The safest route for finding an employer is old-fashioned grassroots marketing. (Hanging up flyers in public places puts too much personal info into the hands of strangers.)
Train. Teens can improve their resumes by getting First Aid and CPR certification. Find babysitting courses through the American Red Cross (redcross.org/training), YMCA, safesitter.org or your local hospital (ranging from $35 to $140). Regular CPR refreshers are easy with the partnersforsafety.com DVD ($24). "Young people need to understand that this is serious business," says Byron. "A family is going to be entrusting them with their most precious things: their children."
Make marketing materials. Resumes should list education, training and activities that demonstrate responsibility, maturity, experience with kids of different ages (siblings count!) and references. Teens can pass out flyers to people they know to advertise that they'll help with housework or tutoring, travel with a family on a summer vacation to watch kids, or buddy up with a friend to provide babysitting for parties.
Connect. Kids should first search for jobs in their own neighborhood. Byron suggests that a sitter personally introduce herself to neighbors, talk about her background, offer her résumé and say, "I hope you'll consider interviewing me." Parents can also pass out their child's business cards to trusted coworkers and friends.
Search. Young sitters shouldn't post personal info online, but they can use the Internet to find contact info for local moms' groups. "When you take the time and effort to make that kind of connection, it helps you stand out," says Byron.
Interview. If you don't know the family, accompany your teen to the interview to make sure it's a safe environment. Do a practice Q&A beforehand (use questions from Sittercity.com. She should also have a list of questions covering things like household rules. "Interviewing is a two-way street," says Byron. "If the young person doesn't feel comfortable, it's fine to say no to a job."
Follow up. Make sure she thanks parents by phone, e-mail or letter, and tell her that they are more inclined to hire a teen who promptly return calls, texts and/or e-mails. It's also okay for your child to send an e-mail to highlight updates, like new CPR training, and to remind parents that she's available to babysit.