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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

How to Interview Someone When You're the Youngest in the Room

The interview process isn’t just hard on the interviewee; the person doing the interview is under a great deal of pressure as well. Are you going to impress the candidate? Will you give off the right impression of the company? Are you asking questions that allow you to get the best sense of whether this person would be a good hire?

However, one added level of stress as an interviewer can be if you’re a young person interviewing someone else. After all, you want candidates to take you seriously, but you also don’t want to seem like you’re trying too hard to seem way older than you are.

Not sure what to do? Below are three tips to take into consideration.

1. Emulate Someone Older

One of the scariest parts of interviewing a peer is coming off as immature or not senior enough to be interviewing someone for a job; you can almost feel like a fraud. One of the easiest ways to overcome this is to try emulating someone older whom you think is a great interviewer or just a nice person to talk to.

Ask yourself: How would this person greet the candidate? How would he or she make the interviewee feel comfortable? What type of tone would he or she take? These are the types of questions that will help you think like an interviewer and get rid of the impostor complex.

In my case, I think about how some of my favorite interviews went. What did the interviewer ask me? How did he or she make me feel? By basing your actions off of other people, you get to incorporate good elements of past encounters and improve things you think could make an interview better.

2. Use Age to Your Advantage

Interviewing someone when you’re the youngest person in the room actually affords you an extremely important luxury: a casual environment. Typically people feel a little less stressed and much more conversational when they’re chatting with someone younger as opposed to a superior, which can work in your favor.

Obviously, going off of the first point, you want to make sure to act mature, but you also don’t want to come off as uptight or unapproachable, and you can use age to your advantage to do that.

One example is the time I interviewed one of my employees at The Prospect for one of our much more senior-level positions. Before the interview kicked off, we talked a little bit about a television show we both watched. We both kept it professional, but being able to bond over a mutual love of Friday Night Lights allowed the environment to be way more relaxed, which in turn made both of us feel more at ease.

3. Don’t Bring Up Your Age or Experience

It’s easy to confuse being more informal in an interview with being self-deprecating about your current age, which is something you want to steer clear of. Remember: It’s likely that the people you’re interviewing have no idea how old you are. And even if their initial reaction is to think how young you look, they’re going to respect you because they want the job—unless you don’t respect yourself.

I had a situation where I was being interviewed for an internship by an entry-level employee who was only two years older than I was, and the interviewer kept jokingly bringing up how young she was and how she hadn’t been at the company for long. Obviously, this was a huge turn-off; I didn’t feel like she had the experience to be interviewing me (or holding a job at that company, for that matter), and it was also just plain awkward (I mean, what do you say to someone who’s joking about how unqualified she is to talk to you?).

In other words, own your age, but don’t make it the center point of your interview. If you were put in charge of interviewing someone, your boss or supervisor most likely thought you were the best person to handle it. Don’t forget that.

Overall, interviewing someone when you’re younger is all about walking the fine line between empathizing with the interviewee and not making how old you are a central piece of your time together.

And remember, age is but a number.

Photo of speech bubble courtesy of Shutterstock.