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I'm currently looking for a part-time job while studying in university. I've sent out 40 applications to different stores but haven't received an interview offer from any of them. This might be due to that I'm mostly applying to retail and waiting jobs, yet my only work experience has been 4 years at a fast-food kitchen (I no longer work there).

At my fast-food job my only experience dealing with customers was handing out orders to them one shift when it was very busy. In high school I had a week's worth of work experience at an IT store building PCs but never dealing with customers directly.

Is it a bad idea to say that I have customer service skills and exaggerate how long I have dealt with customers? I wouldn't include it when first looking for jobs, but it seems like I'm getting nowhere with my job search. Should I even include my high school work experience at all?

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    Remember that the goal is not getting an interview, the goal is getting a job. Being invited for interviews that you won't be able to pass is even worse than not being invited at all. – Erik Feb 10 '17 at 10:34
  • That's a good point; though after so many applications it feels like just getting an interview somewhere is the main goal. – user64311 Feb 10 '17 at 10:40
  • For your morale, being invited might help, but in the end interviews won't pay the bills. (Unless you're a journalist, that is) – Erik Feb 10 '17 at 10:43
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    Have you had someone else look at your CV? Maybe you could optimize the presentation without exaggerating your experience. 'Emphasize' rather than 'exaggerate'. – Brandin Feb 10 '17 at 11:04
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    As an aside: If what you're currently doing (sending out CVs, hoping for an interview) isn't working, then tweaking the formula (editing your CV) is unlikely to lead to radically different results. Instead, try something different. Walk into stores and ask to speak to managers. Ask your friends/family if they know anyone who might want to hire you. Try your university careers' service. Whatever you haven't tried that might lead to positive results. – Kaz Feb 10 '17 at 11:15
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Whenever you claim anything on your CV, ask yourself:

If the interviewer knew everything about your job that you know, would they consider that claim justified, or would they say you're lying/exaggerating?

If they asked you to talk about that claim, in depth, could you?


If you couldn't, then it doesn't belong on your CV.


Conversely, this also means that as long as you phrase it truthfully, and you have a well-prepared argument for why your experience is relevant, you can put just about anything you want to on your CV.

  • I suppose I could list the short customer service experience and still be able to tell the truth if asked how long I worked with customers in that job for. – user64311 Feb 10 '17 at 10:28
  • However, would this put me in a negative light in an interview if I confess that I only dealt with customers once? Or would I be better off leaving it out entirely? – user64311 Feb 10 '17 at 10:29
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    @anon-throwaway "I suppose I could list the short customer service experience" Are you omitting this from your CV? You should list every job you have done, especially if you are light on for experience. Experience is experience, regardless of if it's a perfect match for the job you're applying for. There is no need to embellish it by overstating it. – Jane S Feb 10 '17 at 11:22
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    @anon-throwaway It depends if you exaggerate it or not. Some customer experience is better than none, but a hiring manager thinking you have lots, and then finding out that you don't will kill any chance of them hiring you. – Kaz Feb 10 '17 at 11:27
  • @anon-throwaway maybe you can list your short experience as "used to deal with customers". This is a nice way to say you have some experience, tiny, but it's there. – DarkPurpleShadow Feb 10 '17 at 12:59
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Despite the fact that many see food service as an "easy" industry to get into, the fact is that it's highly competitive and almost always has a large number of people applying for positions.

You probably need to do some things to get yourself noticed, to separate yourself from the crowd.

Firstly: Research shows that when you hand your CV over, it's immediately judged based on appearance. When i'm going through hundreds to thousands of CVs for a consultants position (medical), I have to be harsh. If there's a spelling mistake; if they've tried to make it look interesting with difficult formatting; if the first page is a picture of them and their name; if the font is too small; if they don't summarise their skills, then they'll get disposed of (I do wish I didn't have to be this hard honestly, but how else to get through so many?).

