Skills for the Job: Prepare young people for interviews

Kirsty Reed
Monday, April 14, 2014

In a tough jobs market, young people need support to improve their chances of getting on the first rung of the employment ladder.

Young people should practise what they want to say in interviews to help build confidence. Picture: Phil Adams
Young people should practise what they want to say in interviews to help build confidence. Picture: Phil Adams

How difficult is the job market for young people?

We know that on average around 100 people are applying for every job at the moment, so finding employment is difficult but there are jobs out there as well as training and apprenticeship opportunities. In order for them to find something that's right for them, they need support and encouragement.

An important thing for anyone working with young people is to raise their aspirations and help them to be clear about where they want to go. Some young people think that because of the state of the jobs market it is about getting any job going, but there are choices out there. It may mean they have to take a longer pathway through more training or an apprenticeship, but those opportunities are there.

Young people can look to gain work experience somewhere or write letters to places they want to work. They should also be encouraged to write a personal letter – if there isn't a job being advertised where they want to work, they can try and make a job.

What are the important things to do before applying for a job?

Young people will struggle to get a job interview in the first place unless their CV is well put together. It has got to look professional and well-presented and be tailored to the type of job they are applying for, so if it is for a job in retail it should stress experience and skills that relate to that area. In initial applications for jobs we suggest that young people leave out details of their date of birth and address – which hopefully means they are not overlooked because of where they were brought up, or their age.

How can young people prepare for an interview?

As soon as a young person is given an interview they need to start researching the company and the role and think about how their experience and skills fit with the organisation.

They need to study the job specification well and be prepared to answer questions on how they are suitable for the role – the interviewer's questions will be predominantly based in this area. They need to make sure they are fully aware of what is on their CV and be prepared to answer questions on it. It won't look good if they have exaggerated details and are unable to back them up.

On the day of the interview young people should make sure they arrive on time, or, if possible, a little early. They should also pay attention to the way they communicate with the interviewer – making sure they are relaxed and open, because body language often says as much as words.

Get them to practise what they want to talk about. Either do this with them, or get them to say their answers out loud on their own to build confidence.

What about nerves?

Job interviews can be nerve-racking for anyone. If you're giving advice to a young person ahead of an interview, the first thing to say is that everybody gets nervous. There are a number of ways to deal with this. It can be good for the young person to be honest with the interviewer from the start – by greeting them and explaining to them that they are a bit nervous.

A good tip is for them to ask for a glass of water when they get into the interview - most places will usually have this ready. It gives them a bit of time to calm down and also helps with one of the symptoms of nerves - a dry mouth.

When people are nervous they also tend to speak more quickly, so it is worth reminding them to take a deep breath and speak slowly and clearly.

Above all it is worth reminding them that nerves are a good sign – they show that they are keen on the job, and the interviewer will pick up on that. They are not going to be impressed by someone who walks in confident, but doesn't appear to care.

Top tips

  • Make sure they do their research on the company
  • Prepare based on the job specification
  • Get them to be themselves
  • Dress for the occasion
  • Remember first impressions are really important

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