Everything you need to know about part-time work: part II, how to apply

So you’ve had a look and found a few part-time jobs that you want to apply to. But this is the first time you’ve applied for a job and you don’t know where to start. Never fear, we’re here to help!


The first place to start is to think about the type of skills different jobs are likely to ask for. Some common ones will be:

Customer Service – the most important skill of all for any job where you will be serving/helping members of the public. Particularly crucial for retail roles. Employers will want to see that you are friendly, cheerful and willing to help. Questions could be along the lines of ‘give me an example of when you gave exceptional customer service’.

Good under pressure – Christmas in Sainsburys and the queues for the tills are out the door; working in a restaurant and a party of twenty people walk in off the street and want a table; it’s the deadline for a big contract and every employee in the building needs you to photocopy something. How do you cope when you are suddenly under pressure?

Professionalism – are you polite and on time? Have you made sure your tie is straight? Even for a part-time role stacking shelves in a supermarket, employers want to see that you can act professionally.

Literacy and numeracy – if you will be working with money or typing up documents, your employer will want to know that you have decent literacy and numeracy skills. So double-check for spelling mistakes on your application!

There will be other ones which will be more specific to the role itself so have a good look at the job description.


If you’ve never had a job before, you might be worried about your lack of experience. But if you notice, most of the skills above can be demonstrated from other things. Maybe you’ve never worked in a shop before but there was a time when you had a lot of projects to do for your A-Levels and you had to work under pressure. What about after-school activities or volunteering you might have done? If you don’t have a direct example of a time you gave customer service, give a definition of what you think exceptional customer service would be. If the employer is really needing someone who is experienced there is nothing you can do about that. But you never know – if you can show you have knowledge and enthusiasm you might be given a try.

Writing a CV

We have some handy guides on our website for helping you write your first CV. The main points to remember are to make sure it is clear and easy to read, gives all the relevant information, has consistent formatting and no spelling mistakes! Oh, and remember to come in and get your CV checked before you do send it off.

Answering online applications

A lot of big companies will make you complete an online application for their jobs. If you can, have a look at the application, write down the main questions, and draft your answer in Word/Google Docs before you fill out the actual form. That way you can take the time to compose your answer and check for any errors etc. Get a friend or family member to check your answer. And it’s always a good idea to save the application and job description when you apply. Because sometimes the system will take away this information after the deadline, and when you get called to interview you won’t remember what the job was for or what you wrote in your answer!


These can take any form, from a fairly informal chat about the role, to an official interview in the company’s central office. If they haven’t told you beforehand, you can always ask what form the interview will take. Remember to read back over your application and the job description before you go so you know what you might get asked. And have a think: if it’s a job in a book or DVD store, they might ask you about your favourite book or film, for example. Also be prepared to put your skills into practice. For my interview at HSamuels I was taken around the shop floor and asked to point out things that I thought were wrong with the display (prices not visible, watch stands untidy etc). At Marks and Spencer I had to do a role play with a woman pretending to be a customer who wanted a present for her husband. If it’s an office role you might be asked to write an answer to an email or analyse some data.

Just remember – if you’ve got to the interview stage than they have liked your application. Now they want to see that you are a nice and friendly person, that you are articulate and intelligent and able to do the tasks that are asked of you. So don’t panic. Again, you can always book a practice interview with us to help you feel more confident.

Heather Campbell

Careers Information Assistant


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