My son wants to BestSell for BestBuy
November 17, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

My 15 year old tech-geek son decided that his dream part-time job is to work as a sales clerk at Best Buy. Do you have any tips for helping him land the job?

He applied, hoping to get on to help with the Christmas rush (and beyond, if possible) and has got an interview in a couple of days. Does anyone here have any experience with either interviewing or being interviewed for an entry level position at this type of store? What sort of questions should he expect? Thanks in advance!
posted by angiep to Work & Money (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Please, if you can, try to help him find similar work at a more well-regarded electronics/PC retailer - a local place that also does PC repair would be great. Best Buy has truly minimal involvement with anything related to technology. Best Buy mostly leaves a bunch of 17-22 year olds in blue polo shirt to wander the sales floor and make up information about various products to make sales to decidedly non-techie people. They are notorious for misinforming consumers, breaking electronics brought in for service or failing to back up all the data on PCs brought in for service, aggressively pushing useless warranty or service contracts, and generally making their money by preying on the ignorant.

I think when I was 15 I would have been totally unaware of this, but as an older person who is interested in various technologies and has some sales experience, Best Buy would have been a dead end on both counts.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:13 AM on November 17, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Good for him. I'd suggest wearing something a shirt, tie, and slacks. A suit is overkill, as no one there is going to do that, but something business-like shows that he cleans up well and is taking this seriously. At the very least, a polo and slacks, but I really think the shirt-and-tie is appropriate here.

All they're probably looking for here is someone who will 1) show up to work on time and reliably, 2) knows enough about the product to be immediately useful, 3) treat customers well, and 4) not steal from them. There will probably be a questionnaire. I'd recommend answering any questions about theft from employers in the most pious, nauseatingly moral way possible.

I'd also read this and its related links. The interviewer could be a completely cool guy who doesn't care about corporate bullshit, he could be a complete toolbox who has drunk the corporate kool-aid, or he could be a combination of the two, i.e. a laid-back guy who nonetheless toes the corporate line out of an interest in, you know, keeping his job. Either way, knowing what the corporation thinks about itself can't hurt.
posted by valkyryn at 8:13 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Appearance and personality are key. He's got to be clean and well groomed, buttons in a line, nice shoes, etc.

He's got to be outgoing and friendly - the vibe he gives off is that grandparents, soccer moms, and alpha-men will all like him and trust his expertise.

He should also come across as passionate about the tech - someone whose interest is keen, and who will be excited to answer others' questions.

He should practice explaining things simply and clearly, without assuming any knowledge on the part of the asker, but without coming across as pedantic or talking down.

Good luck!
posted by colin_l at 8:15 AM on November 17, 2010

I tried to get a job at Best Buy at that age (granted that was before your son was born!)

As I recall, they drug tested and based on my experience, they REALLY want very very clean cut people, depending on the region of the country.

It might be tough being hired at 15 rather than 16, FWIW.
posted by k8t at 8:20 AM on November 17, 2010

It's very unlikely they'll hire him at fifteen - when I was his age (about ten years ago, not that long...), the only place that hired kids under sixteen was a local pizza joint. It's a labor law thing. So he may have to wait until next year.

But, given all that, if he still wants to give it his best shot, the most important thing (in my experience) is to have a flexible schedule. Retail wants people who don't have too many scheduling conflicts/requirements. Activities/experiences that showcase that he's reliable will help his case greatly as well.
posted by litnerd at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2010

When I was in high school in 1997, when I was 17, I interviewed for a job at Best Buy, specifically so I could work at the computer desk. I didn't get the job, but I can tell you how the interview went: I don't remember what I wore, but I probably didn't dress up much. I might have worn an untucked polo shirt. I sat down in an empty room with a manager, who peppered me with vague questions about what I'd do in such-and-such a situation with a customer, which seemed like common sense to me. He then gave me several mental math questions, which I totally bungled. I think that's what killed the deal.
posted by zsazsa at 8:41 AM on November 17, 2010

Please, if you can, try to help him find similar work at a more well-regarded electronics/PC retailer - a local place that also does PC repair would be great.

