How to Hire Teenagers, High School Students, and College Students

Hiring teenagers, high school students, and college students is necessary for restaurants looking to expand the pool of workers to choose from, creating a solution to the ongoing staffing shortage affecting the restaurant industry. Furthermore, hiring young people brings in new ideas and creates a staff with a variety of different points of view. Learning how to find and retain the right young employees is difficult due to the usual generational gap between hiring managers and teens, but it is an important part of growing your business and diversifying your staff. If you’re looking to integrate young adults into your establishment’s workforce, check out this guide on how to hire teenagers, high school students, and college students.

How to Hire High School Students

young woman worker wearing face mask giving takeout meal to customers

Hiring high school students presents a different challenge than traditional restaurant recruiting because high school students have different values and experiences. High schoolers are likely to have little to no work experience and prioritize earning extra spending money rather than making career-based job choices. If you’re looking to hire high school students at your establishment, here are some things to consider:

  • Know Child Labor Laws - There are both federal and state child labor laws regulating the hiring of minors. Make sure that you’re aware of these laws and how they affect your business before making any hires.
  • Identify Skills - Since high school students likely don’t have work experience, focus on abilities such as social skills and eagerness to learn when making hires.
  • Set Clear Expectations - Outline clear expectations and create an employee handbook for the job you’re hiring for. Doing so ensures high school students are familiar with the job’s responsibilities and expected behaviors.
  • Outline Work Times - High school students have busy schedules revolving around school, sports, and extracurricular activities. Make sure you outline expected work times when interviewing prospective high school employees.
  • Walk-Through Interviews - High school students may have never had a job interview before, so it’s important to outline the process step by step and walk-through interview questions slowly with them.
  • Offer Competitive Wages - Offering a competitive wage is a great way to attract high-achieving workers and motivate them to excel at their job.

How to Hire College Students

One key difference between hiring college students and high school students is that most college students have more work experience. Additionally, college students value relevant work experience, mentorship, and the acquisition of transferable skills rather than just money. When trying to hire college students, consider doing the following to make the process easier:

  • Analyze Job History - College students have likely had several jobs or internships already, meaning you can analyze their job history to determine whether they would be a good fit.
  • Consider GPA - A student’s college GPA is a good indicator of intelligence and work ethic, so consider GPA when making hiring decisions.
  • Partner with Local Colleges - Work with local colleges to receive recommendations and network with prospective college students. Working with local schools can also allow your business to attend job fairs hosted by colleges, opening the door to many potential recruits.
  • Advertise Transferable Sills - College students look for valuable work experience that can translate to career work, so advertise the job’s transferable skills in the job description.

Tuition Reimbursement

One of the best ways for your business to attract college students is by providing tuition reimbursement as an incentive. Tuition reimbursement is when an employer agrees to help pay a pre-determined amount of money towards an employee's education. When a college student completes a course or degree, your company will reimburse them an agreed-upon amount, with no cap on the contribution. In today’s world, tuition prices are high and student loans can be crippling, so offering tuition reimbursement is a great way to attract quality workers and invest in the future of your business.

Work Scholarships

Work scholarships are also a great way to attract college students, offering them the potential to receive flat payments towards their education. In most cases, only a few high-achieving workers are eligible for a work scholarship. The potential of receiving a scholarship towards tuition costs provides an incentive for young workers to take a position with your business and excel at their work.

Gen Z in the Workforce

The young workers that make up today’s high school and college students come from the generation known as Generation Z. Young adults from this generation possess a variety of unique qualities, prioritizing valuable and interesting work experiences over salary expectations. Gen Z also wants clear expectations from their job and values quality communication, meaning it is critical that you clearly outline responsibilities and keep employer-employee communication channels open. Gen Z is unlike any other previous generation, and as they get older and continue to enter the workforce, employers need to learn how to cater to the generation’s wants and needs to attract the best employees.

Job Postings for Teens

sign text closeup for help wanted with red and white colors by entrance to store

To attract teens to your restaurant, you have to create an attractive job posting to get their attention. A job posting intended for teens shouldn’t be long or complicated and should focus on the positives of the job. Furthermore, it should be easy to find and access, something that can easily be achieved through platforms such as LinkedIn and Indeed. Casting a wide net and making your job postings easy to understand results in more applicants to choose from.

Employee Referral Programs

An employee referral program allows current employees to refer prospective workers to their employer, giving your business access to more quality young workers. If the referred candidate is hired, the referrer will typically receive a monetary bonus. Additionally, a referral program has the potential to make employees feel like they are contributing to the future of the business and create a positive work environment filled with compatible workers.

Entry Level Jobs for Teens

In restaurants, there are a handful of jobs that are perfect entry-level positions for teens and young adults. There is a common misconception that some entry-level restaurant positions are easy to grasp, but they require extensive training and a specific set of skills. However, these positions are still great for teens as they teach several transferable skills and serve as a great way to launch a career in the industry. When you’re looking to fill jobs with young workers, here are some of the first positions you should consider:

  • Busser - Bussers clean and sanitize various areas of the restaurant, usually cleaning tables after customers leave.
  • Dishwasher - Dishwashers are back-of-house workers that clean dishes, silverware, and glassware that has been used by customers.
  • Server - Servers are responsible for taking customers’ orders and delivering food to their tables.
  • Delivery Driver - A delivery driver is responsible for transporting mobile and takeout orders from the restaurant to customers' homes.
  • Barista - A restaurant or bakery that sells coffee may require a barista. A barista is expected to have knowledge of coffee and prepare coffee for customers.
  • Host/Hostess - A host/hostess is responsible for greeting and seating customers and managing wait times. A host/hostess is usually the first employee a customer will interact with, making them extremely important.

How to Retain Young Employees

waitress and waiter serving in cafe

The best way to ensure that you have quality young employees is to retain your young workers that excel at their job. The more high school and college workers you retain or have come back for seasonal employment, the less time and effort you’ll have to spend on hiring new employees. To retain employees and reduce turnover, you have to provide incentives and new experiences to ensure they don’t pursue other job opportunities. Here are some ways you can provide quality workers with benefits to entice them to stay with your business.

  • Paid Job Training - Provide paid job training, allowing workers to gain relevant skills and work experience while earning money.
  • Increased Pay or Bonuses - Giving an increase in hourly pay or providing a bonus payment is a great way to reward great employees and entice them to continue to work with your business.
  • Mentorship - Pairing young employees with seasoned workers that can provide mentorship allows young workers to learn new skills and soak up valuable information.
  • More Responsibility - Granting long-time young workers more responsibility as time goes on is a great way to let them grow into their role and become integrated into the business.
  • Positive Company Culture - Promoting a positive culture in your business creates an enjoyable work experience for your employees and makes them more likely to stay with your business.
  • Flexible Scheduling - Young adults have a variety of scheduling conflicts due to school and extracurricular activities. Accommodating them by creating a flexible schedule makes them more likely to have high job satisfaction and stay with your company.

Understanding how to hire young adults and students is a great way to introduce new ideas and points of view to your staff. Not only do young adults have a youthful perspective, but they also have valuable information on how to use technology and social media platforms which can be a boost to your restaurant. Some restaurants may view hiring young adults as a risk at first due to their lack of experience. However, if training is handled properly, young adults and students can offer a lot and improve several areas of your restaurant.

Posted in: Management & Operation|By Kevin Singhel
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