February 15, 2024

HireSmart Helps Teens Be Smart When Seeking Employment 

You’re going for that interview. You want that job. How do you land it? 

HireSmart Cares founders Mark and Anne Lackey recently talked with Melinda Cochran-Davis’s construction classes at Jackson Empower College and Career Center in Jefferson, Georgia about the essential soft skills needed when searching for work. 

"There are some foundational skills you need to know and practice," said Anne. 

Mark and Anne emphasized the need for respect and interest while seeking employment. 

"What we hear from employers and what we hear out in the community is one of the bigger problems is the lack of respectfulness given in those initial introductions," said Mark. 

The first sign of respect a job applicant can show a potential employer is a professional appearance. 

A call to action: HireSmart Cares aims to help youth realize their potential  

Mark talked about how he worked full-time and took evening classes in college, where he arrived dressed in his three-piece business suit from the workday. A marketing professor called Mark and several classmates to the front of the room, asking, "Which person would you trust with your $10,000?" When the instructor pointed to Mark, the class cheered loudest. He said it really drove home the point that first impressions matter. 

"You don't have to wear a three-piece suit," responded Anne. "But you can be clean — no stains on your shirt, have your shirt tucked in with no wrinkles. You can do many things to make a good first impression that are easy and don't cost any money. Again, how's your hair? How are you coming across? Are you offering a good, firm handshake? Those little things make a huge difference in how people perceive you and how seriously they take you." 

Mark and Anne had the students stand and practice firm handshakes. One other tidbit of advice: If you wear a nametag, put it on the right side so that when you shake hands, it's visible to the person you're greeting. Also, remember to call people by their names and leave your cell phone in your car. No phone call or text is more important than a job interview. 

The couple emphasized the need for timeliness. Arriving for a noon interview at noon is late. "Always be early!" they said, noting the importance of factoring in potential delays, such as a traffic accident on your route. 

They urged the students to consider their behavior and appearance well before the interview begins, noting that how a person acts toward a receptionist is a vital indicator to employers of a person's character, which decision-makers notice.   

"Your interview starts the moment you step on the premises," said Anne, stressing the need to be respectful to everyone, including those encountered in seemingly chance meetings, perhaps even before entering the job site. 

"You don't want to cut someone off in traffic and then go in for your interview and realize that's who you just cut off in traffic," said Mark. 

Both urged teens to "be interested instead of interesting," pointing out that employers are drawn to intellectually curious applicants who ask good questions about the place of employment. 

An interest in others leads to better conversations, more information, and more potential connections. So, if a job doesn't work out, a connection has been made, and that person may be a source for additional connections and job opportunities. 

"What you do matters, how you act matters, how you treat people matters, what you look like matters," said Anne, adding that it's essential to get all of those things right to stand out in a competitive job market. 

HireSmart Cares empowers the next generation by donating to a variety of community efforts aimed at helping children and teens be self-sufficient in years to come. But for Mark and Anne, it's never about just writing a check and walking away. It's about truly being present for youth hungry for knowledge and encouragement. 

That’s why HireSmart Cares allocates time, tools, teaching, and technology to those efforts.  

To learn more about HireSmart Cares or to make a donation to the nonprofit’s mission to empower today’s youth through skill-development initiatives, visit hiresmartcares.org. 

Article written by Anne Lackey