Repeating since it's so true. When I was 16 I got a job at a local PC repair store and learned more in 2 weeks than I think anyone would ever learn working a retail position at BestBuy. In my experience local (that is, non-chain) repair places are often happy to pick up cheap labor since a huge amount of the work is pretty routine. It's a great routine to learn, though I must warn that it means he'll be fixing family computers for the rest of his days.
posted by christy at 8:41 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I did that, and still know tons of BB staffers. It's a great place to work. Nth the advice RE:interview.

But as a part-time holiday person, he won't be doing anything "techie". The sales staff just points people to the correct location to find what they need and does the occasional upsell on service plans / printers / cables/ etc. He might get to answer the occasional question about RAM or whatever but that's about it.
posted by anti social order at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Practice interviewing him, a lot. Listen to what he says and help him come up with professional, adult sounding phrasing for all the common questions. Since he has no experience, he really wants to come across as being very mature, friendly, and confident - enough to handle sticky customer situations.

The hardest part about interviewing when you're young is not having any experience. You are so nervous, you don't know what to say or do or how to act, you try to sound smart but don't have enough bullshitting practice, and so on. Fake-interview him so many times, asking hard questions, that when the real interview comes it will seem like a piece of cake in comparison. Depending on his personality, I think a lot of hyping up could be great too. "You are going to get this job. You are so smart and hardworking, I know they will see that. Think about how many dumb people your age there are - if they can get jobs, you can too! You totally deserve this job ...etc."
posted by ohsnapdragon at 9:10 AM on November 17, 2010

He won't be doing "tech" stuff as a 15yr old. Best Buy probably wont hire him till 16, and definetly wont put him behind the "Geek Squad" counter until he's both 18 and put in his time on the sales floor. Even then he wont really be doing much tech work. They have a standard package of things they will do at the store, which consists of only routine installs or antivirus software, routine windows updates and maybe a harddrive replacement, all at rediculously marked up rates of course. And what they realyl want him to be doing is pushing unwanted extended warranties with every clueless customer. Anything more than an OS install will get sent to the manufactor.

Have him get A+ certified and find another, non-Best Buy PC repair shop to apply at.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

When you say geek, do you mean he likes to play video games all day, or do you mean he likes to write his own video games and build his own computers? If your son is really a geek I imagine he might become disillusioned at Best Buy in about, oh, 1 shift. Is he looking for money, or experience? If it's experience he is after he likely can get a lot more interesting experience volunteering somewhere. Small local non-profits are forever fighting with old PCs and outdated web sites. There is likely plenty of experience to be had just by asking.

If it's money he is after...well, Best Buy is probably a great place to learn what it's like to trade your soul for minimum wage :)
posted by COD at 9:22 AM on November 17, 2010

Best answer: When I was 16 I got a job at a local PC repair store and learned more in 2 weeks than I think anyone would ever learn working a retail position at BestBuy.

Perhaps your town is different, but there are no more PC repair stores around here.

For a 15-year-old, Best Buy is a great place to get a sense of how people really interact with technology -- rather than the comic book guy atmosphere of anywhere else. Whether he wants to go into IT, hardware development or technology marketing, having that experience can make a difference way down the line. But it's also much better than most jobs that are available to 15 year olds. (If they weren't willing to hire a 15 year old, they wouldn't be interviewing him.)

To that, I know that Best Buy wants people who know tech, but speak human; who can learn about new tech quickly and take manufacturer training seriously -- be fast studies and can become experts on things that are new to the market; people who think helping people is as important as the technology itself. They may talk about brand, but really, the manager is going to be looking for someone who can not make extra work for the rest of the team, can be helpful from the first day on and is willing to lift boxes to reshelve things super fast ('tis the nature of the season). His hour availability/flexibility will play a huge role.

For Black Friday weekend through Christmas (and possibly returns season), he's going to have to prove he can be flexible (work any section), know all the stock, deal with crowds and stress and be willing to do reading about new products so he can get up to speed fast.

