A narrator with a French accent introduces SpongeBob SquarePants, a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. SpongeBob's foghorn alarm clock rings, waking him up in the morning. He tells his pet, Gary the Snail that he must be in good shape because this particular day is important. He jumps off his diving board and then lands in his pants. He goes to his exercise room and lifts a bar-weight (which is actually two stuffed animals with a metal stick). Afterwards, SpongeBob declares that he is ready. He runs outside and down the street to the Krusty Krab, repeatedly saying, "I'm ready" while his neighbor and best friend, Patrick Star, cheers him on.
SpongeBob sees the "Help Wanted" sign on the Krusty Krab window. He then declares that he is ready to obtain the job, which he has dreamed of for years; however, he loses his confidence when he nears the Krusty Krab. Patrick confronts him and quickly convinces him to go for the job, and SpongeBob does so, thereby declaring he is ready three more times. Squidward Tentacles, the head cashier, is cleaning the window (his head is drawn and "loser" is written above it). Squidward sees that SpongeBob wants the job, and so he runs into the Krusty Krab in an attempt to warn the restaurant-owner Eugene H. Krabs that SpongeBob does not qualify for the job. However, SpongeBob walks into the Krusty Krab and asks for the job before Squidward can say anything. To get rid of him, Mr. Krabs tells SpongeBob that he can join the Krusty Krew if he passes a "test"–which is to obtain a "hydrodynamic spatula with port and starboard attachments and a turbo-drive" (essentially sending SpongeBob on a wild goose chase) and to not come back until he gets one. SpongeBob then leaves trying to find one with Squidward and Mr. Krabs laughing and believing that SpongeBob won't find the spatula and will never come back.
As soon as SpongeBob leaves, 5 buses drop off a large crowd of hungry Anchovies. They barge into the Krusty Krab, demanding Krabby Patties. Trying to keep things in order, Squidward complains about their behavior, and then requests that there be a neat, single-file line in front of the cash register. The anchovies furiously protest, forming a riot of angry anchovies that resembles a stormy sea. This forces Squidward and Mr. Krabs to climb up the mast. Thinking that it is the end for them, they say their goodbyes. Suddenly, SpongeBob arrives, flying with his "hydrodynamic spatula with port and starboard attachments and a turbo-drive" (according to SpongeBob, the Barg’N-Mart only had one in stock). Squidward and Mr. Krabs are flabbergasted at the fact that SpongeBob actually passed the "test." SpongeBob flies into the kitchen and, as fast as he can, satisfies the needs of the angry anchovies.
When the last anchovy gets his Krabby Patty, Mr. Krabs is delighted. He immediately hires SpongeBob, by welcoming him to the Krusty Krew and giving him a nametag. Then, Mr. Krabs calls for three cheers for SpongeBob (in which Squidward unenthusiastically replies "Hooray" all three times). Even though Squidward is upset, Mr. Krabs doesn't listen to him because he wants to go and count the "booty" he had just made in his office.
At the end, Patrick walks in and asks for a Krabby Patty. SpongeBob then flies into the kitchen and makes a huge stream of Krabby Patties, which hit Patrick and sends him flying out of the restaurant. Squidward, in a sarcastic and sing-song tone, tells Mr. Krabs to come see his new employee.
While pitching the cartoon to Nickelodeon executives, Stephen Hillenburg donned a Hawaiian shirt, brought along an "underwater terrarium with models of the characters", and Hawaiian music to set the theme. The setup was described by Nick executive Eric Coleman as "pretty amazing". When given money and 2 weeks to write the pilot episode ("Help Wanted"), Hillenburg, Derek Drymon, and Nick Jennings returned with – described by Nickelodeon official Albie Hecht – "a performance [I] wish [I] had on tape". Although described as stressful by executive producer Derek Drymon, the pitch went "very well"; Kevin Kay and Hecht had to step outside because they were "exhausted from laughing", making the cartoonists worried.
The pilot episode was made and recorded in 1997, so it has many differences to the rest of the series. However, the original version of the episode had many other minor differences corrected later. For example, this is the only episode where SpongeBob's bed is on the right (excluding "Pickles" and "Employee of the Month"), and his blanket is solid blue, as opposed to purple with flowers. Differences in voices are another example. SpongeBob's voice is slightly lower and Patrick's is deeper. Designs and colors are also different. For example, SpongeBob has fewer holes than in newer episodes, Mr. Krabs' eyelids are bright pink opposed to red, Patrick's pants are in a slightly different color, Squidward's complexion is paler, his laugh is different, the comedic "splat" sound is different, and his nose doesn't puff in and out when he laughs. Gary's eye pupils are red dots and his irises are smaller, he lacks eyelashes, and he has a lower tone of voice in the "meow" – although Tom Kenny claims to use a new "meow" for each episode (where Gary is shown meowing). The animation used for the bubble transitions are much choppier as well. Squidward also appears to have rows of bamboo poles behind his house. Differences in SpongeBob's house are also present in this episode, but not in others, such as there is only one window in the front. Also, SpongeBob and Patrick are a little bit fatter. Also, SpongeBob's alarm clock has a different ship horn sound than his alarm clock in later episodes. The changes were made when the series officially aired.