The Buggrit Online B&N Employment Primer

posted 1/28/03

Barnes & Noble, or, as I prefer to call them, Bunns & Noodles, is one of the United States' largest retail book chains. They operate hundreds of stores under a half-dozen names. They engage in deceptive advertising practices, fixate on the bottom line, and pay quite poorly.
A lot of people want to work there. To Bibliophiles, there's a certain allure of a several-thousand-square-foot store filled with badly written books and atrocious muzak. Many will apply, few will be chosen. However, I've prepared the following guide to help would-be B&N peons get an edge in the employment lottery.
All information herein is provided from personal experience working in or visiting a half-dozen B&N and subsisidary stores in two states over seven years. It is as reliable and up-to-date as possible, but should only be taken "as-is". Advice herein may or may not apply to other large chain bookstores. I am not liable if you get sued for harassment. Eat my shorts, Leonard Riggio. Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.

Step One: Find the Store.
This won't be difficult. Odds are good that unless you live on a farm, you are within five miles of a B&N store. Consult your local yellow or white pages for the store nearest you.

Step Two: Visit the Store.
Drive or walk to your chosen store. Enter it. Notice the thick coating of dust covering everything, but don't worry, very few people suffer allergy problems from it. Somewhere near one of the doors there will be a sign that says "Now Hiring". Don't believe it. Most stores are required to display this sign at all times, or at least during the holiday period. Walk to the customer service desk. Ask, slowly and clearly, for an application. You may need to repeat yourself to be understood. Be patient. You will doubtless be told that the store isn't hiring, or is only hiring for the Cafe. This is usually a lie. Ignore it, you're made of sterner stuff. Take the application, be polite, say thank you. Swipe one of the pens from the counter while the employee reels in shock from encountering someone polite. Sit down at a table that has as little spilled coffee or food crumbs as possible.

Step Three: The Application.
You will need to carefully fill out the application you received in step two, above. The application is generally a single, double-sided piece of tan- or cream-colored paper, with the usual boxes for your information. Fill it out carefully. You may be creative on the sections covering education history and previous employment - no store ever verifies this. Likewise, you may fabricate long-standing friends for the references section. If you are a convicted criminal, you can safely lie about this in the appropriate box UNLESS you have special scheduling requirements to attend rehab, or meet with your parole officer.
Pay careful attention to the information you provide. Admitting to having a useful college degree will almost certainly disqualify you from employment with B&N. "Useful" means such things as having a degree in chemical science, or mathematics, but does not include such majors as archaeology, english, music science, or underwater basket-weaving. If you have never attended college, or don't want to admit it, claiming to have only a GED may increase your odds of employment. Alternatively, claiming to have belonged to a really geeky club in high school, such as Chess Club, may also increase your odds. Frequent misspellings are a distinct advantage all throughout your application.
Sign and date the application, then hand it to an employee. Odds are good that within a couple of days it will find it's way to the individual (usually an assistant store manager, or ASM) responsible for hiring.

Step Four: Wait a Week.
Wait about a week. Five to ten days is usually sufficient time for your application to have found it's way to the ASM's mail box. This is important, because you don't want to have to fill out another application after Step Five, due to the chances of the original application eventually turning up and not agreeing with the fabrications on the new application. Plan ahead!

Step Five: Start Pestering.
After a week or so has passed, start calling the store. Weekdays between noon and three are the best times to do this. Ask to speak to whoever does the hiring. When you reach this individual, explain to them that you handed in an application a while back, and haven't heard back from the store yet. Say that you're concerned, because you're extremely well qualified to work for the company, saw the sign that said they were hiring, and want to make sure you get an interview before someone less qualified is hired. This will totally confuse the ASM, who won't have even looked at your application yet. He or she will likely stutter, hem, and haw, and then explain that either the store isn't hiring, or that s/he hasn't had time to review your application. If the latter, press for an interview the next week, saying that should give plenty of time to review your application and gather references.
If the store isn't hiring, you'll have to be sneaky. Keep calling back, asking for the ASM or other person who does the hiring. Try early in the morning, just after the store opens. Often you'll be told "I'm sorry, so-and-so doesn't come in until 1:30 today". This is what you want. Explain to the employee that you have a job interview with so-and-so today at, oh, pick a time. Say 3:00. Explain that your appointment earlier might run over, and ask the employee to leave a note saying you might not make it until 3:30. Because nobody ever knows what's going on in one of these stores, this is your opportunity. In any event, rejoice, because you now have an interview, and nearly everyone interviewed gets hired by B&N.

Step Six: The Interview.
How you dress for the interview is as important as what you say. For men, suits are a big no-no. For women, dresses and even skirts are probably a bad idea. Think "office casual". Khaki's, polo shirts, or slightly wrinkled dress shirts. Try to look poor. Wear your most-scuffed and oldest pair of dress shoes, and don't polish them unless they're really nasty. Don't shave, unless you're a guy. Eat something really spicy just before the interview so you have bad breath.
At the interview itself, you may be dealing with a hostile employee who resents being drawn away from whatever book he was reading in the office to deal with someone who tricked him into giving an interview. That's okay, though - it just makes the success more sweet.
The interview will be your standard vanilla fare. No interesting or unusual questions generally arise. Be sure to be evasive, and answer all questions with incorrect grammar. Try to steer the conversation away from books; don't profess an interest in or a love for books. The company doesn't hire people who say that - they spend all their time sitting on the floor reading. You want to come across as a slightly stupid individual who can barely read and who would be really, really grateful to work for such a wonderful company. The interviewer will usually ask you something along the lines of "tell me a little bit about yourself". Answer, in a choked-up voice, that you just can't, it's too painful to talk about. If they ask you why you want to work for Bunns & Noodles, say that you had a dream where a blind albino angel came to you while you were watching "Jerry Springer" and said to you, "Dude, like, you should turn off the TV and go work in a bookstore, man." Explain as slowly as possible that this seems like a good idea because you've always wanted to learn how computers and the Dewey Decimal System works. One of the more interesting questions you may encounter is, "Why did you leave your last job?". I strongly recommend you say that under the terms of the settlement you aren't allowed to talk about that.
Don't be dismayed if you don't get offered a job right away. Bunns & Noodles almost nevers offers jobs right away. Keep calling, keep pestering the person who does the hiring. Send cards, chocolates, or flowers. If necessary, pull the interview trick again. Eventually s/he will realize it's easier to hire you than keep avoiding your phone calls. And then, happy day, you'll be employed.


All Contents of BUGGRIT.COM are (C) 2002 - 2004 M. Gilday. All Rights Reserved. No portion may be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of the owner.