During my first semester of college in 2005, I was working as a city employee. The work was seasonal and I needed something more permanent. My dad had heard that the local Safeway was hiring, so my best friend and I decided to go in and apply.
Going from a city employee to a grocery-store bagger wasn't exactly a step forward, but I thought it would be fun to work with my best friend. The store was close to my house and school, plus I would be able to clock in a lot more hours.
When we walked in to pick up our applications we were dressed casually, both wearing jeans and T-shirts. We went up to a female cashier and asked her for an application. She referred us to the store manager, who was already at the front of the store. He introduced himself and handed us the applications. I didn't think I would be meeting the store manager that day, or else I would have dressed more professionally. The store manager had a large build. He towered over our 5-foot-5 frames, which was very intimidating. Nonetheless, we filled out the applications on the spot, providing work experience and references. Within a couple of days we had both received callbacks.
What they were looking for
Our interviews were held on the same day. I wore black slacks, a white collared shirt and black high heels to my interview. The same store manager who handed me my application conducted the interview. He was funny and charismatic, but his build and booming voice were intimidating. At moments he would speak casually, asking me to describe my personality, and about how I spent my free time. At other moments he was stern, asking about my work experience and relevant skills. He asked me why he should hire me, and what I would contribute to the team.
I must say that I didn't prepare prior to the interview. The position simply required me to bag groceries, so I didn't consider doing any company research. Looking back, I think the manager was looking for personality traits more than anything else. He asked if I was an ambitious person, if I had goals for myself. I had many goals at the time. I told him how I wanted to transfer to Pepperdine University and major in business administration. I told him how I wanted to own my own business someday. He looked impressed, although he simply nodded his head. He asked me how I planned to make all that happen, and I responded, "with time and dedication." My lack of grocery-store experience didn't seem to bother him. His questions were geared toward finding out if I was a hard worker, if I would show up to shifts on time and if I had the promise to be a good employee for Safeway.
One more hurdle
At the end of the interview he asked if I would agree to a drug test. I agreed, and he pulled out a plastic bag with a cotton swab. I scraped the side of my mouth with the swab, so that they could test my saliva. He said that the drug test would take a few days, but that I was hired, pending those results. A few days later I got a call to come back to the store. My best friend and I were called into the office together. We sat across from the manager for a few minutes before he finally said that we had both passed our drug tests and that we were hired.
Once we were hired, we were asked to attend the Safeway training program. We had to travel to a Safeway store in the San Fernando Valley, where the training program took place. We watched introductory videos and participated in training exercises. It was nothing too difficult. I brought a pen and paper for note taking, which proved to be a good idea. You do not need to bring such items, but taking notes can help you remember certain facts you might forget later. The training took all day, but it was the last step in the hiring process. After that, we were baggers and started working at the store near where we lived.
An automated application process
Things are a little different at Safeway these days. A few months after my best friend and I were hired, they changed the application process. Instead of filling out a paper application, job applicants are now directed to a computer where they fill out an online application. You can also opt to apply for a specific job posting online. The application is processed by the system, and managers call back those who meet their qualifications. If your application is approved by a manager, they will call you in for an interview.
Interviews are still done one on one. If the store manager is too busy, they will often ask the assistant manager to conduct the interview. I would recommend dressing professionally for your interview, even if you are applying to be a bagger. Safeway promotes from within, which means that many store managers started out as baggers.
Within three months of working at Safeway I was promoted to checker. I worked for Safeway for about two years, before I transferred to Pepperdine University in Malibu. I'm now 24, have my degree in journalism and communications, and work as a freelance writer, managing my own content, as well as a small PR business. My years at Safeway were fun. The bond between coworkers is strong at Safeway, and I made some good friends while working there.