The keys are testing their skills and understanding their thought processes.
Many sports and recreation organizations depend on the employment of teenagers to survive - especially during the busy summer months. And there's probably not a manager out there who doesn't have a horror story or two to tell about teen job performance. But managers can find out a lot about young job applicants (and perhaps even avoid additional nightmares) if they simply ask the right questions. Here are four suggestions:
Do not set them up to fail. Most managers ask teenagers about their previous work experience, but chances are, this job is going to be their first. So they will respond that they do not have any previous experience. Instead of putting them in that awkward position, ask potential young employees to explain a situation in which they worked directly with the public - perhaps through a school project, community service organization or youth group. This allows them to relate their skills (which they might not even realize they have) to the job in question.
Get creative and interactive. Don't hesitate to interact with a teenage job applicant. If applicants are going to be assisting in the operation of municipal recreation programs, for example, ask them to explain how they would respond to specific situations such as an upset parent or a fight between participants. Ask the type of questions that someone in the program might ask. This will allow you to see how well applicants think on their feet.
Request dependability documentation. Many of the problems with teenage employees stem from them not arriving to work on time - and sometimes not at all. Ask applicants who are still in high school to provide you with a signed document from a school administrator indicating their attendance record, and require at least one parent or guardian to sign it, too. This will give you at least some insight into their dependability. A reference from a previous employer, if applicable, also can be valuable.
Understand their thought processes. Teenagers are often hired to fill a position that has established policies and procedures. When interviewing teenagers, invite them to share with you a rule at school or home that they consider to be important; then ask them what rule they think is meaningless - and why. Although awkward at first, this exercise allows managers to gather insight into the job candidate's ability to understand and follow policies and procedures.