This post: 8 Tips for Teens to Ace a Job Interview / Updated April 2022
With summer finally here, high school and college kids will be scrambling to land the perfect summer job to make a few extra bucks. But, before they can actually land the job, they first have to ace the interview, which for some high school and college kids can be a fairly intimidating and stressful experience.
Whether your child is interviewing for a camp counselor job, a retail associate at the mall or a bagger at a local grocery store, help them make the absolute best impression during the interview by encouraging them to keep these important tips in mind. Here are 8 tips for teens to ace a job interview.
8 Tips for Teens to Ace a Job Interview
Know Your Stuff
According to statistics, interviewers have found that nearly 50% of people they’ve interviewed are clueless about the company they’re interviewing with. Give yourself a powerful edge by taking the time to learn a few things about the company. Google the company, learn a few statistics, know where their headquarters are located or research the latest news about the company. Knowing even a few simple facts about the company going into the interview will go a long way and set you apart from the vast majority of applicants.
First Impressions Matter
According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers, 33% said they knew within the first 90 seconds whether they would hire someone.
First impressions are everything, and once formed they can be hard to change. To make a great first impression, follow a few simple rules:
- Be on time. (Sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many teenagers show up late for an interview.)
- Dress Appropriately. Skip the shorts, flip-flops, t-shirts and any clothes that look like you slept in them and instead choose crisp, clean clothes that give you a well-groomed appearance.
- Skip heavy perfumes and aftershave and don’t forget to wear deodorant.
- Stand tall with good posture and avoid slouching.
- Make eye contact with the interviewer.
- Smile and be yourself.
- Offer a firm handshake (26% of candidates make the mistake of offering a weak handshake.)
- Put your cell phone away and on silent or turned off completely.
- Act enthusiastic, engage in conversation with the interviewer and act confident.
- DON’T: Chew gum, suck on a mint or candy, walk in with wet hair, have chipped nail polish, talk or text on your phone, walk into the interview totally unprepared and “wing it,” zone out or look distracted as if you have somewhere else to be.
Be Prepared to Talk About Yourself for 60 Seconds
Statistics show that the number one thing interviewers ask during an interview is “tell me a little bit about yourself,” which means you need to be prepared to talk about yourself including your education, prior experience (if any), skills, talents, and possibly even hobbies for approximately 60 seconds. Practice at home or role play with a family member and craft a quick 60-second speech that includes all the pertinent details you’d like to share with the interviewer.
The most important thing you want to avoid here is giving way too much information about yourself that is neither relevant nor important and ends up simply boring the heck out of the interviewer. Instead, focus only on your strongest selling points that relate specifically to the job you’re interviewing for, i.e., you’re highly knowledgeable about computers and multiple software platforms which makes you an excellent candidate for a computer company, you worked for three years for the YMCA as a camp counselor and you’re great with kids or you’re extremely patient and work well under pressure.
Sell Your Value to the Company
One of the biggest mistakes young interviewees make during the interview process is not “selling” themselves enough.
While you definitely want to answer every direct question you’re asked about your background, experience, education, skills, and talents, what you don’t want to do is lose sight of what the interviewer is ultimately seeking. Interviewers are looking for employees who are not only capable of doing the job well but also candidates who will offer value to the company.
During the interview, talk about what you can do for the company, what you bring to the table, why you feel your skills would be beneficial or how you can help the company reach its goals. Whether it’s your outgoing fun personality, your ability to work well with children, or your strong people skills, match the value you bring to the table with what the company is seeking and sell it.
Pay Attention to Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues
When walking into an interview, most kids are keenly aware of what they say and how they say it. But, what you may not realize is that non-verbal cues are equally as important as verbal cues. With every move of your body, you’re communicating. For example, folding your arms across your chest during an interview can make you appear closed off, defensive and uninterested. Being fidgety, playing with your hair or using a lot of hand gestures will give the impression that you’re not paying attention or nervous. And, vigorously bouncing your leg up and down during the interview can make you appear distracted, unfocused and restless.
While it might be impossible to be tuned in to every non-verbal and verbal cue you send during an interview, if there are certain things you know you do that could come across negatively, take note of them and avoid doing them during the interview.
On the flip side, certain non-verbal cues can actually prove beneficial and help you make a great impression including such things as leaning in slightly and nodding your head when the interviewer is speaking which will show that you’re interested and engaged.
Be Prepared for a Few Curveballs
One of the toughest things for young interviewees is knowing how to answer tough questions. What makes it even more challenging is that interviewers just love to toss in a few anxiety-triggering questions just to see how you handle pressure and see whether you’re quick on your feet.
- If you could, would you rather steal a t-shirt or a bracelet?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Have you ever stolen a pen before?
- What are your strengths or weaknesses?
- If your friends had to describe you in five words, what would they say about you?
- What does customer service mean to you?
These are actual questions interviewers have asked teenagers. Of course, there’s no surefire way to prepare for every question an interviewer might ask, it helps if you have a few answers in your head prior to the interview regarding your strengths, weaknesses, what your goals are and depending on the company you’re interviewing with, any specific questions you think may come up regarding customer service, integrity, working with children, etc. The trick is to think ahead about what you think they might ask and be as prepared as possible.
Follow Up with a Thank You Note
Whether it’s an email or a personal note, it’s important to take a moment to thank the person you interviewed with for their time and the opportunity to meet with them. Statistically, very few people ever send a thank you note (let alone teenagers) which will offer you a competitive edge against all the other people who skipped this important step.
Remember: Even if You Don’t Get the Job, it’s a Learning Experience
Showing your best side during an interview can be both exhausting and frustrating, especially if, after all your hard work and preparation, you still don’t get the job. Just remember, every single interview will bring you that much closer to finding the perfect job that matches your interests, talents, and skills. Consider every interview as an opportunity to polish your interviewing skills a little bit more.
Perhaps you realized you didn’t make enough eye contact, that you interrupted the interviewer a time or two or that you fidgeted because you were nervous – take a moment after every interview to critique your “performance” and think of ways you can improve. Just like anything else, experience fosters confidence. The more interviews you go on, the less intimidating the entire process will become.
The most important thing to remember during an interview is to be yourself, be honest and be as upbeat and energetic as possible (without going overboard, of course). When it comes to hiring teenagers, employers realize upfront that they aren’t hiring skilled workers with 20 years of experience so they aren’t expecting a stellar interview performance.
Keep in mind too that they’re not hiring a skill or talent; they’re hiring a person – someone they can work with and who can get along with others, which is why it’s so important to show a little of your personality during the interview. Lastly, just try to do your best, learn from your mistakes and relax! You’ll land that perfect job in no time!
Job interviews are a lot like first dates. Good impressions count, awkwardness can occur and outcomes are always unpredictable.