Teens in Illinois are able to work at the age of 14, with adherence to certain guidelines, and teens 16 years or older are allowed to work with even fewer restrictions. Knowing this, it may seem easy to hand your adolescent the want ads when he or she begs for a pair of designer shoes. Also know that your teen’s ability to obtain a position may be much more challenging. 

The teen unemployment rate is about 20 percent, making jobs for teens some of the hottest tickets in town, and, at times, the price comes by way of group interviews, phone interviews, or traditional individual interviews. After a resume or a good word has gotten your child’s foot in the door, your teen must show up for a face-to-face, competing against other adolescents vying for the same position. Do you think your child’s communication and personal skills will help him make the cut? 

If you want to help your child land a job this summer, use the tips below to outshine his competition. 

Dress the part

Whether your child interviews for a position at a for-profit agency or the city’s park district, advise him or her to dress professionally. Young ladies should wear dress slacks or a knee-length skirt with a blouse or collared shirt, and young men should wear dress slacks, a collared shirt, and, if possible, a tie and blazer. Dark dress shoes are preferable, and the heel of a woman’s shoe should be no taller than 2 inches high. Although some companies are flexible with dress code, especially during the summer months, teens must err on the side of caution when dressing for an interview and assume that there is no such thing as dressing too professionally. 

In addition to clothing, advise your children that their words and attitude should be more memorable than their style of dress. For example, jewelry and tattoos should be toned down or hidden. In addition, body parts should not be accentuated by fitted or low-cut fashion. Before interviewing, recommend that your child do a check in a full-length mirror for ripped stockings or smudged eyeglasses. Entering an interview with confidence is supported by knowing that you will outshine the competition. Such confidence can be lost when entering a room full of professionally dressed interviewees wearing jeans and a T-shirt. 

Use specific, real-life examples

Interviews range in type from “tell me a little about yourself” to “why should we hire you?” Most employers want to know if applicants can do the work assigned and do it well. While most candidates may speak highly of themselves, the most memorable candidates give answers that are supported by illustrations from their past experiences. Therefore, advise your child to answer questions using specific, real-life examples. If an employer asks, “How do you handle multiple responsibilities?” your child could answer by talking about cheerleading, student council, and peer tutoring while getting A’s and B’s in class. Let your child know that while it is great to use examples from previous work experiences, he or she may also use activities from home. Transferable skills, such as time management, organization, and leadership, can all be gained caring for a younger sibling or maintaining specific systems within the home. So encourage your child to gather evidence for an interview by reflecting on what he has already done. 

Ask questions

After an interview or meeting with a potential employer, there is usually time allotted for an interviewee to ask questions. Prepare your children for this time. Employers assume candidates will want to know more about job responsibilities and demands. When a candidate has no questions to ask, it can make him seem disinterested in the company and position. Therefore, help your child determine questions they may want to ask potential employers. Encourage your child to research the organization and position for which they plan to interview and create questions based on the information they find. For example, if your teenager is applying for a McDonald’s position, he or she may want to ask, “Are my work hours flexible?” and “Who will be my direct supervisor?” Two to three questions is sufficient for a 15-30 minute interview. 

While finding a job may be easy for some teens, getting the position requires a lot more. So increase your child’s chances for employment by making sure he or she is interview-ready.