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Teenagers can be a good fit with your team--if you know what to look for.
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This story appears in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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Ever considered hiring a teenage employee for your business? Start a word-of-mouth search for younger help using friends and teenage children of acquaintances, says Paul Endress, president and CEO of business leadership and communications consulting company Maximum Advantage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Don't know anyone with teenage kids? Endress recommends handing out fliers at high schools, church youth groups and teen hangouts.

During the interview, remember that teenagers have limited experience, says Endress, so they probably can't detail how they handled a work conflict in the past. Instead, ask hypothetical questions and inquire in general terms. For instance, instead of asking, "What is your biggest fear?" you'd ask, "What do you think most people are afraid of?" Says Endress, "Usually when they tell you what they think other people are thinking, they are, in effect, telling you what they think."

Building a rapport with the teenage applicant can be helpful in allaying his or her nerves during the interview--recall your first interview experience, perhaps, or mention that your nephew attended the same high school as the applicant--and ask questions that start with what instead of why. And, says Endress, trust your hunches about whether a particular teenager is a good fit for your company.

David Stone, founder of Nevada Association Services Inc., a collections agency specifically for community associations in Las Vegas, often hires teenagers to do mailing and filing-type office work. During interviews, he tries to get a sense of a teenager's maturity level from nonverbal cues: Are they dressed appropriately? Do they look you in the eye when speaking? Though he spends much of the interview detailing his expectations--punctuality and the seriousness of the position's responsibilities--he makes reasonable demands of them, given their age. He then evaluates their communication skills to see if they can intellectually handle the job at Nevada Association Services, which was founded in 1999 and has sales in the seven figures. "I do expect them to understand the seriousness of interviewing for a job," says Stone, 38. "That's an indication of how seriously they would take the job."

Edition: May 2017

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