Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pa Rock’s Handy Guide to Getting a Minimum Wage Job

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I live in an area that is continually suffering from a bad economy.  It was bad thirty years ago when I lived in this county, and it is still bad today.  Unfortunately, that means that most available jobs are entry-level, minimum wage positions – often at eateries.  The few available jobs where someone might actually receive medical benefits and a retirement package are usually filled through a “staffing” company – an organization that contracts with the hiring company to finds appropriate people, and then receives a share of the worker’s wages for several months.  They are what we used to call “employment agencies.”

A few weeks ago as I was driving around town, I noticed a sign at the Huddle House (a pancake place, I think) saying they were hiring cooks for all shifts.  A few days ago I spotted a sign at the local Hardee’s seeking employees for all shifts.  Those are the types of jobs that are available – especially now that school is back in session and the fast food labor pool has been reduced.

We're talking lowly, demeaning work.  We’ve all been there, or most of us have anyway, and we are not anxious to return to the step below the bottom rung on the employment ladder.   However, in order to survive, sometimes we must do what we must do.

Perhaps the only thing sadder than having to apply to be a pancake or burger flipper, would be to apply for one of those jobs and then not get it.  As someone who had to make many hiring decisions and provide numerous references during my working career,  I think I know a few things that might be of benefit to someone trying to land a minimum wage job.

Herewith, respectfully submitted, is Pa Rock’s Handy Guide to Getting a Minimum Wage Job.

1.     Pick up an application in the morning.   Get if filled out, neatly, and bring it back either the same morning or on the following morning.    (People who can’t get around to applying until late in the day will be seen as likely to have trouble consistently getting to work on time – or consistently coming to work at all.) 
2.     Be neat and presentable in all contacts with the company – even when just picking up an application.  The person handing you the application may ultimately be the one who does the selecting. 
3.     If you submit a resume with the application, keep it short and to the point.  One page is best because it can be read quickly.    The manager / head burger flipper doesn’t have time to sit down and read all about your life history and goals and aspirations.  List your last two or three jobs, reasons for leaving those jobs, and names of your supervisor or a reference from each organization.  Also include your basic contact information (address, telephone number, and email address). 
4.     If you do not smoke, note that on the resume as well.  Many bosses know that smoking indicates an addictive personality and potential health issues.  Smokers also tend to stand behind the building during breaks puffing on cigarettes, looking unsavory, and tossing their butts on the parking lot.   Most potential bosses would rather avoid smokers, so if you have that going for you, let it be known. 
5.     Ask to speak to the manager or hiring authority when you submit your application.    Applications that are just dropped off with no personal contact tend to land in a pile and are quickly forgotten.  If the manager is not available, ask when would be the best time to stop by and introduce yourself.  Know that the manager may be much younger than you are, and be prepared to be respectful of their position – even if it doesn’t feel right.
6.     Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!   Call or stop by within a couple of days after submitting the application and ask if any decisions have been made.  If a few more days pass with still not word, call again.    The employer will soon figure out that you are eager to get the position – and not just an applicant who fades into the pile. 
7.     If your ability to perform some necessary task appears to be in question, volunteer to work a shift or two for free.  That will probably not be allowed due to corporate policy, but the gesture reinforces the idea that you want the job – seriously want the job.  If your offer is accepted, roll up your sleeves and get to work. 
8.     Have a couple of questions in mind to use if you manage to get an interview.   It is a common interviewing strategy to turn the table and ask the applicant if he or she has any questions.  It shows the interviewer your ability to think on your feet.  Example of a question an applicant might ask:   What is the main quality you look for in job applicants?  When the interviewer gives his answer, then use that answer to highlight your own abilities or work history.  If the employer says “promptness,” let him know that promptness is your strong suit – that you were never late at your last position. 
9.     Be ready to talk about why you left your last job – or last couple of jobs – but only if asked.  If you were fired or laid off, be honest and upfront about it – because the interviewer is just one quick phone call away from finding out anyway.  Do not bad mouth a previous employer – even if he was a gigantic jerk.  The interviewer knows that if you are quick to speak negatively of a past boss, you are likely to one day speak negatively of him as well.   Use a blanket statement like there were communication issues with the last boss and you had difficulty figuring out what he wanted or expected – but stay as positive as possible. 
10. Let the interviewer know that you will be at work every day – and on time.   Those are the qualities which are most likely to keep you employed – and keep the boss from having to do interviews again a couple of weeks down the road.  Be dependable!

The jobs are far from ideal, but if you need to work, positions are available.   If you need that job, go after it – and good luck!

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