Monday, June 25, 2012

How NOT To Get A Job At A Bookstore

Ah, summer. A time for lounging by the pool, building sand castles at the beach, vacations, and tearing through your special summer to-read list. At my store, the signs are popping up. Sometimes they're literal signs, like the ones that read "GREAT BEACH READS!" over certain shelves of book or other ones that list great new paperback deals (so you can stuff your beach bag). Other times they're subtler signs like kids shuffling in to buy books required for summer reading or the plethora of flip-flops smacking their way up and down our aisles.

But there was one sign, on very clear sign, that had every single employee looking up and saying, "Oh, yup. Summer."

I went in one Monday last month and started my day as usual, but it turned into one long shift of deja vu. Literally every hour or so, a person of certain age would shuffle up to my register and mumble, "You guys hiring?"

Yep, the college job-hunters are out, scouring the town for any menial job they can find to use for gas money and/or student loans.

Odds are that some of you fall into that same category. School is out for the summer, and you're a bit at loose ends. Sure, bumming around the house sounds great straight out of finals, but after a few weeks, you really start to feel that twinge in your wallet. So it's time to get a job.

And hey, you think, I love books, so why not a job at a bookstore? I'll get paid to sit around and read between customers! Hooray!

Okay, first, you don't get paid to read. Not even close. Actually, in many stores, reading while on the clock is expressly against policy. You're supposed to be ready to help at all times, even if there's not a single freaking person in the store. So get all that idealistic book-loving garbage out of your head right now.

Second, just based on the number of people who've come in asking for jobs, you're going to need a way to stand out. Ah, you might say, I'm way ahead of you! You might be, but probably not in the right way. So here's a list of what NOT to do to get a job at the bookstore:

1. Don't forget to look stuff up beforehand. Our applications are online. Each opening is listed right there. If it's not on our website, it's not open. If you want to come in "just in case," that's fine, but find some way to let us know that you have, in fact, done your research.

2. Do not forget where you are. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! Our store name is in HUGE letters over the front door. We're the only chain bookstore for miles. I know our competition is pretty well-known, but coming in and accidentally dropping their name is like interviewing at a Coke plant and accidentally mentioning Pepsi. Ugh. (It's really depressing how often customers do this, too.)

2. Do not treat us any differently than any other potential place of employment. Dress for success, right? Right. You wouldn't wear hoochie-mama shorts and a halter top to interview for a clerical position at a law office, so don't do it here. You don't need to break out the three-piece suit, but put a little thought into your outfit. At my store, we're supposed to wear business casual, so try to match the feel.

3. Do not bring along your parents/children. Your little three-month-old may be as cute as a button, but it's not very professional to try to cajole him while talking to a manager, now is it? And if you can't find someone to watch him, who's to say that you'll be able to when we need you for a shift? As for bringing along Mom or Dad to hover while you ask to speak to a manager  - really? REALLY?!

4. Don't wait until your spiel to act professionally. We're required to greet everyone who walks through our door. That also means that we're watching you from the moment you walk through the door, even before we know you're a potential coworker. So be nice, hmm? (And that means be nice to us and other customers alike.)

5. In the same vein, do not treat non-managers like peons. If I like you, I might give you some tips, like what I did to snag my job. If you really impress me, I might even tell my boss (like I did for a friend just a few weeks ago). But if I don't like you, you better believe I'll tell my boss. My day is long enough without being forced to work with a jerk.

6. Do not become overly familiar with non-managers either. I am not your "buddy." Remember, anything you tell me might make its way back to my manager while she's making a hiring decision. (Of course, once you're hired, there's a kind of "bro code" among the underlings unless you tick us off.) So telling me that you really need this job because you were just fired from Walmart is probably not a good idea. True story, by the way. (As a sidenote: Walmart?! Who gets fired from Walmart?!)

7. Don't forget to check back in. After about a week or two of silence on our end, don't be afraid to call back to check in with our manager. Again, be polite and respectful of our time, and don't overdo it, but sometimes refreshing your name in our minds is a good move.

8. Don't be stupid. This is the kind of catch-all rule, but here's an example. A guy came in the store asking for a job a few weeks ago. He seemed well-spoken and polite, if a bit needy. The economy sucks, so whatever. He talked to each one of us about getting a job (we all told him the same thing), and then we called our manager up so he could speak to her. He did great... up until he finished talking with our manager and brought up a book for purchase.

Yep. That's the book he wanted to buy. I don't care if it was a gag gift, the cheapest journal he could find, whatever. Representing yourself as a stoner after making sure every single employee in the entire store knew you wanted a job with us is a BAAAAAAAD idea. Yes, we told our manager. Yes, we spent the rest of the shift mocking him. No, he didn't get the job.

So those are my tips. Standing out is fine, but just be sure you don't stand out because you did one of my don'ts. Good luck.

Got any funny job-hunting stories or good tips to share? Chime in! And feel free to ask serious questions about being hired that I may or may not be able to answer. Also, feel free to make fun of the guy in #8.