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 The Stuff You Can Learn From Teenagers

By Joe Stein

I recently had the opportunity to spend the day with a group of teenagers as part of a career program that serves underprivileged children. As usual, it was a tremendous experience and the group was quite impressive. The event also gave me plenty to reflect upon, including some tips that I thought should be passed along to the readers of
·         Watch the Eye Contact – Eye contact was an all or nothing activity with most of this group. It really emphasized for me the importance of doing this aspect of an interview well. You do not want to stare at the wall or the floor. By doing this you can send a couple of messages besides just being distracting. One, it gives the Interviewer the appearance you are very nervous and not confident. Two, it can make it appear that you are not paying attention or disinterested. The other end of the spectrum were those making too much eye contact. You can actually make a person feel uncomfortable by staring at them. The goal is to have a conversation and not a starting contest, so be sure to naturally reflect away at the right moments. This is where role playing your interview can be very beneficial in relaxing you and making the activity feel more natural.


·         They are Skilling up Early – I know I never had this type of event in my teenage years back in the ‘80s.   Reflecting back regarding that time, I knew little about Resumes, Cover Letters, and interview skills. Now, individuals are obtaining that information at an early age in order to prepare themselves for their careers. The moral of the story for those of us 40 and over (even those in their 30s) is that it is imperative to stay up-to-date on job search techniques. If you do not have a well written Cover Letter and Resume, basic social media/networking knowledge, and a level of comfort with interviewing, you are at a significant disadvantage.


·         More is Not Always Better – I saw both ends of the Resume spectrum and it reaffirmed my belief that one page for entry level positions (up to 2 pages for experienced above entry-level candidates) is the way to go. The event really served to simulate what a Recruiter needs to do on a daily basis. I literally had a minute or two to review a Resume before diving into the mock interview. In real life, most Recruiters have a similar amount of time before deciding whether to move you into the “possible” pile or the “regret” one. The documents that were more than one page proved to be a bit overwhelming under these time pressures and, in an actual situation, may not have been given full review by me prior to a decision whether to interview. As a funny aside, I provided feedback to one participant that her two- page Resume was probably too long, only to find out from her that it was four pages prior to this event!

·         Preparation Is Key – I know most of these students actually prepared prior to this event and you could tell. It was not my intention to try to “trip” them up by asking any “off the wall” type of questions, so I kept it fairly basic. There are a number of questions that an Interviewer will likely ask in most situations.   The vast majority of participants were ready with good answers that addressed the question fully and provided me with examples. On our website @, we have the archives of my weekly column. There, you will find specific articles dedicated to a number of frequently asked interview questions. If you prepare ahead of time, you should feel more relaxed and ultimately do better during the interview.


·         Enthusiasm is Important – The participants of this program really wanted to be there and you could tell. They were interested, excited, and motivated. All of these behaviors made for better conversations. The lesson is to stay positive, even in the face of the inevitable rejection that will occur during a job search. You have to have faith in your abilities that you will land that job that you covet. This positive outlook will be noticeable to the Hiring Manager and will improve your chances for success.

At the end of the day, I came away from this group not only incredibly impressed, but also with some valuable job search lessons. The topics above are simple and basic, but also very important. Determine what will work for you as you seek your next job.
As always, best of luck in your job search!