the weird world of interviewing teenagers

The approach that you use when you’re hiring adults doesn’t always work when you’re talking to teenagers who may have never worked a job before. For this week’s episode of the Ask a Manager podcast, I talked about hiring teenagers with the co-owner of summer camp who has interviewed tons of teens for jobs as camp counselors … and it is FASCINATING.

We talked about the differences between interviewing teenagers and adults, how to get teenagers to open up in interviews, how to evaluate fit when someone has no work experience, and much more. This is one of my favorite episodes of the show so far, and I highly recommend it!

The show is 28 minutes long, and you can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, the iHeartRadio app, or wherever else you get your podcasts (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen above.

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. KR*

    Just listened to this. It’s a great interview. I spent a lot of time supervising people in high school and the first few years of college. It’s definitely a lot different than working with older adults and requires a different managing approach (especially when you are only a couple years older than they are)!

  2. A Teacher*

    High School Health Careers Teacher chiming in! We will be listening to this in class this week. Perfect timing :)

  3. nnn*

    Haven’t listened yet, but this is the sort of thing I would have loved to have access to when I was a teenager looking for work! I couldn’t even fathom what potential might have wanted from me, and all the job interview advice that reached me was for people who had work experience.

    1. nnn*

      It could also be interesting for someone/a group of someones who often hire teens to put together a FAQ of “things teens don’t realize job interviewers are looking for” or similar. For example, when I was in school, I had always been given the impression that a long list of extracurriculars was impressive, but it made potential employers see me as likely to have scheduling conflicts.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        That’s a great point. I had no idea at the time that an employer wasn’t looking for the same things as, say, a 4-H project judge.

      2. Someone Else*

        Yup. Things that look good in a college admissions interview != things that look good in a job interview.

  4. Mrs. Fenris*

    I’ll have to get my kids to listen to this. My daughter is 15 and hasn’t job searched yet, but I went through it with my son a couple of years ago. I was trying to help him with some of the resources from AAM, but most of it didn’t really apply to him (and now, thank goodness, he has several months’ experience in the skilled trades).

  5. B'Elanna*

    I cringe when I recall my interviews as a teenager. I was clueless, but my interviewers often times got a good laugh. And I still got hired. :)

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I look back on my whole teenage career and cringe – I was clueless. But I suppose the adults who were dealing with me did have other teenage employees to compare me to … it’s not like it was an office of white collar professionals and one 14 year old waitress / lifeguard / dogwalker. Among my peers I was probably average.

  6. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    This is really interesting! I interview prospective students for my alma mater, which is a different situation because it’s not really a job and they’re on the older end of teenagers, but there’s a lot of overlap in the sense that a big part of my responsibility is to put applicants at ease and make sure they can be themselves.

    1. the gold digger*

      I do that, too! And I really just want a sense of who they are. The admissions office looks at their grades and test scores and references. All I want to know is if this is someone I would want to have a conversation with at a homecoming in ten years. I really have to work to get them off their scripts.

  7. Elizabeth West*

    Listening while I clean the house and uuuuuuggggggghhhhh. There is so much great advice in here that can apply to adults, particularly the last bit about thinking why you’re different and great. I see now about a bazillion different ways I could have done better in my last interview. >_<

  8. hayling*

    This was so interesting! I liked this format a lot.

    Alison, I know you’ve done email interviews before that have been super interesting—I hope you do more like this on the podcast!

  9. Red Kite*

    Loved this! I interview kids aged 11+ every year for volunteer jobs in my school library, and a lot of this was familiar.

    Because it’s a volunteer role for my students, I always ask how they’ll handle it when I ask them to tasks they don’t want to do (every kid wants to stamp books, but so few want to shelve them!). Usually they just tell me it’ll be fine, and they’ll just get on with it – not what ever really happens, but the ‘right’ answer… last year, one lad thought for a minute, and then said “I think I’d hide, miss.”

  10. nnn*

    After reading the transcript, what struck me is the mention of “chalk this up to experience in an interview.”

    I really wish that when I was a teenager, I had thought to approach the job application process as simply learning about the job application process! I was so stressed about the fact that I couldn’t get a job because I’d never had a job that it didn’t occur to me to think of it as a learning experience.

    I actually stumbled into that approach as an adult. I already had a job and a position the next level up came available (my employer requires a formal application process, with interviews etc., even for internal applicants.) I’ve always been terrible at interviewing and I figured this would be no exception, but, since I already had a job, I decided to approach it as learning how to do this interview.

    Long story short, I didn’t get it the first try, but I did get it the next time a position came open, which was far less time than I expected it would have taken me to learn! I probably could have had a similar learning trajectory as a teen if I’d only thought to approach it that way!

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