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Image via Empowerteen

Interview Tips from 14 Year Olds

Written By Hannah Risser-Sperry | Aug 10, 2018

Here at Mathys+Potestio, we enjoy the wonderful tradition of Summer Fridays. Every other week between Memorial Day and Labor Day, each of us get a three day weekend to relax, enjoy the weather, and, if we’re honest, probably work from home a little bit (we know, but c’mon! we like our jobs!).

And then there are the truly dedicated humans who use their down time to volunteer. Nicole Anderson and Grace Tuss, two recruiters in our Portland office, recently used their Fridays to volunteer with Empowerteen, a local organization taking a holistic and integrative approach to empowering adolescents, helping them to take charge of their own health and happiness.

For this event, Nicole and Grace were sitting with a group of young women and taking them through mock interviews. It was Grace’s first year and Nicole’s second, and they were both impressed by the clarity of the girls’ career paths; some already had related volunteer gigs at age 14! The group had a healthy mix of socioeconomic backgrounds. Some came from steady homes while others were in foster care (and planning a career helping foster kids, to boot); one already helps her family pay the bills.

Interviewing is a tricky skill, and most of us aren’t at ease right away. Yet the young women that Nicole and Grace met asked good, thoughtful questions and seemed comfortable in large part due to their time at Empowerteen. Not only that, but the majority had career aspirations aimed at helping people, with many relating those aspirations to personal experience.

With all this in mind, we put together a few interview tips based on the interviews with these young people. Read on to learn from the minds of 13-16 year olds; we promise you’ll learn something.

1. Don’t limit your experience to just work experience.
Most of these young women didn’t have true work experience yet, but they cited relevant volunteer work or internships. I had one interviewee explain how, in her volunteer work at a camp, she had to be detail-orientated and flexible when changes came through in order to execute the activities smoothly. These are both skills most employers look for in a candidate.

2. Be specific and able to explain where your passion comes from.
One young woman explained that being creative through art helps her deal with her feelings as she becomes a teenager. She wants to dedicate herself to helping other teens express themselves, as well by creating a support group at school. This helped me understand her passion and what it’s rooted in.

2a. Never get disconnected from what you’re most passionate about.
Sometimes you end up in a job “to pay the bills” that isn’t the ideal next step in your career path. You do what you gotta do. I was thoroughly impressed with all of the girls I spoke with and how laser-focused they already were on their passions and career goals, so my advice to them was simple: no matter what direction life steers you in, if (when) you hit detours in your career path, to always stay connected and reminded of the core passions (and these can change!) that drive you. After all, a passion can’t always be one that pays; make sure you’re feeding those interests somehow, even if in some volunteer capacity.

3. Be authentic.
Before answering the first question, I had one interviewee let me know that she was nervous. She said she may pause, but that was her way of processing her thoughts. I appreciated that honesty and it helped me to not feel awkward about a little silence before she answered.

4. You are interviewing the company and manager just as much as they are interviewing you.
Some of the girls I spoke with didn’t have any questions for me, so we talked about making sure to bring questions to a job interview, particularly so they could learn more about the company they are interviewing with and the hiring manager. They also should be thinking about whether the company and manager they’re talking with is a good fit for them. As much as they might need a job, they want to avoid ending up in a role they’re miserable in due to the working conditions, or at a place that doesn’t support their career growth and goals.

5. Even if it isn’t your dream job, it could be a great stepping stone. 
I challenged the girls I spoke with to consider thinking about the experience and skills they can gain from a job, even if it isn’t their dream job. What they learn could help them advance further on the career path they desire, and it doesn’t have to come strictly from paid work; volunteering and non-paid opportunities are great places to gain work experience.

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