Getting your first job is an exciting step toward independence and freedom for teens. Now that you’ve started your job search, you may be more eager than ever to start earning your own money and feeling more independent. There are so many types of part-time jobs available to teens, and knowing how to present yourself as the right candidate for the job is important.
The good news is you can help yourself nail the job interview by preparing in advance. Thankfully, common interview questions aren’t exactly top secret. Most interviews include some similar questions and if you’ve prepared answers ahead of time, you’re more likely to make a positive impression.
Here, we’ve listed the most common job interview questions for teens along with sample answers to help you develop your own response.
7 Common interview questions for teens
Below are some typical interview questions you may be asked. While we provide sample answers, we suggest you take the time to write out or rehearse your own responses. Take into consideration your experience, personality, and how comfortable you are about sharing. Your responses should strike a balance between being your authentic self and presenting a professional image.
1. Tell me about yourself
This open-ended question is often the first one asked in an interview. While it seems like a simple question to answer, under the stress of an interview, you may struggle to come up with what to say.
Being prepared can help make sure your response relates to the job and is relatively brief. It can also help prevent you from mistakenly oversharing. The interviewer is interested in learning about what matters to you, your personality traits, and how well you’d fit into the job. This question can also help break the ice and build rapport for the rest of the interview. Because you probably don’t have any work experience yet, your answer can focus on your personal interests, responsibilities at home or school, and extracurricular activities you’re involved in.
Ideally, your answer should start out broad, then zero in on a few important personal details that showcase your best traits. Conclude your response by relating your traits to the job.
I’m in grade 11 and have been on the honour roll since grade nine. I’m a member of my high school robotics league and this year my team came in first for the school board’s annual robotics championship. I really like computer programming and learning how to solve difficult problems as part of a team. I think that would help me in this role as a computer programming camp leader. I like to help others figure things out and rarely get frustrated even when the problem seems impossible at first.
Read more: How to make a resume for teens with examples
2. Why are you interested in working for us?
The employer wants to know if you’ve done any research about the job, company, or industry. Your answer will help the interviewer determine how much you’ll care about this position and how you’ll perform the required duties. If you can show that you have a personal interest in working for the company, such as you want to build a certain skill or are passionate about the industry, the interviewer will recognize your willingness to work hard and act responsibly.
I began baking bread with my mom when I was young, and over the past year I’ve really gotten into making desserts. My specialty is apple pie, which my family loves. I want to work at your bakery because I love baking and I want to keep learning new skills in the kitchen. One day, I hope to open my own bakery.
Read more: Best summer jobs for teens
3. Tell me about a recent problem and how you solved it
This question is an opportunity for you to showcase your problem solving skills while highlighting your ability to stay calm under pressure. You should provide one strong example that explains the problem you faced, how you responded to it, and what the outcome was. Typically, this problem would relate to an experience at work, but as a teen without professional experience, you can use an example related to a school or extracurricular activity.
This year, I’m president of our high school’s eco-awareness group and one of the biggest issues we noticed was how much plastic litter was in the cafeteria. I suggested we run a plastic-free month to encourage students to bring reusable containers to school instead and had people sign up to commit to going plastic-free. But we also didn’t want things to just go back to the way they were when the month ended. I spoke to the high school cafeteria manager and asked her if they could stop selling food plastic containers. She agreed to switch to paper dishes and paper straws for most of their menu items, and are now looking into changing their cutlery to something more sustainable as well.
4. What is something you’re proud of accomplishing?
When an interviewer asks this question, it’s to discover your work ethic and learn more about what motivates you. Do you set goals for yourself? Do you appreciate the rewards of a job well-done? To answer this job interview question well, prepare an answer using a recent accomplishment that showcases your work ethic, sense of responsibility, and an important skill you’ve developed.
One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of is landing a role in my high school’s musical. When I joined the drama club in grade nine, I was really shy and had a hard time speaking in public. All the members of the club had to set a goal they wanted to achieve before graduating high school, and I said I wanted to be in a musical. It seemed like such an impossible goal at the time. But I have always loved to sing and dreamed of being in a musical since I was really young. This year I auditioned for the lead role in the musical, Grease. I didn’t get that role, but I did get another part which I was super excited about. The entire experience was so incredible and has helped a lot with my self-confidence.
5. Describe a time you showed leadership
Employers ask this question because they want to be assured you have a strong sense of responsibility for your actions and are capable of making smart decisions to handle a variety of situations in the workplace. An interviewer may also be looking for a candidate who will be able to take on increasing responsibility and leadership in the business. While anyone can say they have leadership skills, a personal example helps prove you have the ability.
I worked on a group project for my history class last semester with two other classmates. We each had a role and the plan was to meet two times ahead of the due date to ensure the project stayed on track. After the first meeting, I realized I was the only one doing the work and was worried we would not complete the project on time, and I wouldn’t get the A I wanted. I decided to make a checklist for each of our roles and asked to meet every other day to ensure everyone was getting through their list. I found this helped to get the project back on track and I was also able to help the other two get through their checklist when they were struggling. We got that A that I’d hoped for.
