Helping a Teen Get Their First Job

When teens are ready to enter the job market, many run into a big problem right away. They have no idea how to actually get hired. It can be overwhelming to a young person beginning this process, but it becomes manageable if the adults in their lives can break it down for them and offer a little guidance. If you know a teen who would like to find work, then talk them through each stage of the job search process: making a resume, applying for a job, and interviewing. 


A resume is an essential tool in any search for a job, but it can be particularly difficult to write one when you have little or no work experience. Let teens know that a resume is simply an outline of their experiences that will promote their strengths, skills or abilities to potential employers. Teens can list school accomplishments or leadership roles, community service they’ve provided, odd jobs they’ve taken on such as babysitting, and their extracurricular activities.

Encourage teens to look online for standardized formats for a resume. Encourage them to use basic fonts at 12pt in size on a heavy-weight white or off-white paper. Let teens know that their first resume should never be longer than one page and that it’s important to be honest; deceptions will be fairly obvious to an employer and will ruin their chances for an interview.


When a teen wants to drop off a resume or fill out an application, suggest they visit the business during off-peak hours. Showing up at the busiest time of the day or just before closing will only frustrate the person in charge of hiring.

Let teens know that first impressions matter. They want the people who are in charge of hiring to remember them in a positive way. Teens should have their resume ready, which demonstrates maturity and responsibility, and they should make eye contact, smile, be polite, and dress neatly (casual is fine).

Help teens know how to be prepared in case the employer wants them to fill out an application on the spot. They should have a photo ID and information such as references, their social security number, all contact info, and hours available. For references, a teen can list anyone with whom they have a good relationship, such as teachers, coaches, or neighbors. Remind the teen that they must ask the person’s permission to use them as a reference, and be sure they have the correct name and phone number.


Applying for the job is only the first step… it’s the interview that will actually determine whether the teen gets the job. Here are some tips for making a good impression.

Before the interview, encourage teens to:

  • Research on the Internet standard job interview questions so that you know what to expect and consider your answers in advance. For example, many interviewers will ask “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?”
  • Practice interviewing with a friend or parent beforehand.
  • Decide ahead of time 3-4 positive qualities you would like to highlight about yourself during the interview and think of an example to share when you used those skills.
  • Know a little bit about the company and the details of the job you are applying for. Try to answer your interview questions with references to those things if appropriate.
  • Develop a couple of questions for the interviewer beforehand, such as what are the specific job responsibilities, hours available, company culture, etc. Many interviewers consider this an important statement on the potential employee. One important question to ask is when they expect to make a decision about the job.

On interview day, encourage teens to:

  • Show up 5-10 minutes early for your scheduled interview.
  • Dress appropriately, remembering that it is better to be overdressed, than underdressed.
  • Give a firm handshake, make eye contact, smile, and state your name with confidence when meeting your interviewer.
  • Keep your answers concise and to the point. If you don’t understand a question or you didn’t hear it, do not be afraid to ask to have it rephrased or repeated. Be very honest in all your answers.
  • If the interviewer asks for an experience that you don’t have, don’t panic. Simply try to offer a related example.
  • If the interviewer asks a brainteaser, don’t feel pressured to give them the “right” answer. Just explain how you would solve the problem.
  • If the interviewer asks you to share something negative about yourself, be honest, but turn it around at the end, for example sharing what you’ve learned from a bad experience and how you have changed to address it.
  • At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for their time.
  • When you get home, write a thank-you note immediately and try to highlight specific qualities you have that will benefit the company.

Final Thoughts…

Walking your teen through the steps above will help them be more successful in obtaining employment. Inevitably, they will likely face rejection during this process, so be ready to encourage them and let them know that they are a very capable person who just needs to find a job that is the right fit for them.

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