Preparing your child for their first interview

Reading time: About 4 mins

An interview can be a stressful experience whether it's for a college or uni course, a Modern Apprenticeship or a job.

Nerves can be a major factor especially if it’s a teenager’s first interview.

So how can you help your child prepare?

With help from Careers adviser Susan Stewart and Tracy Williams, psychological therapist for First Psychology Scotland, we’ve created this checklist to help you support them. 

1. Make sure they’ve done their research

Applicants who show enthusiasm about the role and interest in the company will impress an employer. 

'It's important to make sure that your child has done their research as they will be asked why they've applied to this job or course,' says Susan. 

Think they need some pointers? Our How to research an employer tutorial is designed to help.

2. Check the format of the interview

Knowing what to expect when they go in will help them prepare, which helps calm nerves. Find out what kind of interview they’re going to do.

For example, in a panel interview two or more interviewers will ask questions. If it’s a competency-based approach your child will be asked to describe past situations where they had to complete a task or solve a problem.

Make sure they’re thinking about the right kind of answers.

  • Top tip: Look at the job or course decription beforehand. The skills and experience listed in the job description are likely to form the basis of the interview questions. Encourage your child to think of practical examples that demonstrate they have these skills. It doesn't all have to be work-related, so they should think about school projects and volunteering activities too. 

3. Get your child to think about their strengths

‘Talk to your child about how best to highlight their strengths in typical interview questions,' says Tracy.

'Making a list of reasons to support why they would be the best candidate for the job can also help.'

Try the Strengths quiz with your child. It's a good way to get them thinking about what they are good at. 

'Most employers will also ask about weaknesses and being able to talk confidently about one that your child had to work on to overcome helps make a great impression,' explains Tracy.

4. Practice makes pefect

It’s useful to try a few practice interview questions with your child so that they can think about how they would answer them. 

For example:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why have you applied for this position/course?
  • What relevant skills and experience do you have?
  • What do you know about the organisation? 
  • What's your biggest weakness? 

5. Help them pick something to wear

‘It could be their first interview so it's important that they know the appropriate clothing to wear,’ says Susan. 

‘It doesn’t have to be a suit. It's important to make sure what they are wearing is clean and ironed.’

Have a look at What should I wear to a job interview for more advice.

  • Top tip: ‘A first impression can never be re-made: making eye contact with the interviewer and having a firm handshake all go a long way towards interview success,’ says Tracy. 

6. Prepare to be punctual

Punctuality is one of the things that help to make a good impression.

‘It can be a good idea to look at a map and the bus and train routes to make sure that they know how to get there,' says Susan.

‘A dummy run is also a good idea too, but I would encourage young people to do this themselves.

'It's not always a good idea for parents to take their child to an interview. Going alone shows that they are independent.’

7. Encourage the right mindset

‘A very powerful technique is visualising success – more than just positive thinking, visualisation helps get your brain ready to act in a way that leads to success,' says Tracy.

'Talk through how they envisage the interview progressing to a positive result. 

'Remind your child that the interviewer has already shown an interest in them by inviting them for an interview, so they have mastered the first hurdle successfully.' 

  • Top tip: A good night's sleep, eating well and getting exercise can also help.

8. Reflect on the interview afterwards

‘While being offered an interview is a great sign, it’s not the same as being offered the job,’ says Tracy.

‘Allow them to treat each interview as a learning opportunity – if something didn’t go well this time, they now know what they can improve on for their next interview.’