Read more: How to write a cover letter for students
6. What is your availability?
This is a common question asked during job interviews with teens since the hours for a part-time job can vary significantly. Before your interview, consider your current time commitments related to sports, lessons, and homework. It’s important to be honest when you answer, or you may end up with too many hours than you can juggle. Alternatively, if you want a minimum number of hours, it’s also okay to ask the employer how many shifts you’ll get per week.
I can work any day during the school week, but prefer to not work more than two shifts per week so I can keep up with my schoolwork. I can also work Saturdays, but am not available on Sunday mornings.
Read more: 14 best part-time jobs for teens
7. Do you have any questions for me?
Once the interview is drawing to an end, the interviewer often asks if you have any questions. While it is tempting to simply say no, the more ideal response is to ask at least one question. This shows you’ve carefully considered the job, are interested in it, and have listened to what the interviewer has said. Think of one or two general questions ahead of the interview to ask, however don’t ask them if the questions have already been answered through the interview. Here are some potential questions you may want to ask:
What are the next steps in hiring?
How long is a typical shift and how many shifts per week will I be scheduled for?
How many other staff would I be working with if I’m hired for this job?
Is there any official training for this job?
What do you like most about working here?
Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
Job interview tips for teens
Preparing answers in advance is one of the best ways to ensure you ace your job interview. But that’s just one aspect of getting hired. Here are some job interview tips to help improve your chances of getting a job offer:
Do your research
You may wonder why you need to do research for a job as straightforward as flipping burgers or ringing in purchases, but employers may be looking at many candidates for a single job. And, the candidates that show they have some knowledge and interest in the company will have an edge over those who don’t. Be sure to visit the company website and its social media to get a feel for the company culture and brand. You may also learn important details, like what the company most values in its employees, which you can leverage during the interview.
Practice answering interview questions
If you’ve come up with answers to potential interview questions, you’re already well on your way to impressing the interviewer. But how you deliver those answers is just as important! Be sure to practice answering interview questions as this can help you stick to what you want to say (and prevent rambling). Practicing also ensures you remember those answers you spent so much time crafting! You can practice by role playing with a friend or family member, or sit in your bedroom and talk out loud to yourself. Saying your answers out loud can help combat nerves as it can be easy to forget what you’d planned to say.
Many teens wonder what to wear to an interview. While it used to be common practice to show up in a business suit, those rules no longer apply. Most employers don’t expect candidates to show up at an interview in formal work attire. However, you should dress professionally, regardless of what type of job you’re applying for. This usually means a collared shirt (rather than a graphic t-shirt) or blouse, a pair of cotton pants or knee-length skirt. Once you begin the job, you can adjust your wardrobe according to the workplace standards.
Arrive on time
Showing up for your job interview a few minutes ahead of schedule will make a great first impression. Even if the interviewer isn’t ready on time, your promptness won’t go unnoticed. Arriving late may indicate to the employer that you will also arrive late to your shifts and won’t take the job seriously. To ensure you arrive on time, confirm how you’ll get to the interview (especially if someone is driving you) and plan to be dressed and ready to go well ahead of schedule. This can give you extra time to practice your answers again and take some deep breaths to calm your nerves. Showing up frazzled because you’ve rushed to get there isn’t a great way to start an interview.
Go to the interview on your own
One of the many reasons you want a part-time job may be more independent. There’s no better time to start than during the job interview. It’s important you show up on your own—even if your mom or dad (or a friend) drove you there. An employer wants to know you’re mature enough to handle the job, and may have doubts about that if you arrive with someone by your side giving you a pep talk. If you get a lift to the interview, ask the driver to park so you can walk in on your own, and advise you’ll text when the interview is complete.
Follow up with a thank you note
Sending a thank you note via email after the interview shows the employer you appreciated the opportunity to explain why you want the position. It also helps keep your name top-of-mind for the interviewer who may have spoken to several other candidates over the course of a few days. Wait until the next day to send a thank you note and keep it brief and to the point. For example: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday to discuss the cashier position. I would be thrilled to work for your company and look forward to hearing back from you.
Learn from the experience
Even if you follow every bit of advice to ace your job interview, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the job. Many people go through dozens of interviews before landing a job, and it’s not necessarily personal. There’s so many reasons why an employer chooses one candidate over others. That being said, take every job interview as a learning experience to keep improving.
Job interviews can be stressful for people of all ages across every career level (don’t believe us? Ask your parents!). So, if you feel nervous about your upcoming interview, know that it’s normal and expected. While you may not be able to eliminate your jitters completely, you can take steps to ensure you perform your best despite those sweaty palms. Preparing in advance is worth the time and effort. Not only can it improve your interview performance, you’ll also increase your odds of landing your first job sooner rather than later.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.
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