Most mystery shopping companies will ask you to complete an online application to be considered for assignments. Although each company's procedures are a little different, there are some basics that are true in almost every case.
First of all, do not pay to apply. Legitimate mystery shopping companies do not charge an application fee.
The primary reason mystery shopping companies reject applicants is that they did not fully complete the application, so answer every question. If you are asked for a writing sample, provide it. Companies told me that as many as 20% to 25% of applicants don't make it through the first screening because they did not provide all of the information required.
When you apply for a typical job, there are legal restrictions regarding the types of questions employers can ask prior to hiring you. Because we are all used to those limitations, some of the questions asked on a mystery shopping application may seem odd or inappropriate. You may be asked your age, race, marital status, number of children and their ages, if you own a car, if you have pets, whether you wear glasses, etc. Some companies may make these questions optional, while others will require that you answer to be considered for shops.
The good news is that questions such as these are not asked in order to exclude you, they are asked in order to include you. Some assignments require shoppers to be over or under a certain age to match the demographics of the client's customers. They may need three couples each of a different race or ethnicity to test compliance with non-discrimination laws. Shoppers may have to be accompanied by children. If someone is going to mystery shop a pet grooming service, they need a pet.
Remember that a big part of your job as a mystery shopper is filling out report forms and writing comments and narratives. If you don't bother to do a good job on the application, why should they believe that you will be thorough and accurate in completing your reports?
Spelling, grammar and punctuation matter. When providing a writing sample, create it in your word processor and make sure you spell check it. Then cut and paste the sample into the application. Of course, you should carefully proofread all of your application to catch any mistakes before you submit the application. Some companies are more forgiving than others on these matters, but why handicap yourself by doing a less-than-excellent job?
Don't fill out the application in ALL CAPS or all lower case. Your keyboard has a shift key, so use it to properly capitalize the first word in each sentence, proper nouns, etc. Many people get sloppy when writing on the computer and drop letters, ignore punctuation, use abbreviations such as “u” for “you, ” and otherwise make mistakes which are not acceptable in a mystery shopping report. Don't do these things on your application, either.
Some companies with online applications will ask you to print and mail a copy of their Independent Contractor agreement, or they will ask for a handwriting sample or other documentation. If they request it, do it. And do it promptly. If you take weeks to do something simple like print, sign and mail a contract, how long will it take you to complete an assignment?
Mystery shoppers can be male or female, young moms or “seasoned citizens, ” employed, self-employed, homemakers or retirees. You don't need a college degree or special training and experience. So whoever you are, put your best foot forward with great applications and get started now!
Copyright Cathy Stucker. Cathy Stucker has been a professional mystery shopper since 1995. She is the author of The Mystery Shopper's Manual, the only book endorsed by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Learn more about mystery shopping from Cathy at http://www.MysteryShoppersManual.com