How to Get a Job in the Fast Food Industry

Two Parts:Approaching the Application ProcessApproaching the Interview Process

In today's economy, jobs are harder to come by. People ranging in age from high schoolers to adults with families are finding employment at fast food establishments.[1] Understanding what is expected when you apply for a job can help ensure your success rate.

Part 1
Approaching the Application Process

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    Decide where to apply. There are many different kinds of fast food establishments. Some serve burgers, others chicken or burritos. Think about your skills. Do you have experience cooking hamburgers and running a deep fryer? Can you roll a burrito by hand? These things will be helpful when you decide where to apply.
    • Become familiar with the companies where you are applying.[2] Many fast food chains are similar, but some have very specific mission statements and expectations. Know which chains use fresh, locally grown food, which ones are religious affiliated, which ones are open 24 hours, and which ones promote from within. Make sure you will feel comfortable working for the company.
    • Know the basic requirements. This includes age - do you have to be 16, or can you get a job at 15 with permission? Do you have to have a high school diploma? Do you need experience to land a job?
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    Get an application. Every company requires you to fill out an application. If you are applying for an entry-level position instead of a managerial or corporate position, you will probably not need to provide a resume. Only give a resume if it is requested by the manager or the online application guidelines. You can find the application one of two ways:
    • Online. Almost every company provides their application on their website. The website allows you to input your zip code and/or city, then lists the available positions. If there are a lot of positions in your area, you can choose your top location choices.
    • On site. Visit the fast food place and ask for an application. By going in person, ask if you could talk with the manager. This may give you a higher chance of getting the job. However, some companies prefer you to apply online. If you want to talk to a manager, never go during peak times.
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    Fill out the application. Set aside at least half an hour to fill out the application. Be truthful on the application.
    • When applying for a job, make sure you have all of your information ready. You will need your social security number, address, and phone number. You will probably have to provide your education and work history, which may require the phone number and address of the school or employer.
    • If you are applying by hand, make sure to write neatly.
    • To apply online, you need to have an e-mail address so you can create a profile and receive notifications. You can obtain a free e-mail address at sites such as and
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    Get references. Most jobs require at least one reference. This can be either someone who knows you and can vouch for your character, or a previous employer or colleague who can attest to your work ethics.
    • It is good practice to have at least one personal and one work reference. You may want to have multiple of both. Just make sure the reference is okay with your providing their information. Also make sure the reference will say positive things about you.
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    List your skills. Every job application that you fill out will ask for relevant skills or work related experience. Before you go to apply, think about what you can bring to the restaurant. These skills range from experience in other fast food or food related service, cashier experience, and customer service experience.
    • Make the most of your experiences, especially if you've never had a job or worked in fast food. You need to demonstrate that you have leadership and teamwork experience, as well as the ability to work under pressure in high stress situations. Think about things you've done in school or other jobs that reflect these qualities.[3]
    • Sample real world situations you can use when listing skills are: participation in team sports, leadership roles in school, church, or community organizations, activities that required you to handle money, jobs where you had to run a cash register, jobs where you had to deal with the public on a regular basis, situations where you had to multi-task, and involvement in high stress situations. Think about instances where you had to work as part of a team, because being part of a fast food crew is about team work. Another qualification is the ability to multi-task, so emphasize your experience with multi-tasking.[4]
    • Be honest when you describe what you are capable of. If you say you can work a grill but have never worked one, it won't take long before they realize you have lied, which can result in termination.
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    Follow up. Depending on the company, the amount of applicants, and the need, it may take a few days to a couple of weeks to get a call for an interview. Wait at least a week before following up. You don't want to annoy the hiring manager. Either call or drop by during non-peak hours to speak about your application.[5]
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    Don't give up. If the company decides not to hire you, keep trying. They may not have any openings at the time or are looking for someone who has fast food service experience.

