I am asking this question for somebody else. I am in the UK, in Kent or the outskirts of London.

Anyway, they are 16, and have just started 6th form. They have been looking for jobs all summer and still now, and have been unsuccessful. They have applied to over 100 jobs and have excellent exam results:

GCSEs: 2 A*s in Maths and RS 7 As in Geography, History, Biology is Chemistry, Physics, English Literature and Computing. 1 B in English Language 1 C in French And 1 A grade in an AS subject.

They have done the Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh award, and help out at the local youth club.

However, even though he has a good CV, he seems unemployable.

He often applies for lots of jobs online and in stores, and never gets a reply from about 90% of them and gets rejected from the others. Even after chasing them via phone and email, he just usually gets a reply of "Apply again for the job" or "Call back tomorrow" or "Try again next time"

Most of his friends at schools have jobs, and some of them have significantly lower exam results, and don't do anything proactive like DofE etc.

It's really getting him down that he can't get a job and all of his friends can, even though he has much better results...

This is his first job and has only done a week of work experience in a small startup company, so he doesn't really have any experience.

He is desperate for work, as he is about to turn 17 and start driving, and he needs to save for a car. However, without a job it will be impossible to do that.

So, how can he improve his employability and increase his chances of getting a job?

Also, do you have any tips for chasing up jobs in the likely event of them not replying (so how to word your request without sounding rude etc)?

  • 2
    He's 16.. Does a CV and/or grades even matter? What kind of jobs is he pursuing? Are you talking about fulltime/parttime work or a studentjob in the weekends/evenings? Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 22:57
  • While it may be the long way to go, volunteering your time can lead to future job offers. If you demonstrate that you are a hard worker, pleasant to work with and somewhat competent they'll want to keep you around. Hospitals are big into this with regards to high school students. I'm sure there are other kinds of businesses/charities that are into this method of recruiting as well.
    – Dunk
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 17:11
  • There just isn't the casual employment available now that there was in the past. He could look round shops on a busy Saturday for one with lots of customers and few staff. Also a lot of businesses are disproportionately busy at weekends (eg restaurants) and might have a spot. Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 15:57
  • Might some kind of self-employment be an option? Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


Your tale is a rerun of the bad movie I lived through when I was 16 - top notch student (that's how I ended up at Columbia College of Columbia University). Couldn't find a part-time job washing dishes at a restaurant, mopping floors or cleaning toilets if my life depended on it. MacD had no use for me either. But these outfits were hiring students who, to put it charitably, were marginal at academics. Then it hit me: these outfits DON'T want smart kids - Smart kids will leave.

The kid will have to look for outfits that specifically look for and hire smart kids - academic summer camps, tutorial positions from NGO that try to help disadvantaged kids academically, internships at hospitals for teenagers, etc.

There are two life lessons for the kid. Okay, let's make that three:

  • when you are looking for a job, go where you're wanted. Don't waste your time looking where you're not wanted. But you've got to do the hard work of figuring out where you're wanted from where you're not wanted. There is a certain amount of trial and error involved - mostly error :) And no one can do this but you.

  • the hardest part of working is not working, but looking for a job :)

  • the ones who get the jobs are not necessarily the smartest, or the hardest working, or the most meritorious. Lady luck - and some unscrupulous employers - has been known to favor the lame, the dumb and the ignorant :)

  • Thanks for the useful answer! -1 to the employers for not wanting the smart ones! ;)
    – George
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 7:24
  • I've seen plenty of examples of 'smart kids' getting menial and retail jobs. It's about how you present yourself. If you present yourself as "Hey, I've got great grades in my exams so you should employ me at mopping floors" you are not going to get the job. Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 19:41

Considering VP's answer you have two options:

  • Dumb down the resume to match the expectation, no extra stuff, no bragging. For most of those low level tasks I never needed to show any grades.

  • Do something where smart matters, some small freelancing tasks online, create websites for small shops in town. Whatever works.

Don't be limited by the stupdity of the people around you.

  • Not too many people like to hire people who are smarter than they are :) Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 0:18

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