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Interview Questions to Help You Spot Entry-Level Hires

Even the most well-prepared resumes can only tell recruiters so much about an entry-level candidate. Whether recruiting for a specialized or more general entry-level role, asking the right interview questions can offer recruiters and hiring managers a better understanding of a candidate's overall suitability for the position.

How to Assess an Entry-Level Candidate Through Interview Questions

Many candidates for entry-level positions are entering the job market for the first time and may be inexperienced and unsure of what to expect during a formal job interview. It’s important that before the interview even starts, recruiters take the time to help put candidates at ease by welcoming them and explaining the interview process. Be sure to let interviewees know they can ask you questions about the role and organization. It’s not only important for recruiters to assess candidates, but also for candidates to evaluate whether an organization is truly the right fit for their capabilities and career goals.

To help assess a candidate, pose questions that call for real-life examples. Having a candidate provide specific examples of when they have utilized certain skillsets will help illustrate their problem-solving abilities, thought processes, and overall skill levels. These types of questions are referred to as results-oriented or competency-based questions.

Results-oriented or competency-based job interview questions are designed to help determine how a candidate would apply a specific set of skills to solve a problem. They can also help provide context to an entry-level candidate's experience, which may be limited to college internships, summer jobs or an entry-level position in an unrelated field.

Examples of entry-level interview questions to help assess candidates could include:

"Describe a situation where you had to perform a task for a job (or college assignment/course) that you were unfamiliar with or had never performed before. How did you approach the task? What were the results?"

This question can help show a candidate's problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as their decision-making abilities. The response a candidate provides will demonstrate how comfortable and proactive they are in conducting research and taking initiative to figure out how to solve a new problem. This will also help you determine how creative and confident they feel in their ability to work through uncertain situations.

"Describe a time when you failed to complete a task or missed a deadline. What steps did you take and what was the outcome?"

In addition to highlighting practical skills such as time management and the ability to prioritize multiple tasks, the answer to this question can help a recruiter determine how well the candidate handles challenges and setbacks. Failure is a normal part of every job, but this question can show whether the candidate takes responsibility and ownership of their assignments from start to completion, and how well they can adjust for unexpected results.

"When working as part of a team on an assignment or college project, have you ever had to take on more work to compensate for an underperforming colleague or classmate? How did you approach the situation?"

A job description, especially for an entry-level position in a demanding field, can only cover so much of what the expectations and challenges of the position will ultimately be. Will the candidate be resistant to taking on more than what they thought was initially expected? Will they take initiative and work well in a team? Do they exhibit leadership qualities that will allow them to grow with the organization? The answers lie in the candidate’s response.

"Have you ever had to deal with a difficult customer/classmate or co-worker? What strategies did you use to handle the situation?"

This question can help to determine the candidate's judgment, communication skills, and general temperament. The response to this question will help you understand if they are able to maintain their cool and stay calm and professional in a stressful situation. Can they maintain composure and professionalism in a challenging environment and communicate effectively with different types of personalities? If the position is in a particularly fast-paced and demanding industry, this question can help recruiters decide if the candidate will be able to handle the pressure of the position.

What Other Entry-Level Interview Questions Should You Ask?

A resume and cover letter can provide a general overview of a candidate's experience and qualifications, but recruiters must dig deeper to get an accurate picture of how equipped the entry-level candidate is to handle challenges that arise beyond the basic job description.

Past experiences are a good starting point from which to evaluate a job candidate, but asking questions that shed light on an entry-level candidate's potential for future success is also an important factor in recruiting promising candidates.

The interview process is the time to assess a candidate’s level of professionalism, verbal communication skills, thought processes, and overall temperament and personality. Just by spending an hour conversing with a candidate, you will get a strong feel for whether or not they are the right fit for your corporate culture.

One question you can ask to help determine if a candidate is the right fit for your organizational culture is:

"How would you describe the professional environment and management style that will help to drive your best performance and results?"

If the position is in a more conservative and traditional corporate setting but the candidate feels better suited to work in a more informal and non-traditional startup culture, this question can help to determine whether they will be able to thrive in your organization.

Overall, following many of the interview questions posed above will help recruiters to assess if candidates have the right skillsets and experiences to be successful in the role they are interviewing for. Asking the right questions will create an efficient interview process and will ensure that when it comes time to making hiring decisions, only the best-suited candidates are brought on board.

To assist with your entry-level candidate assessment process, try using an organizational tool such as Symplicity Recruit that can help streamline the entire recruitment lifecycle, including scheduling networking events, posting jobs, screening applications and assessing candidates through interviews.