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Job Interview Tips for Teens

Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She lives happily in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.

Tips for teens to ace their interview and get the job.

Tips for teens to ace their interview and get the job.

The following tips will help teens ace a job interview. Many of the teens I work with at the local high school follow these tips and do well. Some choose to do their own thing, but often find it is harder to find a job. Once you have an interview with someone, you have made your first impression, and as they say, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression!

Getting a job will help teens gain experiences and learn new things.

Getting a job will help teens gain experiences and learn new things.

Before the Interview


Neatness counts in all areas of life, but it is especially important when showing up for a job interview. Teens should be clean. This means they should shower at least within the past 24 hours, brush their teeth, and wear perfume or aftershave (but not too much). If you are applying for a job working with the public, less is more in the scent department because overpowering customers with a strong cologne could cause an asthma attack.

Even though many teens think dressing up is not important for an interview, and that they will impress the employer with their magnetic personality, first impressions do go a long way. The rule of thumb in the world of work, even for teens, is "No jeans or T-shirts." For girls, you may choose to wear dress pants, a nice blouse or sweater, a skirt, or even a dress. For guys, khakis or dress pants, a dress shirt, and a tie will do nicely. If the interview is for a fast-food restaurant, try for something a bit more casual, like wearing khakis and a pullover shirt. Makeup should be in good taste. Overdoing it could turn off a potential boss, especially if the employee will be interacting with the public.

There are certain cases though when having a well made-up face is essential. If you plan to go for an interview at a cosmetics store or work at a cosmetics counter, it is important to have a face that shows you know what you are doing. And as these types of employers encourage employees to wear a lot of makeup and to show off the product, it is okay to go for your interview wearing a full face of makeup. Examples of these types of employers are Sephora, Ulta, or if you are going to start your own business such as with the Mary Kay Company, or Avon.

Prepare Ahead

It's always helpful to prepare ahead before going in. Be a shopper or a customer at the business in which you hope to be employed. Check out the different types of positions available within that business. For instance, if you are applying at a Friendly's restaurant, and you went in for a meal prior to applying, you would be greeted by a hostess, served by a waiter/waitress, a cook would prepare your food, someone in the back kitchen would have washed your dishes, and, on your way in or way out, you might have noticed someone scooping ice cream at the ice cream window. These are five different positions you could apply for.

If you are applying to a particular store, such as Petco, search online for available positions. You will find that they not only hire cashiers but also pet groomers, pet trainers, amphibian specialists, etc. Know what type of position(s) you would be interested in before your interview.

What to Bring With You

You should definitely bring a pen/pencil and either a small notebook or a piece of paper. You will need them to take notes on the available positions and on any information that you don't want to forget if you are offered the job.

If you have a resume, you should bring it with you and hand it to your interviewer at the beginning of the interview. It is very impressive to an employer when a teenager has a resume because most don't have one. Bringing a resume instantly puts you in a higher caliber than your peers. If you need help with a resume, ask for guidance at your school's Career Center.

What NOT to Bring With You

Do not bring your cell phone with you. If you must call for a ride home, turn it off before entering the building.

Do not bring a friend or a parent because it will look as though you are not confident enough to handle going by yourself. An employer may think you aren't up for the job as an independent worker.

If you have a child, do not bring your child with you. Although you may think he/she is cute, a future employer will see red flags and be concerned about whether or not you will have the appropriate daycare arrangements to allow you to make it to work.

The Day of the Interview

Quick Tips

  • Be on time. If possible, showing up 5–10 minutes early is best.
  • You need to impress two people: the secretary (or person at the front desk) and the interviewer. Do not tell them you are going outside for a cigarette and do not chat on your phone in front of the secretary while you wait. Your priority should be to show staff and management that you are 100% dedicated to the company. Anything you do while waiting will be reported to the boss later, so make a good impression.
  • Always shake hands with the interviewer(s) when you first meet them. Make sure you have a nice firm handshake. A handshake that is too weak shows you are an insecure person and not that interested in the job. One that is too strong could hurt someone. Practice first with a parent, adult friend, or teacher.
  • Make eye contact throughout the interview. People who look around the room seem distracted, and those who look down at the floor will appear to have low self- esteem.
  • Answer questions directly without going into your whole life story. Try not to see "umm" or "like," if possible.
  • Be polite. Say, "yes please," or "no thank you" if you are offered a cup of coffee, soda, etc. Manners go a long way with a potential boss. They will assume the manners you use with them will be the same manners you display with their customers.
  • Take notes. It shows you have an interest in the job/company. You don't have to write everything down, just the important points you want to remember later.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. Prepare some questions and write them down in a notebook that you bring with you so that you won't get nervous and forget. Potential employees who have questions seem much more interested than someone who sits quietly. Even if you know the answer to a question because your friend works at the company, the employer doesn't know you know it, so you should ask.
  • Make sure you thank the interviewer for their time and shake hands again at the end.

Questions You May Be Asked

Here are some sample questions that you may be asked during an interview. Prepare your answer in advance because these are all standard questions.

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1. Tell us about yourself.

This doesn't mean your whole life story. They want to know why you want the job and what you can bring to the business. It's always helpful to mention a goal. For example, you can say that you want to earn money for college, to buy a car, etc. Keep in mind that the longer you can stay at a job, the more an employer will be interested in you. So, if it is true, mention that you are a senior in high school and that you are going to the local community college for the next two years after graduation. This is good information for the employer to know because it means they can count on you to work for them for at least the next three years.

