Getting through a job interview can be nerve-wracking for anyone—adult or teen. And the thought of having to go through such an experience that is entirely virtual can induce even more anxiety for some people.
Recently, my daughter found out she’d be participating in an admissions interview for a university via “Zoom interview” and would be speaking with several interviewers. For teens who may soon be doing a virtual interview for a job, internship, or school admissions, here are the tips that helped her prepare for the experience:
Virtual Interview Tips for Teens
1. Practice in advance
At least one day before the interview, your teen should download and practice with the software they will be using. They might be a practiced pro with Zoom, but unfamiliar with the software that a particular company is currently using. If they’re able, they should conduct a practice session with a parent or a friend so they are familiar with the connection and set-up details.
2. Show up fully charged
Your teen should make sure that the battery for whatever device they will be using is fully charged at least a few hours before they are set to begin. Running out of battery during an interview is not a good look for a potential employee or student.
3. Shine a light
Have your teen make sure the lighting in the room is bright enough and in front of them. They may need to place a small lamp behind their screen, or position themselves near a window. They shouldn’t sit with bright light directly behind them, as that will shadow their face. Also, they should try to look at their camera (rather than the person on screen) as much as possible when answering questions so that the interviewer experiences direct eye contact with them.
4. Set the stage
Remind your teen that what’s behind them is important! An interviewer doesn’t want to be distracted by other people’s conversations or a TV or music playing the background. If your teen’s bedroom wall is covered with images that could be controversial or offensive, have them move to another room if they can, or temporarily cover their wall with something neutral.
5. Dress for success
As with an in-person interview, your teen should choose their clothes wisely—even if they only need to think about their top half. Keep in mind the old saying, “Dress for the job (or school) you want.” No one will be expecting a teen to be wearing a suit jacket or tie, but they will want to wear something clean and unwrinkled. Again, go for something neutral without any potentially offensive image or words on it.
6. Do your research
Your teen should spend some time on the school’s or company’s website and know their mission, philosophy, and core focus. They should Google the person or people they will be talking to so that they know their position and background. Interviewers are impressed when applicants are prepared with information that proves they’ve spent time learning about the business or institution and can already speak to how they’ll fit in.
7. Ask questions
Your teen should have a written list of questions to ask of the interviewer. Even if they think they will remember what they want to ask, it’s easy to forget after they have taken in a lot of information. If the interviewer has preemptively answered the few questions they had written down, it’s always good to ask “experience” type questions:
- “What was your personal experience like when you first started working for the company?”
- “How would you say the experience of going to school at this college has changed from when you went there to how it is now?”
- “Is there anything I can do before I start that would improve my experience were I to become an employee, an intern, or a student?”
8. Be prepared to answer questions
Your teen should have a hardcopy of their resume next to them during their interview, even if they have already sent a copy. This is extremely helpful for when they are asked a “Tell us about yourself” question and don’t want to risk forgetting to mention an important achievement or skill that they have attained in the past.
9. Don’t forget the thank you note
Just as with any in-person interview, your teen should send an email note of thanks within a day of their conversation. This sends a message that they are a thoughtful and enthusiastic potential member of the school or organization. Their note can simply thank their interviewer for their time and restate that they believe they are a great match, as well as mentioning they are open to further questions, should the potential school or employer have any.
As my daughter learned, a virtual interview doesn’t have to be any more stressful than an in-person interview. And, with a little advance preparation and practice, she was able to sail successfully through the experience.