How to get a temp job when employers aren't looking for temps

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A recent college grad -- we'll call him Tony -- left an expensive private college in New York City with a degree in film.

The high cost of living in New York combined with his student loans and the slow start that comes with a career in the arts has him desperately in need of a part-time job to, literally, put food on the table.

So he applied for a job as a cashier at a Banana Republic store and made it to an interview, where he was told that his resume looked credential -- retail experience, college degree, etc.

But then the hiring manager asked him a question he wasn't expecting: "You're obviously interested in film -- you spent a lot of money to pursue a career in that. If your dream job comes along in a month, you'll leave us, won't you?"

Tony conceded that he would -- and that was the last question. When he got off the subway and checked his e-mail, he had a form letter informing him that he hadn't been selected for the job.

With the job market tight and so many Americans in need of extra income, it's a buyer's market -- and employers are rejecting qualified people for reasons that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

To get an idea of how young people can deal with this uncomfortable situation, I e-mailed Lindsey Pollak, the author of "Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World."

She told me that job seekers must be prepared for this line of questioning, and offered a useful script for how you might respond to the "Are you going to leave us?" question:

Job Seeker: "I hear your concern. I'm aware there is a lot of turnover in retail, especially with young people like me. What I can tell you is that I'm really excited to work here and am incredibly hardworking, trustworthy and ethical. If at some point our relationship came to an end, and my intention is not that it will anytime soon, I would give appropriate notice and do everything I could to ensure a smooth transition. But again, my intention is to be the best employee I can be. But hey, if Martin Scorsese calls, I'll see if I can get you a part in the movie!"

Hiring Manager: "But Tony, you haven't answered my question. Are you going to leave?"

Job Seeker:
"My intention is to work hard and be your best employee."

Pollak says this approach can work for two reasons: It deflects the specific question while still addressing the issue and it uses humor.

But even then, she cautions that there's "no guarantee" that it will be effective because it's a really difficult situation -- and when there are many more applicants than job openings, companies can reject people for any reason that strikes their fancy.
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