If you are a smaller company, you are no doubt fully aware that the taking on of new staff and the whole advertising process before that can be both expensive and time consuming. Firstly, you need to create your vacancy advert in such a way as to attract applications from the type of students, graduates or young professionals you are hoping to have working in your company. Secondly, once those applications come (hopefully) flooding in, you need to spend the time to read through them and whittle them down to a few candidates you think would fit the bill and who you would like to invite for an interview.
And then there’s the whole interview process. Wouldn’t it be good to get it right first time then you know you can have the right candidate working in your firm and moving forward right from day one? How do you know, from your interview questions, that you will get the right person? The interview process is a two way thing and it’s as much down to your questions as it is the person answering them.
These days, the internet is packed full of websites and blog posts, all advising prospective candidates about the types of questions they will be asked if they are invited to an interview. Because of this, many graduates, students and other young professionals have a bank of well rehearsed answers in their head that they can simply rhyme off to you when you come up with those predictable questions that almost every company uses. This may not be good for your company because you are not seeing the real personality and traits of the interview candidate and it’s also not good for them. Rehearsed answers can become stale and the candidate loses the chance to really express themselves and show you what they are capable of.
Take a look at your interview questions:
What are the questions you usually ask to candidates looking to work in your firm? Are you asking the same mundane questions every other smaller firm is asking? Students and graduates need to be given the opportunity to express themselves to you and demonstrate to you how they can move your company forwards. After all, isn’t that the whole point of recruiting new staff? Your company may well miss out on the best candidate for the job vacancy if all of those candidates know which type of questions you are going to ask them.
What Are The Standard Interview Questions?
We all know the types of questions that are likely to come up in an interview scenario, and that’s the problem. Let’s take a look at some of those questions now. Do your questions resemble this list?
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
It’s likely that what you want to know from this question is what the interviewee, whether they are a student or graduate, has done in the past that qualifies them for a role in your company. What can happen however is those candidates who might not have the interview experience will start to tell you their life story – a waste of your time and theirs. This could well be your future star performer in your company.
This question could be expanded upon by asking your interviewee to tell you a little bit about their achievements in a previous role that would benefit your company. Students and graduates with no previous experience can be encouraged to tell you about any problems they have faced in different scenarios at university and how they overcame those problems.
What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
Again, most students and graduates will have practised these questions many times and will be trying to tell you what they think you want to hear, and again, this might not be the best use of your time or theirs. Candidates for any position, be it a part time holiday post or a graduate career, can be encouraged to give you a scenario of where they used their strengths in a previous job or in a university situation and they can then go on to tell you how that strength would benefit your company and carry your business forward in the future.
No one likes to talk about their weaknesses but as an employer, you need to know that your potential future member of staff is aware of their weaknesses. Have they identfied the weakness themselves or has someone else discussed it with them previously – maybe in a past appraisal for example? This might not need to determine whether or not the interviewee is offered the job. If you can ascertain from your candidate what they are doing about their weakness – online study, working with their tutor, or a separate evening course for instance – then you could still have a potential future employee working for your company.
What Are Your Career Goals?
Whatever type of job you are interviewing students, graduates or other young people for, this question is a regular one that crops up and one which most candidates will have another well prepared and rehearsed answer for. The candidate’s future career goals may well have nothing to do with your company but that person could still be a valuable asset for your company for the time that they spend working for you.
Instead, while the interviewee tells you about their hopes for their future career, ask them to expand on this by telling you how they can benefit your firm in the time they are with you. After all, it may be a temporary post you are advertising so that candidate needs to be able to make a difference over a short period.
We all know how fast moving technology is these days and how that is impacting the workplace. Give your interviewee the opportunity to focus on the future rather than on the past by encouraging them to tell you about how they think your particular industry is going to change over the next few months or years and how they will be the best person to keep your firm in a competitive position.
It might also be a good idea to encourage students and graduates to tell you how they intend to reach these career goals in the future. What are they going to do to keep on top of their learning once they are working for your company? Maybe they intend to do some extra courses. Maybe your company will foot the bill for extra courses for staff to keep their skills up to date. Maybe your interviewee is already an expert in a particular field through their degree or because it’s a hobby – IT for instance – and they keep themselves ahead of the game quite naturally because they are always reading about and developing new ideas of their own.
Students and graduates who can be encouraged to demonstrate that they are innovative and that they have the means and the enthusiasm to remain in an expert position in the future are going to be a valuable employee for your company right from the day they begin to work for you. And again, interview questions which encourage young people to tell you about future goals and how they can move your company forward means those students and graduates with no previous experience in your particular industry can really sell themselves to you. They might be able to demonstrate their innovation to you by telling you about something they did in a previous internship they carried out or as part of a university club. Encourage them to tell you how they can introduce innovative ideas to your company and this could help you choose the ideal candidate.
Most standard interview questions dwell on history rather than future and this can stop you finding the best graduates who might not have any previous experience to draw from within your industry. You don’t want to miss out on the best thinkers and innovators just because they’ve never had such a position before.
Tell us what you know about our company…
Again, most students and graduates who really want a job with your company will have done their homework beforehand and will probably have memorised key facts such as your main competitors, your company structure and what the key challenges are facing your firm in the future.
While the fact that your candidate has researched your company may be impressive and shows that they are serious about wanting to work for you, it can be more useful to encourage young people to tell you about how they would deal with challenges within your company and throughout the industry. Give young people the chance to shine by asking them to tell you exactly how they would deal with particular challenges. Choose a scenario – possibly one that is a real situation within your company right now – and ask the candidate to tell you what they would do to try to overcome this problem.
You could also ask students and graduates about any research they have done on your staff structure and how the company is run. How are they going to fit in within that structure? Do you want someone with good leadership qualities who can lead a team forward, or do you want someone who is going to join your company and blend in straight away as one of the team players?
Encouraging students, graduates and other young people who you are interviewing to provide you with examples of how they would deal with real life scenarios in the future can help you secure the right person for your vacancy. It’s not necessarily the candidate with the most well prepared answers who will be the best person to fit in with your existing company structure. A few spontaneous questions and scenarios where the candidate has to provide real solutions for your company means all interviewees get the chance to shine and express themselves in a more realistic situation.