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14 Helpful First Job Interview Tips for Your Teenager

Your teenager is on her way out the door to her first job interview—in jeans and a tank top. Your inclination is to yell, “NO! Don’t go dressed like that!” Jodi Sperling, senior consultant on overnight camping, agrees with your assessment. She sees the mistakes that teenagers make for their first job interview.

Every winter, over 200 teenagers and college students interview for 130 summer positions. Hiring is a competitive process, and only the best applicants are selected. “The interview is crucial for us,” says Sperling. “We’re hiring people who are the best role models for our kids, so we want staff who are confident, happy, and warm. If someone can’t convey that in an interview, we won’t hire them.” Your Teen asked Sperling to share some first job interview tips for parents to give their teens to help them secure a job.

Before the Interview:

1. Do your homework.

Know the position and company before you go to the interview. If the company has a website, spend some time on it and familiarize yourself with what they do and how they do it.

2. Connect the dots.

Before your interview think about any work, hobbies, or volunteering that could translate into skills for the job. Babysitting can show that you’re responsible and caring. Sports teams can show that you’re a team player. You can turn any experience into relevant job experience with a little creativity!

3. Dress professionally.

You probably don’t need to be in a suit, but looking clean and put together shows a professionalism that any employee will admire, even if you’re interviewing for a position where the dress is more casual.

4. Be on time.

Simple. Easy. Not always. Plan to give yourself extra time in case you hit unexpected traffic. You are better off arriving early and sitting in your car for a few minutes than arriving late.

During the Interview:

5. Look the interviewer in the eye.

More than anything else, eye contact conveys confidence and maturity.

6. Think before you speak.

Don’t be afraid to pause before answering questions. This shows thoughtfulness and will often lead to better responses than just speaking immediately.

7. Don’t swear!

Sometimes words that are part of your regular speech would be judged by an adult as unprofessional and immature.

8. Turn off your cellphone.

This is a big one. Turn your cellphone off and put it away. Don’t leave it out where you might be tempted to look at it during the interview.

9. Ask a few questions.

Asking questions shows that you take initiative and that you’ve done your homework. It also shows that you’re interested in the job and that you’re curious about what you’ll do.

10. Sell yourself.

In an interview you want the interviewer to think that you are the best possible person for the job. Don’t be embarrassed to highlight your strengths.

11. Don’t chew gum.

This etiquette may seem obvious but Sperling sees teenagers come in with gum. So obvious to an adult isn’t always obvious to a high school student. Remind your teen to leave the gum in the car.

12. Project confidence.

Even if you’re really nervous, the interviewer doesn’t need to know that. You want to convey that you’re comfortable in new situations, so even if you’re shaking, tell yourself the job is yours and you’ll do great.

13. Smile!

After the Interview:

14. Send a thank you note.

Not only does a thank you note give you the opportunity to say that you appreciate the time your potential employer took to speak with you but also it provides you a chance to share any additional information that you may have left out of your interview and to confirm your interest in the job.

If you want to really stand out, hand write one the old-fashioned way.

Jodi Sperling

Jodi Sperling is the former director of Camp Wise.