Part 2
Approaching the Interview Process

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    Dress appropriately. Since fast food jobs are not office jobs, you do not need to go over the top. However, business casual attire should be worn to interviews. You want to present your best to place yourself above the rest of the applicants.
    • No matter what you wear, go to the interview looking clean and neat. Make sure you have showered and that your clothes are clean. Comb your hair and consider pulling it back if it is long.
    • Go into the interview looking professional by wearing nice clothes. If you are a woman, wear nice slacks, a skirt, a button up, or nice blouse. Do not wear anything too short, too tight, or too low-cut. Do not wear flashy jewelry or inappropriate shoes. If you are a man, choose khakis, a button up, or a nice polo. Don't wear baggy clothes or hats. No one should wear shorts, flip flops, or tank tops.[6]
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    Be positive and professional. Fast food jobs are customer service centric, so hiring managers are looking for positive people. When answering interview questions, avoid negative answers. Smile and keep eye contact with the person. Do not look around the room or seem bored during your interview.[7]
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    Prepare answers before you interview. Every interview asks standard questions. Listed below are sample questions to expect with sample answers or tips for answering:
    • Why are you interested at a job with ____? You want to convey to the hiring manager that you will be a good representative. Talk about how much you love the food, the way the company is run, the principals the company stands for, the prices, the work environment. Don't make up stuff if you don't know for sure - don't say you like the money they give to charities if you don't know they do that. Also be honest with things like you need a job for your family, especially if you think the restaurant has better wages than competitors. If the place is open 24 hours and you need a night job, emphasize that. If it is not open 24 hours, talk about how you like that you can be home at night.
    • How would you deal with problem customers? This should be answered positively. Focus on how you would try to handle the situation to appease the customer, but then say you would hand it over to a manager if you had to. Don't say you'd offer to give the customer free food or a comped meal. The company may not do that, and it may not be within your power to do that.
    • Why should we hire you? Talk about how you are highly motivated, that you listen and learn quickly, that you are a team player and a friendly individual. You may want to stress that you can handle the physical demands of the job.[8]
    • What would you do if you caught a co-worker stealing food? Make it clear when asked a question like this that you will not cover up when co-workers are breaking rules or breaking the law, but also emphasize that you will hand it over to an authority, like a manager, and be discreet and professional.
    • What experience do you have in this field? Think about relevance. Highlight things you have done that are relevant to the job you are applying for. A hiring manager will expect you to talk about what you've done at a previous, similar job. If you have no experience in the field, think of skills that are similar - working as a team member, your work ethic, communication, and meeting deadlines. Most fast food jobs also require basic math and reading comprehension skills, along with following safety rules. Talk about your ability to do those things.[9]
    • Are you applying to other jobs? Answer yes, because this shows that you are serious about finding a job. However, make sure that you show preference to the restaurant you are interviewing for. Don't tell the hiring manager at Wendy's that you'd much rather work at Burger King.[10]
    • Try to keep your examples recent. Most employers are interested in recent experience, whether that experience is from a job, school, or volunteer activity. They may ask you questions phrased like "Tell me about a time when" or "Give me an example of when". Hiring managers want to get a sense of your competency. If you haven't given them enough examples or depth, they may ask you to clarify or give more information.[11]
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    Be flexible. One of the major selling points with a job in fast food is availability. If you can work any time, any day of the week, you set yourself apart from other applicants.[12] Sometimes, the positions the hiring manager is trying to fill are for very specific time slots. If you are unavailable during the times they need, you will not get the job.[13]
    • Don't say you can work a shift you cannot. Make sure you have reliable transportation to get to work when you are scheduled.
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    Convey that you will not leave after a few months. Fast food is an industry that has a lot of employee overturn. One thing they are looking for is employees who will be there longer than a few months. Many companies even promote from within, so demonstrating that you are interested in eventual leadership roles and moving up in the company can make you an appealing applicant.
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    Show them that you are a valuable asset. During the interview, make sure your answers demonstrate how valuable you will be for the company. You want to be enthusiastic, eager, and open to learning. If you've never worked in fast food, emphasize the things you have done in the past that have prepared you for what will be expected, or show them how eager you are to learn.


  • Try to learn everything about your company to seem insightful. Familiarize yourself with menu, locations, and other basics. You want to appear as knowledgeable as possible.
  • Apply for the right position for you. If cooking over a grill and working a deep fryer is not for you, apply to be a cashier, drive-thru attendant, or bus boy.
  • Be realistic with salary expectations. Most fast food jobs pay minimum wage. If asked on an application, don't say you expect more than you know the company pays.

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Categories: Hospitality