Interviews can be far less daunting when teenagers prepare well. Parents can help enormously by speaking positively about interviews they have had and giving teens practical advice. Here are some points you can share with your teens or give them a copy of the advice provided here.
The following suggestions include some examples of comments and answers teens may like to use in interviews. When teens enter an interview knowing that they have prepared well, the outcome is generally far more positive. Entering an interview knowing you have thought carefully about possible questions is very reassuring.
Students need to know that it is important to shake hands with the interviewer at the start of the interview and briefly introduce themselves. It’s said that a firm handshake is best, but tell your teenager not to overdo it. It’s not a silly idea for students to practice shaking hands with friends or parents. Students also need to know that it is important to thank the interviewer at the end of the interview and shake hands as part of this.
Remember eye contact
Maintaining good eye contact with the interviewer is also important as well as strong body language. Students need to know that it is important to sit up rather than slouch and to make sure they are not fidgeting or tapping their fingers on the desk. Folding arms is also not a good idea as it makes the person look nervous or defensive. Teenagers need to practice sitting in a chair and finding how to sit comfortably with hands casually rested in their lap. There are great YouTube clips that are fun to watch.
It’s important for students to prepare for each interview by thinking carefully about the job/course and researching it on relevant websites. They can then write a list of possible questions and think about how they would answer these. Some questions are commonly asked at many interviews and students can start by preparing for these:
- Are you confident that you could handle this job/course?
- Why do you want this job/course? Why are you interested?
- What do you know about this company/course/job? (Research well!)
- Do you think you have the ability to handle the tasks required? (Have concrete examples to give rather than just saying ‘Yes’.)
- Why should we offer you this job/place in this course?
Speak from the heart
Students should not try to memorize ‘perfect’ answers to any questions. This can make the answers sound hollow and unimpressive. People respect honesty and passion. Rather than memorizing answers, students simply need to think carefully before each interview and write down a list of their major achievements, skills and life experience that is relevant for that interview.
Listen and give examples
Students need to know that it is important to listen carefully to the question being asked and generally always answer questions with more than one word answers. As a good rule of thumb, students should always give answers that include examples or evidence. Here are a few quick examples…
- ‘Yes, I am confident that I could handle this job because I am aware of the high level of responsibility and the tasks involved. I am a responsible person and have had a lot of experience in positions of responsibility at my school. I was a member of the school SRC. As a student leader, I often spoke at level assemblies and acted as a student ambassador at Open Days and other school events.’
- ‘I would be a good person to take into this course because I am passionate about working in film and TV. I have made several short films at school and several in my own time at home. I have developed a good set of editing skills (mention a few). I spend a lot of time researching new film and editing techniques and regularly read magazine X (only say this if it’s true!). This is a career area I really love and I would work extremely hard if you offered me a place in the course.’
- ‘I have thought a lot about this course and it is exactly what I want to do. I attended your Open Day and was really impressed with the student work and the information staff gave me. I know the course is very rigorous but I am excited about the work and want to do really well academically. I really like the subjects you offer, especially…’ (If you have mentioned work you admired on an Open Day, be able to describe what you liked if asked. Never make things up!)
- ‘I am confident that I could handle the tasks required because I have been involved in helping to organize my school sports carnival. I have also coached a junior cricket team as well as delivering prescriptions for my local pharmacy. I have had a lot of experience communicating with a wide variety of people – both younger and older – and I am very reliable and trustworthy.’
Students need to be reminded that they should always be honest with their answers. Guessing an answer or making it up as they go is a recipe for eventual disaster. Most interviewers are very experienced and can quickly spot insincerity. Being caught out is extremely embarrassing and can blow the entire interview.
Students need to know that if they don’t know the answer to a particular question, they should be honest about this. Interviewers will appreciate honesty. If a student simply says, ‘I haven’t heard of that’, or, ‘I’m not familiar with that’ the interviewer will move on with other questions or find another question to elicit the desired information. Students should not feel that they have let themselves down or will be unsuccessful because of this. Honesty and integrity beat slyness and deception every time.
Dress for success
Students should be advised that it is better to dress conservatively for most interviews rather than casually. This make a good impression and shows respect for the whole interview process.
Be on time
Arriving on time for an interview is a must. If students are relying on public transport, they should always allow extra time.
It is a good idea to prepare a few questions you would like answered. ‘Could I ask you whether there would be any overseas placements available in this course? Are they expensive?’ Good questions show that applicants have really thought about the job/course.
At the end of the interview, teens should always thank the interviewer/s. It is easy for a nervous teen to forget this in the first few interviews but it will soon become an automatic response. This is why it is so important for young people to go for a number of less important interviews before the really important interviews are on the horizon. Practice really does make perfect.