’s FATE – Simplify your life. Are you packing your days with activities because you like to be busy? Because you think it’s necessary ‘to get in a good college’? Because all your friends are? How badly do you need a job? If money becomes an important need, you’re going to have to let something go. Pick something that causes you the most stress, and tell yourself it’s okay not to do that activity any more. Are you relieved? Then you really should let it go. On the other hand, if you can not bear to part with any of your non-essential activities, re-think employment.

APPLICANT #3 – I am not your mother.

This applicant type may make it to the interview before revealing themselves; this is the needy employee. If you find yourself telling a prospective employer about the fight with your boyfriend, or how unfair your last employer was, you’re not making a very good impression. If you can’t keep a job interview on a professional level, it’s pretty clear that your work will be similarly effected by your chaotic homelife. It’s okay if over time, your bosses and fellow employees come to learn more about you and your situation. It’s off-putting to find out everything about you in the first ten minutes, especially all the negative stuff.

HOW TO AVOID BEING LABELLED A BABY – During an interview, keep to appropriate topics – what the job entails, what skills you can bring to the business, how many hours you might be expected to work, at what pay, etc. Don’t bring your mother to the interview. Don’t ask if the interviewer can drive you home!

APPLICANT #4 – Your friends steal (and I’m not sure I trust you either).

You would think this would go without saying, but apparently it needs to be said. If you have EVER shoplifted at my store, don’t apply for a job here. If you’ve ever hung out with friends who have shoplifted at my store, don’t apply for a job here. Don’t think that because you haven’t been caught, it hasn’t been noticed that there’s a missing or broken chess piece after you and your friends were all hanging out in the back of the store by the chess sets. Even if you personally had nothing to do with it, I’m not going to hire you; I don’t want your friends to have an excuse to hang around.

HOW TO AVOID APPLICANT #4’s FATE: Don’t shoplift. If you do, forget it – you’ve blown your chance with me. Apply somewhere where they’ve never seen you. I’ll never hire you; I can’t trust you to handle the money.


Okay, you ask, so what ARE we looking for in an employee? Our perfect employee can work any hours we need them to work (or at least is fairly flexible and easy to schedule), is not afraid of computers, has their own reliable transportation, likes people and likes to talk. A shy sales associate can be very effective, but only if they work to overcome their natural tendencies; you have to talk to people, and make them feel welcomed in our business. If you are in high school now and haven’t decided on a language, consider taking Spanish – all businesses are looking for fluent Spanish speakers. Emphasize your best assets, don’t highlight your worst features, tell us what you like about our business (and not all the things you want to change!) and tell us how you think you can help us. Be professional and cheerful and chances are, you’ll get the offer.

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