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Student Interviews

A Guide for Teens


Reasons for Interviews

If you think about it, most of our big life changes usually begin with an interview and a handshake. It stands to reason, then, that many of the exciting and rewarding accomplishments you'll experience in the next few years will require a personal interview. A few examples include:

  • Judge's Interview: Science fairs, debates and other competitions normally involve an interview with a judge or panel of judges.
  • Teacher/Professor Interview: If you apply for a special program like independent study, work study, or college credit program in high school, you may find that an interview is part of the application process.
  • College Interview: There are many interview questions you can practice ahead of time, but some will come out of the blue.
  • Counselor Interview: You may need to visit your high school counselor to talk about future plans, to determine which diploma type is right for you, or to talk about choosing a major.
  • Scholarships: Many companies, organizations, and clubs offer scholarships. Part of the selection process is a personal interview.
  • Job Interview: Many students take on part-time jobs to help with high school expenses, to pay for dorm room trimmings, or to earn pocket money. Even part-time jobs require an interview.

Preparing for the Interview

Confidence is the most important element you can bring to an interview. For this reason, it's best to treat the interview preparation like test preparation. Don't try to cram pertinent information about the topic on the night before an interview.

1. Develop a professional persona.

You may not realize it, but most successful adults have two personalities-a professional one and a relaxed one. It's not a matter of being fake at times, it's just a matter of behaving respectfully on the job or at an important meeting.

When you interview, you'll want to speak correctly and behave in a way that doesn't raise eyebrows. When speaking during an interview be careful to use proper grammar, for instance.

2. Practice with friends and family.

You will encounter different types of questions in an interview. It is a good idea to create practice questions ahead of time and test yourself with people who support you. Have them ask you practice questions based on a variety of topics.

There are different types of questions you should consider.

  • Silly questions: If you could be an animal, what kind would you be?
  • College Knowledge: Why do you like most about Duke University?
  • Personal style: Are you a leader or a follower?
  • Opinion: Is science more important than art in a college curriculum?

3. Prepare for public speaking.

Brush up on tips for public speaking, like don't drink carbonated drinks, don't wear clothes that will make you fidgety or too hot, and don't try to use visual aids unless you really know a lot about them.

At the Interview

1. Dress appropriately.

If you're like most teens, you like to express yourself though your clothing and you don't like people telling you how to dress. That's okay--you're young, fun, and interesting. But part of preparing for adulthood is realizing that there is a time and a place for all things.

For example, it's not a good idea to wear clothing that is too revealing in an interview. Most judges and teachers will simply see this as a sign of immaturity.

Most judges or other interviewers of teens will be quite accustomed to interviewing teens and won't be affected by most things, like expressive outfits with loud colors or Gothic looks, but there's always a chance that your clothing will affect the outcome. In the end it's up to you whether your style is more important than the interview results.

2. Shake hands with confidence.

What is the best way to shake hands? There isn't one. People spend much too much time worrying about how to do this. Just relax and shake hands with confidence.

There are a few common sense tips for shaking hands, though. For instance, don't try to squeeze hard to prove how strong you are. Also, if you're worried about having sweaty palms, you can keep a lightly-powdered tissue in your pocked and squeeze it right before the handshakes begin.

It's okay to hold out your own hand when you enter a room if nobody else does it first.

3. Finish with style.

When an interview is over, be sure to thank the interviewer. You may want to offer the interviewer or judge a writing sample or piece of artwork that you have created before you exit. Just be sure that something like this is appropriate.

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