Make your CV front page "CV of YOURNAME" at the top middle, a good picture of you somewhere in the bottom right or left corners, and a summary of your key skills that are relevant to your prospective employer.

These should be changed for every job you're applying to ideally. This shows who you are, and what you're good at right away and my interest is there, i'm opening your CV to read.

Secondly: Now they're in your CV you need to make it pop. Keep it brief but informative. They don't want to know about the month you spent working in a bar because you needed another job and it wasn't that bad. They want to see what skills you have, and how you've come about them. Use the points you have on the front page and make sure each one of your previous employments match what you said on your front page. Make sure the reason for you being in this is because it's your career and you have a passion for the industry.

Finally: What makes you, you? What do you do in your spare time? One of the top top top most repeated most heard things I get from employers is that they want to know how you are as a person. If they think "oh yeah I could work with this guy" then you've won.

I would say to go and chase these up as well, to show that you're interested. If you speak to the manager about positions etc then you'll get quite a frank conversation most of the time. Being out and meeting people face to face is the best way to get involved as then when it's interview time you're not candidate B but "oh yeah that's dave! I met dave when he came in the other day! He seemed to know what he was on about and is a good laugh!".

Let me know how it goes.

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    I have never included my picture with my resume\cv. Not saying its a bad idea, just saying it never stopped me from getting a job. – Mister Positive Feb 10 '17 at 15:41
  • The OCR software used when scanning resumes generally ignores images. Even if not, most HR departments remove photos from resumes to prevent any unconscious bias before the interview stage. – PeteCon Feb 10 '17 at 16:14
  • Including a picture is more common in Europe and some parts of the entertainment industry. – Herb Wolfe Feb 10 '17 at 17:52
  • @MisterPositive depends on the country, it's generally necessary in continental Europe. – Formagella Feb 10 '17 at 22:32
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First mistake was to not include relevant experience. Let the employer judge if it is sufficient. Second mistake is lack of confidence. If I ask a waiter what the fish is like tonight and they answer "it is fairly good as are all the offerings we have" I will not be happy because it was not a helpful answer. I would prefer something more positive. However, also be truthful. If you recommend something that tastes horrid, I will not go back. Acting. At age 10 I did not wake up and say to myself "boy, I would really love to work at the register for McDonalds the rest of my life." If I can fool most of the people most of the time that this is the greatest job on earth, then I should go far. Look for other positions. The library always needs fresh people at some point. Students often take care of check-out, re-shelving, and a host of other activities. If you work check-out or reference, that is customer service. Art studios may need help. Maybe the right thing to do is volunteer for one semester at the craft center. A bike shop might like a person who can do simple repairs, clean shop, and help a few customers. After a semester, they might find your help sufficient that they will hire you, or at least write a spiffy recommendation. There may be lab help needed -- though that is not service industry related experience it can demonstrate that you show up for work on time and ready. After 5 really bad employees, and employer might find that the greatest relief in the world. You can ask your professors, especially in your Major. There will be a career center somewhere on campus. Find it.

  • Welcome to the Workplace -- you might consider reformatting your answer so it's easier to read. Not sure your answer completely addresses the question. You're suggesting other jobs the OP might do but that's not what's being asked. – mcknz Feb 10 '17 at 19:26
  • Sorry about the format. It was nice when typed, but it seems all of my formatting was removed. It is obviously not a text editor. I will see if I can find a tutorial on mini-markdown formatting. – TimothyEbert Feb 13 '17 at 18:47
  • Thank you about the content warning. I was thinking about the context as well as the question. One problem in job searches is finding the line between under-selling yourself versus over-selling yourself. The context of the question suggests that the problem could be the classic need experience to get experience. At a university many positions are open where they understand that the person walking through the door may have no experience. They may be more willing to give it a try as opposed to a standard retail outlet or restaurant. – TimothyEbert Feb 13 '17 at 19:09
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Is it a bad idea to say that I have customer service skills and exaggerate how long I have dealt with customers?

You mean lie?

Yes, it's a bad idea to lie.

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