They used to use a series of scenario-based interviewing to test thinking on your feet, etc. so I'd suggest he think about all the different scenarios a Best Buy employee would have to go through and how he'd react -- a mad customer, a confused customer, a shoplifting situation.
posted by Gucky at 9:24 AM on November 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great advice. I've marked a few as best answers but, truly, he'll get valuable information from them all. We had already begun anticipating questions and we'll do several practice interviews.

He sees a BestBuy job as that crucial first one which becomes a stepping stone for others. It's also a chance for him to earn a bit of pocket money and get an employee discount to help him spend it.

And while he loves video games, he's also a "real" geek: has written three small games which are available on his own website, has edited video and commercial clients' websites, done some of his own animation projects, reads tech journals and blogs voraciously. He realizes he won't be doing much/any real tech stuff but he says he just wants to be in the environment. He may well become disillusioned but at 15, that's not such a bad life lesson, either.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by angiep at 9:58 AM on November 17, 2010

Sounds like he will outgrow what Best Buy has to offer pretty quickly.

If he works there, he will be mostly pushing service plans and accessories most of the time. He will be "around" technology, but probably to the extent that a grocery clerk can call himself a farmer.

On the positive side, it's one of the best employee discounts around, 5% above Best Buy's cost. He sounds like a smart kid, so if the job sucks, he won't be kept down by it.
posted by santaliqueur at 10:17 AM on November 17, 2010

When my SO was a 15-year-old tech geek, he applied for a job at Best Buy. He had an interview, during which they asked him what he thought of what Inspector.Gadget above calls "useless warranty or service contracts". SO, who was pretty naive about the hiring process, said that he thought they were unnecessary and not something he would be interested in for his own purchases. He didn't get the job, and afterward, his mom, a regional manager at a major chain of department stores, explained the purpose of the question and the "right" answer.

Make sure your son knows how to answer common interview questions. If he knows what to expect and understands why particular questions are asked, he'll be better prepared to answer properly.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:50 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, remind your son that he has never met anyone that uses any sort of drug recreationally, and that he certainly would never be friends with someone who does. (I don't know if Best Buy asks a question like this in their screening, but Rite Aid did, and the manager told me to make sure to say "no" to these sorts of questions on the automated phone interview.)
posted by clorox at 11:11 AM on November 17, 2010

Best answer: I've interviewed probably a hundred high school students for various retail jobs, and here's my number one piece of advice:

Every question the interviewer asks, (s)he's thinking this: "What can this kid do for ME AND MY COMPANY?"

Too often, I've asked students, "Why do you want this job?" and the answer has been, "I want to make money/get experience/meet people." They want to tell me all about themselves.

The correct answer (in this case) is more along the lines of, "I'm really into technology but have found that getting correct advice and useful answers is really hard in a lot of stores. I think that with my skills I could help people find what they need." Then if he wants to talk about his future goals and how the job fits in, great.

It's probably a good idea to look up common interview questions online and formulate some answers to them with that thought in mind.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2010

Best answer: I had some friends in high school that worked at best buy and used some of the money they made to start a small business on the side building custom computers for people (using parts from places like I think it's great that your son wants a job and his main focus is money and the employee discount. Those are the two best factors to consider in a retail job, BUT DONT TELL THE INTERVIEWER THAT! Never mention money as a main drive for the job. Mention his interests in technology, wanting to be in an environment to help others enjoy technology blah blah blah.

Also, younger employees really show their inexperience in dealing with customers when they are too shy to make eye contact. make sure he consciously tries to make some eye contact with the interviewer if he's a naturally shy kid.

If they ask "scenario" questions such as "What would you do if you saw a customer put a video game into their jacket" make sure he knows to say that he would alert the proper store employees as per the policy of Best Buy. Some kids are either brave (I would tell them I saw them!) or kind (I would feel bad and offer to buy the game for them!) but the store wants you to be a drone. So be a drone.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:39 PM on November 17, 2010

The first time I ever applied for a job was at a little retail place - I was probably 14 or 15. I remember they asked a question about employee discounts and whether I thought it was okay to give my friends a discount, or buy stuff for them on discount and get reimbursed. I totally bungled the question and that's probably why I didn't get the job. The appropriate answer is of course that the employee discount is for the employee only!
posted by radioamy at 3:56 PM on November 17, 2010

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