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How to Interview a Recent Grad

New grads may be bursting with potential, but they seldom know how to communicate their skills to a potential employer.
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Research has shown that within the first 4.3 minutes of an interview, 63 percent of employers have already made a decision about the applicant.

But should you be so quick to judge, particularly when it comes to candidates who have just graduated? Most recent grads have no idea how to handle themselves in an interview-- so how do you know if you're missing out on a great hire? It's up to you to find out. Here's how. 

Use a cheat sheet loaded with behavior-based questions. A new grad usually won't have a catalog of experiences, so he or she must illustrate skills and intelligence in other ways, referencing experiences outside the workplace.

Jennifer Loftus, founding partner and national director of the HR consulting firm Astron Solutions, shared a few of her favorites with us:

  • Tell me about a time when you had several school projects all due at once.  How did you handle the workload and get everything done?
  • Tell me about a time when you did something wrong at work or in class.  How did you handle the situation with your manager or professor?
  • What was your favorite or least favorite class?

Such questions can give an employer tremendous insight into how a candidate would handle daily on-the-job challenges. You can also ask similar questions in the context of an internship the applicant may have had.

Don't get too personal.  “For candidates with limited work experience, focus instead on classes the candidate took in college or group work within those classes to explore their knowledge and experiences relevant to the job,” advises Loftus. Anything beyond that could lead to claims of discriminatory treatment. For example, asking about the volunteer work one does with a religious organization touches on protected information under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  

Throw around a little business jargon. What if they don't know what you're talking about? Good. Loftus says how an applicant responds to unfamiliar terminology in the interview could be quite telling. If a candidate stays silent in response to an unfamiliar term, it could be reflective of a lack of interest. If she or he asks about the term, however, you may have a great candidate who is interested in learning and not afraid to ask questions.

Overlook rookie mistakes, but don't dismiss red flags. Many employers consider a lack of eye contact to be a bad sign, but such hesitant behavior could be harmless sign of inexperience and nerves, Loftus says. You can add a flimsy handshake to this list of rookie bad form. 

Inappropriate clothing, on the other hand, tends to be a definite red flag, as is any use of a cell phone during an interview. An equally worrisome exchange is if the candidate describes his or her dream job as something your organization doesn’t offer.

“If your firm has 50 employees and is in IT consulting, and the candidate says they want to work for a global financial services firm and travel the world, chances are they’re looking just for a job to get started and won’t stay long with your organization,” warns Loftus.

 

 


IMAGE: yamagatacamille/Flickr
Last updated: Mar 12, 2013

JULIE STRICKLAND | Staff Writer

Julie Strickland covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City.




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