How to interview students and entry-level candidates

Student and entry-level job seekers often lack a job history, which can make it difficult to discern their job skills.

But by knowing how to interview, and by asking appropriate interview questions, you can better match the right candidate with the job requirements.

Recruiting Generation Z

Generation Z candidates often lack exposure to behavior-based training; recent graduates in particular often benefit when the hiring manager takes a few minutes to explain to them how to interview, says Stacie Garlieb, author of My resume is perfect (I think)… so why didn’t I get an interview? Fast and easy guide for students and recent grads to write a resume that gets interviews!

As the interviewer, it’s best to provide the novice job candidate with a clear directive in how to respond to your interview questions:

“As I ask you the questions, please give me examples from your class work or prior jobs. Tell me specifically what you did and the results you achieved.”

Even after delivering that prompt, it’s likely the hiring manager will need to probe for details with follow-up questions, Garlieb adds. Phrases like these work well with students and entry-level job candidates:

“Tell me a little more about what you did. What happened when you confronted that problem? What grade did you get on that project?”

Three Crucial Job Skills

Regardless of where, or even if, a student has worked, there are three skills that are good to explore in the interview because they’re used in most entry-level positions, says Martin Yate, CPC, author of Hiring the Best: A Manager’s Guide to Recruitment and Selection. These three job skills include:

1) Time Management and Organization

For time managements skills, ask the candidate:

“Tell me how you organize your day.”

Look for a response that indicates they consider everything they have to do that day and then prioritize their tasks.

2) Problem-Solving Skills

To assess problem-solving, if the applicant has had any work experience, ask:

“What were some of the typical problems you experienced in that job? Who was responsible for them? What did you do about those problems? How did you go about preventing them from occurring in the future? What skills did you use to solve the problem?”

If the job candidate doesn’t have work experience, ask about situations at school or in group activities with a question such as:

“Tell me about a time when things went wrong at school or when you worked with a group and how you fixed the problem”

3) Communication Skills

Verbal communication skills can be assessed by the way that the applicant speaks in the interview and how they listen and respond to interview questions. For instance, do they answer questions immediately or take time to process the questions?

These questions can also help you judge communications skills:

“What technical-based communication skills do you use? What platforms are you familiar with in addition to Facebook and Twitter?”

Assessing Soft Skills

Next, ask about emotional intelligence and social graces by asking first:

What would your favorite professor say about you?”

Follow up by asking:

What would your least favorite professor say about you?”

These questions uncover a person’s worldview and how they’ll relate to authority in the workplace, says Joseph Logan, author of Seven Simple Steps to Landing Your First Job.

“Watch out for anything too good from the favorite professor. ‘My favorite professor would say I should win the Nobel Prize'” he says. “From the least favorite, I would look for anything putting the complete blame on the professor.” What you want to hear: Maybe the professor was unfair, but here’s my part and here’s what I did to work with that.

Assessing Motivation

Next, move on to motivation. Start by exploring what motivates your job seeker:

“What did you enjoy doing most at college? When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?”

Then, transition from the person to discussing the position. Has the candidate researched your firm, indicating that they want to work for your organization:

“Why do you want to work for us?”

Find out if the candidate know what the position involves by asking:

“What do you know about this job? What would you like to know about this job?”

These answers reveal the applicant’s values and orientation to making a contribution, as opposed to just collecting a paycheck.

Look for answers that focus on alignment with your company culture, for example a candidate that responds by saying: “I resonate with the mission of the Humane Society, and I want to do something to contribute to the well-being of animals. I’d like to be a part of increasing the number of animals adopted.”

You can also dive further into values and workplace ethics at this point in the interview:

“Tell me about your values as a person.”

This may generate a bit of silence at first, but a good applicant will come up with specific answers, such as: “I’m honest, trustworthy, and have a good work ethic.” Your response? Ask for details that will give you insight into the person you’re interviewing:

“Can you give me a specific example of a time when you were honest?”

When you come across an entry-level job candidate who seems right for the job, make sure the job is right for them, Garlieb warns. Find out if they understand the results you want in the role you’re hiring for, perhaps by asking them to do a job shadow.

Also discuss how your organization measures performance in the first 90 days, six months, and year, whether that’s by tracking efficiency, productivity, or some other metric.

“If their eyes glaze over or you hear crickets on the other end of the phone line, that’s someone who can’t take on that responsibility or can’t visualize themselves in the position,” Garlieb concludes.

Ready to Use Your Interview Questions for Students and Start Hiring?

Just because a candidate has a lengthy resume doesn’t always mean they’re the right fit. In fact, the best fit could be a student or recent grad with limited experience. If you’re trying to find the right fit for your next position, consider posting your job right here. With Monster you can get access to distribution on a local and global scale, unlimited applicants, pre-written job descriptions, and more. Find out how you can get started with a free job posting today.