Job placement and youth counselors say summer job prospects are generally less bleak than a year ago. Still, job hunting is always difficult, and they offer these tips for landing work:

* Start early--The better paying jobs usually are lined up months ahead of time. Youngsters under 16 will need to start their job search all the earlier just to find any type of employment.

* Know thyself--Know what your interests are, what jobs you can qualify for and what kind of employment would suit you best.

* Network--Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Check the bulletin boards in grocery stores and churches as well as the want ads in the newspapers. Send your resume to firms or drop by, even if you are not sure whether they have any job openings.

* Be prepared--Research the company before your job interview. Know the exact time and place of an interview and how to find the office where it is scheduled. Make sure you can spell and pronounce the name of the interviewer. Arrive early and bring a pen and notebook. Ask questions about what your responsibilities will be.

* Go alone--"Don't bring your mom, your dog, your date," advises one counselor. "Don't go with a friend and giggle," cautions another.

* Be neat and clean--Wear proper clothes. Don't smoke or chew gum. "No fingers in the mouth," warns a counselor.

* Interview your parents--One or both of them probably go to work every day, and they can tell you what it's like for them. "You'd be surprised how many kids haven't the faintest idea what their parents do all day," says an employment counselor.

Area youths who want a job and employers who want to hire them should call one of the following numbers:

Arlington--979-6220.

Alexandria--838-4477.

Charles Co.--375-8171.

District of Columbia--639-1561.

Fairfax Co.--573-2105.

Loudoun Co.--573-2105.

Montgomery Co.--468-4144.

Prince George's Co.--336-6450.

Prince William Co.--494-4137.