job interview tips for teens
Are you a teen who has a job or internship interview coming up? Do you know someone who does? For students without much – or any – interview experience, the prospect can be daunting.
Here's the good news: By learning basic interview techniques, teens can increase their confidence level and make a positive impression in interviews.
I teach these skills to my students, and I always enjoy seeing their confidence grow. For this article, I also spoke with the Redding, Connecticut Park and Recreation Director, Rob Blick (my hometown). Rob has interviewed hundreds of young job-seekers and contributed his insight about what he looks for when interviewing students for summer jobs.
Here are 9 Job Interview Tips for Teens
1. Know Your Strengths
Who are you? What are you good at? What makes you a future great employee? If you're not sure how to describe yourself, your possible future employer won't know either.
The better you know yourself, the more comfortable you’ll be talking about yourself in an interview.
Start by making a list of your positive qualities. (Are you determined, friendly, loyal, environmentally conscious, a leader..?) Google positive qualities if you're not sure.
Next, list your accomplishments, awards, interests, and hobbies. Ask your parents and friends, too. They can provide a perspective you might not have thought of.
“It’s good to be proud of your accomplishments, even if they’re small,” says Blick. He adds that there might be accomplishments you haven’t considered. “If you’re busy and do a lot, that’s an accomplishment,” he says.
Takeaway: Know your skills and strengths because they’ll become the foundation of your interview.
2. Find Examples to Talk About
Next, come up with four or five examples that illustrate the positive qualities or experiences you’d like to highlight in your interview. Start with examples of leadership, the ability to work as a team member, a meaningful activity, and a time they overcame an obstacle.
Now, practice telling them. Tell each like a short story: Set up your story, introduce the problem if there was one, explain your role in the situation or in solving the problem, and then say how everything turned out.
If talking about yourself makes you feel uncomfortable, you're not alone. It’s common to feel like it’s bragging to say “I did this” or “I helped my team” do that. Remember that you're advocating for yourself in an interview -- no one else can do it for you. As long as you"humbly brag" instead of boast, you'll be fine. And with practice, you'll become more comfortable talking about yourself.
Takeaway: Find your best examples and practice telling them. Now you’ve got lots to talk about in your interview!
3. Do Your Research
You absolutely need to know about the company or organization you're interviewing with. When you've done your homework, it demonstrates your interest, provides grounds for common discussion, and gives you the ability to ask specific questions. Interviewers like applicants who are prepared and enthusiastic.
Go to the company’s website and jot down the key points that make you feel you’d be a good fit and excited to work there. Jot down any questions you have as well.
Takeaway: When interviewers see you’ve done your research, they’ll know you’re seriously interested.
4. Practice Answering Common Interview Questions
Practicing is the best thing you can do to prepare. It's like developing muscle memory for your brain -- when you're asked a question you won't have to search far for the answer because you've already got one prepared.
You should know how to answer these common interview questions: Why do you want to work here? Tell me about a couple of your strengths. What’s a weakness you have? What are your favorite subjects in school and why? How would your friends or teachers describe you? What are you proud of? Tell me about a time you faced an obstacle or challenge. (You can Google other common interview questions.)
“There will be questions about you and your life,” says Blick. Think about what you’re proud of — maybe it’s a choice or a difficult decision.” Blick adds that he’ll often ask, “Why is your best friend friends with you?” because he likes to hear that perspective. You can find more common questions online.
Takeaway: Practice with friends, parents, stuffed animals, even your mirror. You’ll be amazed at the progress you make and how ready you feel for interview day.
5. Prepare for Interview Day
When interview day arrives, dress appropriately -- nothing too revealing, high cut, low cut, ripped, or wrinkled. Arrive ten minutes early, and shut off your cell phone.
Arriving early lets you account for last-minute issues like parking problems, and lets you catch your breath, look around, and settle in.
Always be friendly and considerate and never rude to anyone you meet. Your interviewer may be likely to ask the receptionist how you acted while you waited.
Nerves? Relax; it’s normal to be nervous. Take a brisk walk beforehand to shake out the jitters. Nerves can give you a dry mouth, so bring some water to sip (not swig).
Give yourself a pep talk -- You've done the work: you know your strengths, you've got examples to talk about, you'll know that you'll be a great asset to their organization, and you're prepared! Take a deep breath and remember you’ve got this.
Takeaway: Get ready for interview day by choosing what to wear, arriving early, and giving yourself a pep talk. Remember you’re prepared.
6. Know How to Start and End An Interview
Greet your interviewer warmly and with a smile. (“Hello, Mr. Jacobs, it’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.”) Remember to be personable, friendly, and enthusiastic.
At the end, thank the interviewer and say you enjoyed the experience. (“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Mr. Jacobs. I really enjoyed talking with you.”) Saying you enjoyed the experience is important; it helps leave the interviewer with a positive impression.
Takeaway: Be friendly and smile. Let the interviewer know you appreciate that they've taken the time out of their day to talk with you.
7. Use Good Body Language
Body language is how we communicate without words. In fact, humans judge each other within the first few seconds of meeting -- often before we've said a word!
Show you’re interested with good body language: sit up straight; look the interviewer in the eye; don’t fidget, twirl your hair, or yawn. Have good energy.
“Good body language helps indicate you want the job,” says Blick.
If you're leaning back in your chair, crossing your arms, clicking your pen, or looking out the window, you're indicating you're not interested.
Takeaway: Good body language is essential — make it work for you.
8. Ask Questions
Create several questions to ask that aren’t easily answered by the website. It’s okay to write them down and bring them with you.
Blick says, “Ask questions about the position, your role, the work that you’ll do. The questions should indicate you know something about the organization.” He adds, “Ask about the money later in the interview process.”
Takeaway: Asking thoughtful questions shows you’re interested in the job. Don’t start by asking about money.
9. Send a Thank You Note
Email a thank you note right away. The tone should be positive and appreciative but not too casual. Personalize it by referencing something the two of you talked about ("I was excited to learn that ____"..." I'll be sure to check out the ______ we talked about").
Make sure to correctly spell your interviewer’s name and title. Double-check if you’re not sure. Proofread.
Takeaway: Send a thank you note right away.
Blick says he likes to see teens do the follow-up calling about the job themselves rather than having their parents call for them.
“We prefer to deal with the person who’s going to be our employee,” Blick says.
Take responsibility for your applications. Follow-up in a timely manner. Be polite on the phone or in your email. Employers are looking for students with leadership qualities, and how you approach the application process from the beginning is an indication.
Final Takeaway: If you know your strengths, do your research, use positive body language, and are enthusiastic and engaged throughout the process, you’re on your way to a successful interview.
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Successfully answer interview questions
Improve your presentation & communication skills
Know how to begin and end an interview
Make a great impression