By Joy Kraft
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Classrooms are about to empty a new wave of teen first-timers into the job pool. Many have hopes of pulling down summer cash for clothes, gas, fun, college and family finances.
If you're in this group, you're facing the dreaded First Job Interview. Whether you end up grilling wienies at Coney, manning the Whack-a-Mole at Paramount's Kings Island or perching on a lifeguard stand at a city pool, you will have to make it past this step to land a job.
Before fretting about what to do and say during the interview, though, look in the mirror. Like it or not, clothes talk the talk about who you are.
The right look
(Michael E. Keating photo)
Collared or dress shirt
Pants worn at the waist
Cleavage, bare shoulders, bare midriffs
Skirts shorter that mid-thigh
Too much perfume
FOR GUYS & GIRLS
Oversized or extreme low-rise pants
T-shirts with sayings
Gym, sport or workout clothes
Tattered, dirty clothes or those with holes
Multiple earrings, necklaces, rings
Untied shoes, workboots
Hats, caps, headscarves, doo-rags
Brightly-dyed hair, extreme hair styles
"People form an impression within the first 10 seconds of meeting you," says Greg Clayton, with the Urban League's Youth Employment and Development Initiative Program. "That's the first thing we tell kids."
He uses this comparison: You are in a big city and want a burger. There's a MacDonald's on one corner, a Burger King on the other and Greg's Burgers on the third. Which will you choose? Nobody wants Greg's because they don't know anything about Greg or his burgers.
"That's what (teens) are like to an employer," an unknown quantity, says Clayton.
"Employers are looking for known quantities, especially in this day and age when it costs employers to train and employ," he says.
"The (clothing) fads that kids are so comfortable with are barriers" to landing a job, Clayton says. "Style is not a recognized quantity. A kid may have paid more for his outfit than the employer (paid for his clothing), but it doesn't matter because it's not appropriate business attire."
That means leaving clothes that may impress friends - "throwback" jerseys, droopy drawers, belly-baring pants and skirts and gobs of jewelry - in the closet - even if you're just picking up an application.
"Even then, people are forming impressions," says Clayton.
"A lot of kids expect you to hire them no matter what they look like or what they say," says Jason Reid, retail food service manager at Coney Island, who hires about 200 teens every summer. "They see it as an automatic job. But that's not always the case.
"There are a lot of kids applying. And not everyone gets hired."
So, what to wear?
We went to Paramount's Kings Island, which hires more than 4,000 people a year, and Coney Island, which employs about 900 each summer, for suggestions on interview clothes. Both have dress guidelines once you are hired, and interviewers are usually willing to cut a little slack.
"We have so many who come in after school and on weekends to apply. We just want them to look good," says Jeff Siebert, spokesperson at Kings Island.
Reid gave us a real-life example of what not to wear.
"Last week, a guy came in with several gold chains, his cap on sideways, in a (sleeveless undershirt), white sneakers, jogging sweat shorts. It was totally inappropriate, just what you do not look for."
Guys should wear a collared shirt - not necessarily a dress shirt - slacks, even cargo pants, worn at the waist - not on the hips or lower - and tied shoes. Sneakers are OK if that's all you have. Wear black if you have a choice, and preferably not sandals.
ON A BUDGET
Short on funds for "interview appropriate" clothes? Stop in at your neighborhood thrift shop.
We shopped at Plato's Closet's Symmes Township store (9148 Union-Cemetery Road) and Valley Thrift in Evendale (9840 Reading Road, near Cornell) and priced the following: a skirt and cotton-knit top or a dress for girls, and a pair of khakis, a belt and collared shirt for guys.
Even with Plato's labeled clothes - including Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle, Gap, Old Navy - the pant-belt-shirt and skirt-top combos or dresses are under $20. At Valley Thrift, outfits are less than $10. Both stores have shoes for $5 and up.
"The shirt doesn't necessarily have to be tucked in, but the best look is a tucked-in shirt with a belt. That impresses the most," Reid says.
"We want to see clothes well-maintained and clean," says Siebert. "We want someone clean-cut who looks like they care about their appearance."
He suggests nice pants, "pulled up to an appropriate place near the waist," even a clean pair of blue jeans; a clean, "well-taken-care-of shirt and tied shoes that don't look like they've been through the lawn mower."
Clean is the operative word.
"Come in looking clean, presentable - and covered up," says Reid.
"I don't care if they wear skirts or slacks, but skirts would give a better impression. And if they wear shorts, they should be midway down the thigh. Once in a while, I have girls come in with bare bellies. That's definitely not appropriate."
Makeup and jewelry should be minimal and hair moderately styled, says Siebert.
Besides clean, modest clothes, the thing employers like to see on job applicants is a smile.
"The image they portray allows us to assign them to a position that best suits their attitude and appearance in a specific role within the park," says Siebert.
"What makes a good impression is a positive attitude and friendliness," says Reid.
"From the get-go we are in the business of first impressions," says Siebert. "Their job is to create memories for our guests, so we look for someone who will present a good first impression. We look for someone who takes pride in how they look, how they carry themselves."
Another job interview tip: Ask questions.
"Kids hardly ever ask questions," Reid says.
"I want them to have questions because it shows they have an interest in the job."
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