10 Tips for Teens to Have a Successful Job Interview

teenjobinterview2Work experience gives teens valuable benefits, including learning responsibility and professionalism, gaining material for their resume and college applications, and developing skills in conflict resolution and problem-solving. Helping your teen apply for their first job can feel both exciting and daunting. You can learn tips on that process in our previous blog, How Teens Can Get that First Job. Applying for the job is only the first step… it’s the interview that will actually determine whether they get the job.

Here are 10 tips to offer your teen to help him/her have a successful interview:

  1. Prepare responses for common interview questions. Have your teen type “job interview questions” into Google and they can quickly learn what to expect in their own interview. For example, many interviewers will ask “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?” Help your teen consider their answers to these questions in advance and practice with you beforehand. A mock interview is very helpful for gaining confidence.
  2. Determine 2-3 key ideas you want to get across to the interviewer. Before walking into an interview, it’s a good idea for your teen to develop a good strategy for answering interview questions. If they have a couple of key points they want to communicate to the interviewer, their answers during the interview will have more focus. For example, if the job requires a lot of interactions with customers and your teen feels they have good communication skills, they should weave examples of their communication in many of their answers.
  3. Find the match. The most important preparation step your teen can take is to think through why they would be a good match for this specific job. Candidates should always talk honestly about their strengths, but the best idea is to focus on their strengths that are relevant to doing this position well. You can help your teen consider what qualities the job requires and decide what examples of everyday success they have that demonstrate they have those qualities. Having examples is very important, as it helps the interviewer visualize your teen in the role. An interviewee can use the open-ended questions that the interviewer asks to talk about specific reasons they are a good fit for that position or at that company.
  4. Know your resume. Nothing will irritate an interviewer more than a candidate who reads their resume or has to refer to it frequently. Those actions imply that the resume is untrue or misleading because, otherwise, your teen should be able to talk about it from memory. Remind your teen to know their resume inside and out so that they can highlight their positive qualities or experience without looking at their resume.
  5. Research the company in advance. Suggest that your teen go online and do a little research on the company before their interview. Your teen doesn’t have to memorize a ton of facts, but it is important to have a good idea of what the company does, how it makes money, and the details of the job for which they are applying. If the job is at a restaurant or store, visiting in advance to get a feel for the atmosphere is a good idea. Suggest that your teen answer their interview questions with references to those things, if appropriate. For example, your teen could slip in “I saw on your website that you are launching a new product next month. It looks really neat. Will I have the opportunity to work with this product?”
  6. Develop a couple of questions for the interviewer beforehand. Many interviewers consider this an important statement on the potential employee because it demonstrates the candidate’s real interest. Questions your teen could ask are: What makes an ideal candidate for this job? How could I best prepare for the job before I start? When do you plan to make a hiring decision for this position? What hours are available (or expected) for this position?
  7. Arrive early. Advise your teen to show up 10 minutes before your scheduled interview. They should not show up too early as this might be an annoyance to an interviewer, but they should never show up late.
  8. Dress appropriately. First impressions are crucial. Help your teen determine the best outfit for their interview. Most jobs for which a teen is applying are more casual, so they could wear nice pants (or skirt for girls) and a collared shirt. Please tell your teen to NOT wear jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers for any job interview.
  9. Act professionally. Teach your teen to give a firm handshake, make eye contact, state their name with confidence, be positive and optimistic, and thank the interviewer for their time. They should not display a poor attitude or speak negatively about a previous employer. When an employer decides to hire your teen, they are making the decision that they want (or are willing) to spend a good chunk of their time with your teen – your teen’s goal in the interview is to make them want to do that!
  10. Write a thank-you note. Your teen may not understand how important this step is, but insist that they always send a thank-you note within 24 hours of the interview. The note should be simple and error-free. They can follow-up with a phone call after a few days.


Final thoughts…

Remind your teen to keep their answers concise and to the point (not droning on), but to offer more details than one-word responses. Also, let your teen know that if they don’t understand a question or didn’t hear it, they should not be afraid to ask to have it rephrased or repeated. The most important advice a parent can offer their teen is to be very honest and positive in all their answers.


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