It’s been estimated that some two-thirds of new grads don’t know where their education and skills can be applied to the workforce. This makes screening critical: Look for candidates who seem to have balanced a lot of activities in college — played a sport, participated in student government or had a strong GPA in a demanding major — to indicate time-management skills. Also look for communication skills as demonstrated by the candidate’s projects, volunteer work, and internships.
Entry-level jobs can be especially tricky because you’re basing a decision on limited work experience and on how candidates present themselves in the interview process. Resumes can be deceiving, so some experts advise conducting a phone or, these days, even a video screening to ensure that such minimum requirements as salary expectations are met and that impressions you gleaned from the resume are accurate.
In evaluating a new college graduate as an entry-level employee, look for:
- Relevant experience — Don’t overlook volunteer activities, as well as part-time jobs and extracurricular opportunities.
- Professionalism during the interview — This is visible in candidates’ attire, attitude, and punctuality. Try to discern experience with projects and deadlines as well as work schedule flexibility. Because people know the appropriate answers to expected questions, turn your attention to body language — lack of eye contact, clearing of the throat and/or excessive hand movements may be indications that you’re not getting the whole truth. Ask for more detail and examples to support certain answers.
- Fit within the company culture — Do the interviewee’s values match your company’s core values? See whether the candidate has researched your company in preparation for the interview.
- Education — Factor in education from all sources: courses, internships, family business experience, seminars, conferences and volunteer efforts.
- Enthusiasm — Look for an openness and a willingness to learn more about your firm.
During the interview, gauge a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses by using such open-ended questions as: Tell me about a time when you had a difficult problem to solve? Follow up with: What resources did you use to get the information required to make your decision? Why did you choose option A over option B?
Give candidates the opportunity to express why they think the industry, your company, and this position is a good fit. Ask interviewees why they’d be successful in the position and give them a chance to ask questions, which shows how much research the candidates have done and whether they truly want the job.
Here are five questions to keep in mind:
- What made you decide to apply for this job? Seems obvious, but it is important to ask.
- What part of your previous experience do you think translates to being successful here? You’re looking to discover how quickly a candidate can come up with a cohesive response, giving you a peek into how quickly they can solve problems when they don’t have a lot of experience.
- What do you see your day-to-day activities being in this role? This allows you to see their enthusiasm for the opportunity.
- How would you approach a superior with a suggestion, problem or criticism? Gives a peek into how the interviewee would handle team dynamics and problems that arise. Get an idea of conflict-resolution skills and how much confidence they have in dealing with uncomfortable situations.
- What do you hope to learn from the job? You’re looking for someone who wants to grow their current skills more fully through daily application.
A lack of experience and limited references make hiring entry-level employees anything but easy. Know the type of candidate you’re looking for and ask appropriate questions. You’ll gain a great roster of new workers to grow with your company.