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Identifying Potential in Entry-Level Candidates Who Have Little Work Experience

Candidates with little to no work experience should not be disregarded, as they can still bring significant value to your organization. What they lack in experience, they can make up for in transferable skills that are advantageous to your organization. Since most entry-level candidates are recent graduates, a few of the most common transferable skills they possess typically include strong research abilities, communication skills, and time management skills.

Another great reason to consider candidates with little work experience is that they can be tasked with junior-level work that senior staff do not have time for. Senior staff can focus on more complex tasks that require significant experience and delegate simpler tasks that require minimal training to junior employees. Over time, entry-level candidates will have the opportunity to take on more challenging work as their experience builds.

How to Identify Transferable Skills in Candidates With Little to No Work Experience

So, how do you know which skills are transferable from campus to the workforce? A good benchmark to use are the competencies used by many organizations in performance reviews. Performance competencies act as a measurement of demonstrated skills that employees should exemplify at different levels within their career. The following is a list of 7 common competencies you can use to gauge a candidate’s transferable skills:

  1. Communication skills (both written and verbal.) A recruiter can assess a candidate’s verbal communication skills during phone calls and the actual interview process. Evaluate a candidate’s written communication abilities by reviewing their cover letter, resume and work samples submitted, or you can have candidates complete a test during the selection process to further assess their abilities.
  2. Analytical thinking: An interviewer can ask probing behavioral questions such as, “Provide me with an example of when you have had a problem and how you went about solving it.” Candidates can provide examples related to academic or personal experience as opposed to a work example if they do not have any work experience. The way a candidate answers this question shows their thought process and how they go about assessing and analyzing various solutions to a problem before choosing a final solution to implement. Recruiters can also administer tests during the selection process to screen for analytical abilities. An example of an effective test could be one in the form of a challenge that outlines a real-life work situation.
  3. Teamwork/collaboration: This skill can be identified by asking behavioral questions in addition to reviewing a candidate’s resume. If a candidate has noted on their resume that they have been involved in community groups, sports teams, or other group activities on campus such as band, ROTC, or charity work, that’s a strong indication they are capable of collaborating well with others. In addition, the interviewer should ask the candidate to provide an example of a time they had to work within a group to complete a project or assignment and what role they took on. This question will give you a sense of whether they are more of a leader vs. individual contributor and how well they work with others.
  4. Innovation: A recruiter should look for examples within a resume or via an interview to explore if a candidate has created or implemented any new products, processes or ideas during their career or education. Some examples may include starting a new club on campus or creating a new efficient work process at a summer job. Innovation can be interchangeable with creativity, which candidates can demonstrate in various ways both inside and outside of academia.
  5. Initiative: A qualified candidate should be able to provide you with an example of a time they took initiative and what the outcome was. Initiative often translates into proactive behavior within the workforce, which is important for an entry-level hire to demonstrate. Employers should look for candidates who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help as needed.
  6. Accountability: This skill is important to ensure the candidate is reliable and can prioritize appropriately. Behavioral interview questions such as, “Tell me a time when you were late to something and what did you do?” can uncover how accountable one is for their actions. A good answer will describe prompt communication, ownership of the behavior and a recommendation/solution for preventing the same behavior in the future.
  7. Adaptability: A candidate should be able to provide an example of how they adjust to personal pressure and how they learn from mistakes. The recruiter should explore with the candidate how they react to change and ask them about their comfort level with change. Given the rapid pace of change in many organizations, it is important for a candidate to articulate their ability to adapt well and not become stressed by a change in direction.

Why Focus on Transferable Skills When Recruiting Candidates With Little to No Work Experience?

Hiring entry-level candidates with little to no work experience can bring great flexibility to your workforce. Not only do entry-level employees have many of the qualifications previously addressed, but also, they are malleable and have not yet developed any bad habits from previous jobs. The employee can be taught your company’s specific policies and procedures, which is a huge plus for organizations. The entry-level hire will gain new skills and potentially grow within your organization, and you can offer senior level staff the opportunity to train, mentor and teach junior-level staff. Mentoring an entry-level candidate with little work experience is a great way for senior employees to flex their leadership skills.

As you can see, there are countless benefits of bringing entry-level candidates with minimal work experience on board. Taking the time to find high-potential entry-level candidates with transferable skillsets is crucial. To find these candidates, start by creating an impactful job posting outlining the transferable skills you seek and place the posting on various campus career boards using a simple-to-use tool such as Symplicity Recruit. Next, take the time to screen resumes and interview entry-level candidates to determine whether they have the right skills to help them grow and excel in your workplace.