Job Interview Tips for Teens
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!
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.
It's always helpful to prepare ahead before going in. Be a shopper or a customer at the business you hope to be employed at. 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 5 different positions you could apply for.
If you are applying at 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 prior to 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
- Be on time. If possible, showing up 5 -10 minutes early is best.
- You need to impress 2 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 a weak 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 people 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 you may be asked during an interview. Prepare your answer in advance because these are all standard questions.
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 good 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 3 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...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:
- Can you tell me what a typical shift might look like in terms of work responsibilities?
- How many hours are typical in one shift?
- Can this position lead to other positions within the company (like a promotion or a chance to work in other departments)?
- Do you provide training and how many hours of training do you provide?
- When can I expect to hear from you regarding this position?
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 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.
Job interviews can be nerve wracking, but the more experience you have with them, the easier they will become.