Monica Smith introduced herself to the applicant for the job at Mean Mug Coffeehouse and sat down, ready to start the interview.
But the applicant jumped right in -- and started talking about the clouds outside the window. Didn't the shape of those clouds kind of look like other things?
"It caught me off guard," said Smith, who co-owns Mean Mug Coffeehouse. "I'd just introduced myself and they just sort of branched off into a really vague place. The conversation didn't lead up to that at all. It was awkward and set the tone for the whole interview."
The applicant didn't get the job.
Another time, an applicant arrived for her interview with Smith in low-cut jeans and a thong peeping out. She also didn't get the job.
"Whether it's casual or business attire, it still needs to cover things," Smith said with a laugh.
Dressing poorly and acting unprofessionally are two common mistakes interviewees -- and especially teenagers applying for their first job -- can make. And they're mistakes that the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce hopes to help high school students avoid.
The Chamber offers "Get a Job" training to high schoolers throughout the region and brings in experts to talk to students about how to fill out an application, format a resume, answer interview questions, dress and shake hands.
"It's designed to prepare our workforce," said Mattie Moran, director of workforce development and education for the business group.
Sabrina Clay, the human resources manager at Chattem Inc., talked to a classroom full of camouflage, pink hair, cowboy boots and sweatshirts at Sequoyah High School on Friday.
Of the 19 students in the session, only three were already working -- which is about average. Nationally, one in six high school students works, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That's about 16 percent -- down from 32 percent in 1990.
Heaven Huckaby, a 10th-grader, just turned 16 and has applied to McDonald's, Target and Dollar General, she said. She said she learned a lot during the Get a Job session on Friday.
"It's helpful because when I was looking at these applications, I had to call my mom and say, 'What should I do?'" she said. "The part where she was explaining how to fill out an application was the most helpful."
Moran said the most common issue employers bring up when considering hiring teenagers is work ethic: showing up on time and showing up every day. She hopes students leave the class with a better understanding of what bosses want.
Clay hit on the same point when she spoke with students.
"Be at work, be on time and hopefully do an excellent job, but at least do a satisfactory job," she told the class. " It's one thing to get a job, but it's another thing to keep it."
Shelly Bradbury joined the Times Free Press as a business reporter in January 2013, after starting with the paper as a general assignment intern in July 2012. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint Hill Times. Outside the newsroom, Shelly enjoys ...