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13 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, director of an overnight summer camp, 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.

Tips for Your First Job 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. Look the interviewer in the eye

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

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.

5. Don’t be afraid to pause before answering questions

This shows thoughtfulness and will often lead to better responses than just speaking immediately.

6. 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!

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. Come prepared with a few questions

Asking questions shows that you take initiative and that you’ve done your homework.

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

Seems 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 son 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!

Jodi Sperling

Jodi Sperling is the former director of Camp Wise.