2. Why should we hire you for this job?

This is your opportunity to sell yourself, without bragging too much. Match your skills to the business you are applying to. If you have an interest in fashion and are applying to Kohl's or T.J. Maxx, tell them about your interest and that you love the clothes in the store. You can also say that you could be helpful to customers because you are familiar with their lines. If you have no experience but like to work with people, tell them that. If you are applying for a daycare position and plan to major in early childhood education in college, let your employer know. Also mention whatever skills you already have such as babysitting, first aid certification, etc. If you are punctual, dependable, never sick, can drive yourself to work, etc., make sure you let them know that as well.

3. What are your strengths?

This will all depend on what you have to offer. For the most part, they are looking for information like some of the above answers, such as dependability, organization, etc. For example, if you are applying for a cook's job, you should tell them about your skills in cooking. If you can type 100 words a minute and are going for a position in an office, mention it.

4. What are your weaknesses?

Blurting out all your weaknesses will not do much to increase your hiring prospects. What you can mention are things that you haven't had experience in, at least not yet. Follow it up by telling them you are a quick learner. If you haven't used a cash register before, say that. They will be training you anyway, so that's safe. You can also say you do better when trained for a specific job, and that you pick things up quickly once trained.

Questions You Can Ask Them

You should always be prepared with questions to ask the interviewer. Here are some examples:

  1. Can you tell me what a typical shift might look like in terms of work responsibilities?
  2. How many hours are typical in one shift?
  3. Can this position lead to other positions within the company (like a promotion or a chance to work in other departments)?
  4. Do you provide training and how many hours of training do you provide?
  5. When can I expect to hear from you regarding this position?

Follow Up

It's always very important to follow up with either a handwritten or typed thank you note or email. Before leaving, ask for the interviewer's business card so that you will have their contact information. They should receive the thank you 24–48 hours after your interview. The note doesn't have to be fancy—just a follow-up to let the interviewer know you are very interested. It also shows that you are polite as well!

Thank You Letter Example

Dear Ms. Jones,

Thank you very much for your time yesterday during my interview for the position of cashier. I enjoyed meeting you and hearing about the opportunities at Stop and Shop.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this position.


Sarah Smith

Good Luck!

Job interviews can be nerve wracking, but the more experience you have with them, the easier they will become.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Karen Hellier


Andrew0115 on July 19, 2017:

I run a business and so many kids interview for a job and dress horribly. They don’t know how to write a résumé, dress for an interview, or even look at me in the eye and answer questions confidently.

I think it’s important to teach kids about getting a job and why earning things is important. I also think it’s important to teach kids how to go on a job interview

and what employers are looking for.

I think kids would do great if they just had a little guidance or someone explained how to do a job interview. Here’s an example:

Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on June 16, 2016:

Carol Morris

Good point. Thanks for reminding everyone about that. Young people today don't realize what their social media platforms say to prospective employers.

Carol Morris on June 16, 2016:

One very important tip is to make sure your social media presence is clean. Interviewers usually check your social media so make sure you don't have anything there you wouldn't want them to see, and on the other hand, you can use this as a stepping stone by posting all the things you would like to brag about at the interview, but won't have time to or it isn't the right time to do it (eg. pics of volunteer work you've done - even if it isn't formal, hints of babysitting jobs, etc.). Once we interviewed someone who seemed good for the job, but having previously checked out her Facebook page we all knew she didn't have a chance.

Jason Roiz from Delhi on May 22, 2013:

Yeah sure your efforts will not go in vain. I am pretty sure whomsoever read this post will definitely cracked the interview.

Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on May 22, 2013:


Thanks. From personal experience helping teens I know that to read over these tips does help. My wish is that everyone who reads this gets a job in their next interview! Thanks for commenting.

Jason Roiz from Delhi on May 21, 2013:

Incredible tips. This will definitely help freshers to face interview .

Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on May 16, 2013:


Thanks for your kind comments. I saw too many kids being way to relaxed about job interviews when I worked in the Career Center at the local high school. And then of course they wouldn't get the job. I decided that a workshop was in order, and was quite happy when kids came back to me and told me they were hired after coming to the workshop in which I went over the above tips. I recently bumped into one former student who had taken my workshop, had 2 interviews at the career center before graduation, and still has the job he got hired for from that first interview 2 years ago. He told me those interviews were THE KEY to his future!!! He's now working in two different departments for that company, and going to college part time. He said without the prepping and those interviews, he would probably still be sitting on his mom's couch watching TV!!!

Douglas Lieth from NYC on May 15, 2013:

I agree with the commenters above, these tips are good for anyone going on a job interview. In my day it was a given that one showed up in a suit and tie even if it was for assistant toilet cleaner. Nowadays I see young people show up to an interview with ripped-jeans and sneakers. They should read a hub like this before they go.

Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on May 02, 2013:


Yay! You're welcome. I am glad he listened. I had 3 teens who never listened to me, but all their friends and classmates did when I worked in their high school's career center, so they were the ones who benefited. My son is in his early twenties now and is finally starting to pay attention to what I said back then! But I used to have other people talk to him when he wouldn't listen to "mom" and even tho they said the same things, he at least accepted the message from someone else, just as your son did. Glad to help.

chloe78 from Nebraska on May 02, 2013:

I enjoyed your article! I have a teenage son, and try to instill this list of what to do and what not to do in his head, and he thinks I'm crazy. SO , I showed him what you wrote, and he actually listened! :) Very informative...thanks!