Make us your home page

Help your teen prepare for job interview

When our kids attend awards ceremonies or other events where they have to be on their best behavior, we run through the basics: a reminder on how to shake hands (firm grip and good eye contact), courteous greetings and politeness. • They're teens now, and I hope they have learned by now that following those social rules not only may get them invited to next year's birthday party but also will help when it's time to find a job. • So, parents, since kids are starting to look for summer gigs, it's not a bad idea to role-play with your teens about how to ask for a job application, how to handle themselves in an interview and how to follow up. Here are a few places to start the conversation:

Dress neatly. You don't have to wear a suit, but make sure your shoes are shined and your clothes are clean and pressed. Consider your audience: If you're applying at a construction site, jeans are okay. But torn jeans? Never. Wherever you apply, leave at home the flip-flops, T-shirts with provocative slogans and low-cut camisoles.

Don't chew gum or show up at the interview wearing iPod headphones around your neck. Think that's obvious? Pam Laughlin, director of career services for Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, has heard stories that some job seekers leave the buds in their ears and insist to the interviewer that they can still hear.

Leave Mom and Dad in the car, Laughlin said. They don't belong at job interviews. Laughlin said some parents insist on sitting in during interviews and career counseling sessions.

Do your homework and find out as much as you can about the organization, recommended Kathy Rapp, vice president and managing director for hrQ, a human resources search, staffing and consulting firm in Houston.

You'll appear more knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and when it comes time to ask questions, you'll have some good ones, said Rapp, whose first interview at the age of 15 got her a job as a swim instructor and lifeguard at her local YMCA.

"I really wanted the job, and I think that came through," said Rapp, who eventually got a college scholarship from the nonprofit.

Rapp recommended using to search for people you or your parents know who work at a company and might give you a leg up. It's always better to have a referral than send in a blind application.

Make sure you ask questions during the interview. But make sure they're not about the basics that you easily could have found on the company's website, said Jackie Verity, a career coach and owner of Kaleidoscope Careers in Houston. Asking for simple information about products, services or locations shows you might not have researched the company in advance.

That happens a lot, Verity said. And employers find it annoying.

Prepare what's known as an "elevator speech" — a brief introduction that tells the basics of who you are and why you're interested in the job. Think of it as a presentation you can make in the time it takes you to ride in an elevator.

Practice it and remember to include the things you do in school or home that relate to the job, Laughlin said, something like: "I'm a senior in high school, and I have experience programming and developing websites."

Don't forget to follow up on your application or interview. You can call a few days later and remind the interviewer how much you appreciated the meeting and how much you'd like the job. And send a note.

"No one sends a written thank-you note anymore," Rapp said. "It will set you apart."

Many times the job goes to the applicant who follows up because the effort shows interest and initiative. What employer doesn't like that?

Help your teen prepare for job interview 04/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Houston Chronicle.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Allegiant Air strands 200 in Las Vegas, possibly for days


    What happened in Vegas will stay in Vegas — at least until Thursday for about 200 Allegiant Air passengers who were stranded Sunday when their flight to Oklahoma City was canceled.

    About 200 Allegiant Air passengers are stranded in Las Vegas, perhaps for days. Allegiant's headquarters, shown here, is located in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, Nevada.
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]

  2. Cott Corp. sells beverage manufacturing business for $1.25 billion


    TAMPA — Cott Corp., a beverage manufacturer with headquarters in Tampa and Toronto, announced Tuesday it is selling its national beverage manufacturing business to Refresco for $1.25 billion.

    Cott Corp CEO Jerry Fowden
[Handout photo]
  3. Duke Energy Florida again ranks last in J.D. Power satisfaction survey


    ST. PETERSBURG — Another J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey, another last place annual ranking for Duke Energy Florida.

    Duke Energy Florida president. Can he improve the utility's customer satisfaction ratings?
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times file photo]
  4. Trigaux: Florida's jobless rate looks great — but 25 other state rates look even better

    Economic Development

    No debate here: Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop — even as more people move to Florida and enter the workforce. What's not to like?

    Who remembers the remarkable lines of hundreds of people looking for construction work in Tampa back in March of 2010 at a job fair at the Encore construction site near downtown Tampa? Now the construction industry is struggling to find skilled workers to meet building demand. [
  5. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]