How to do it: The Teen Summer Job Interview

The end of the school year is in sight; it’s time for high school and college students to line up their summer jobs.

But with the tough economy, competition for even part-time work is stiff. To land a job, a young person has to stand out in the interview. Here’s a primer for teens on how to make a great first impression and get hired for the job.

1. Look Sharp
According to professional image and etiquette expert Patricia Cook, a lasting first impression is made within 30 seconds, and the biggest factor is appearance. A potential employer will think more favorably about a teen if he or she is well groomed and neatly dressed.

Cook recommends that guys wear a tucked-in collared shirt, belt, and nice jeans or khakis. Girls should look neat and put-together—a skirt or nice pants and a blouse—and avoid anything tight or revealing.

2. Body Talk
The second most important element in making a good impression is body language. A teen who sits up straight, smiles, makes eye contact and listens attentively will appear bright, assured and likable—all qualities employers look for.

3. Winning Introduction
Cook urges both guys and girls to stand up and offer a firm handshake when greeting the interviewer.

“Always use your first and last name when introducing yourself,” she says. “A person who says ‘Hello, Mr. Smith, my name is Robin Green’ communicates confidence and poise.”

4. Think it Through—Why You?
Before the interview, candidates should consider what the job requires and how their skills and experience fit the position.

Shari Heymann, who hires 120 new and returning lifeguards each summer to staff Highland Park’s Hidden Creek AquaPark, says “It’s important that kids understand the job they’re applying for, have a sense for how they qualify, and know their schedule. They should have an agenda.”

Patricia Cook agrees. She tells teens to “go into the interview with a goal. Decide what makes you the ideal candidate for the job and work those facts into the conversation.”

5. Speak Up
Most summer jobs require teens to interact with customers as well as work with their peers as a team. So, employers value teens with good attitudes and communication skills.

“The main thing I look for are teens who talk,” says Heymann. “If they can talk to me and have the confidence to ask questions, it shows me they’ll be able to communicate with the public and other guards.”

To avoid feeling nervous about speaking up, Cook recommends bringing a written list of questions to the interview.

Interviewing Dos & Don’ts


  • Record a polite voicemail greeting on your cell phone
  • Think through why you fit the job
  • Prepare questions in advance
  • Arrive early
  • Dress neatly and appropriately
  • Offer your hand for a firm handshake
  • Introduce yourself with first and last name
  • Sit up straight
  • Look the interviewer in the eye
  • Bring pen and paper for notes
  • Give concise answers
  • Say thank you at the end of the meeting


  • Be late
  • Wear a hat, ripped jeans or a T-shirt with a logo
  • Wear tight or revealing clothing (girls)
  • Show boxer shorts or lingerie straps
  • Let hair cover your face
  • Slouch, put your hands in your pockets, or lean far back in your chair
  • Chew gum
  • Check cell phone
  • Act bored or disinterested
  • Ramble
  • Use slang
  • Have a silly or crude email address