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Have you noticed all the “now hiring” signs plastering retail windows? This finally may be the breakthrough year when young people who seriously look for summer jobs can land one.

The annual summer job outlook by the outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas finds that employment among 16- to 19-year-olds has reached its highest non-summer level since 2009, and openings are expected to rise this summer.

And, according to an annual survey by Snagajob.com, an online site for hourly wage jobs, nearly 80 percent of employers plan to continue or increase their summer hiring this year.

Granted, the jobless rate among teens who want to work was recorded at 17 percent in March. That’s high, but it’s a healthy slide from the 29 percent jobless peak for that age group in June 2010. These days, a committed young job searcher, particularly one with transportation and without childcare problems, is far likelier to get hired.

Know, though, that landing a summer job isn’t a gimme. Even at the entry level, there’s competition from older workers who want seasonal or part-time jobs. And, because the job market slump after the 2008 recession eliminated many good jobs, there are more experienced workers who are willing to work for less pay than they earned before.

So, good job candidates are scarcer. When I’m with recruiters and other human resource officers I’m beginning to hear more concerns about the “warm body syndrome” — the hiring of less-than-ideal candidates because better workers now are employed. It’s a syndrome that occurs only when locations, industries or professions have reached what’s generally recognized as full employment.

Employers bemoan the syndrome, but it creates opportunities for inexperienced workers to enter the job market. Just don’t wait until classes are over to start a job search; many summer positions already have been filled. Be open for night and weekend work. And don’t ask if you can take two weeks off for a midsummer vacation.

Don’t expect to grab a job online, either. With some large retailers there’s no other way to apply, but for smaller operations, and even for big-store locations, it usually works to your advantage to have a face-to-face conversation with a manager.

Look the part when you go somewhere to apply. You want to make a favorable impression, and that means dressing up a bit. No flipflops or summer sportswear. No hoodies, sweats or tattered clothing. Look carefully at the standards of dress for people who already work there, and then do the same or better.

Be very aware that some employers have negative opinions of young people’s work ethic based on their experience with others. That means teens need to work hard to counter that impression. How? Use the above tips to apply and then show up every day, be on time, do what’s assigned and seek more responsibilities.

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