5 Interview Tips for Teens

So, you’re ready to get a job?  Work is a great first step toward earning more freedom at home, building a resume, and saving up for something parents won’t buy (like a gaming computer or a car).  But before you start counting dollar signs in your sleep, you’ll need to ace your interview.  Here are five tips for teens to do just that

  1. Browse the website.

It’s always good to know a little bit about the company you plan to work for.  Just because you’ve been eating McNuggets since you were two years old, does not mean you know everything about McDonald’s or any other place you’ve applied.  Take a few minutes to see what information you can find.  Keep an eye out for a mission statement or company values and employee benefits like scholarship opportunities.  

  1. Practice some O&As. (Questions & Answers)
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What do you think you can contribute to our team?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell me something I don’t know about you.

These are just a few examples of the questions you might be asked when you walk into an interview.  Sort of personal, huh?  Yes, interviews can be a little bit personal.  While an interviewer doesn’t need your whole life story, they do need to know enough about you to get a feel for if you’d be a good fit on their team, if you’d work well with others, and if you’re a hard worker.  

In your answers, keep it real and respectful.  If you don’t have any work experience, don’t write up a fake resume.  Just be honest about your willingness to learn and work hard.  Focus on what you can do for the company, rather than what the company can do for you.  Everyone knows you are there to get a paycheck, but that should never be your answer to the question, “Why do you want to work here?”  Put some thought into what you might say in an interview by practicing with a friend or family member ahead of time.

  1. Keep Calm and Carry Mints.

Interviews can be a little nerve-wracking.  At least, they are for me.  The best we can do is, “Keep calm and carry mints”.  I find that the taste of mint, the feel of a coffee in my hands, or the smell of eucalyptus lotion between my fingers before an interview really takes the edge off.  Every person has their own sensory set of tools—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches—that help them relax.  Maybe you like listening to your favorite music and massaging each of your hands.  Do what works for you.  

Pair using your senses with some deep breathing before an interview.  Deep breathing is more than sucking in a bunch of air all at once.  Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, deep breathing is when you make your belly push out instead of your chest.  Take a good pull of air in through you nose until your belly rises, and then let it out through your mouth, watching your belly fall. 

  1. Be your best self.

You are awesome!  Did you know that?  If you forgot, it’s okay, because sometimes we all need a reminder.  Make sure you remind yourself before your interview about how awesome you are, because you are more likely to be your best self if you are feeling that way.  

There are a few practical things you can do to be your best self, too.  Shower.  Dry and brush your hair.  Wear deodorant.  Put on clean, unwrinkled clothes.  In most cases, business-casual is the way to go.  Khakis, polos, dresses, blouses, slacks, dress boots, flats—you get the idea.  If you don’t have these things, talk to your guidance counselor to see if they know of any local career clothing banks where you can get assistance with interview clothes. 

Another way to show off your best self?  Use your manners.  Show up ten or so minutes early and wait patiently for your interview.  Shake hands with the interviewer, or bump elbows if COVID numbers are high.  In general, be polite and respectful.

  1. THINK before you speak.

You’ll never know exactly what the interviewer is going to ask, even if you’ve prepared by practicing Q&As.  That’s why THINK is a great acronym to remind you to tell the Truth, be Honest, be Inspiring, only say what’s Necessary, and always be Kind.  If you apply this to everything you say, you won’t be bad-mouthing a friend, a former employer, a teacher, or a parent in the interview.  That’s neither necessary nor kind.  Instead, you’ll be focused inspiring hope in the interviewer that they’ve found a good fit for their team.

That, my friends, wraps up our five interview tips for teens.  Be sure to check back every couple of weeks for fresh posts on all things related to being a Future Achiever.  And, good luck on that interview!  We think you’re going to ace it!