How to recruit entry level candidates

By Robert Half on 11 November 2017

It is time to expand your team and you need entry level candidates who can handle some of the workload that doesn’t require extensive expertise or knowledge. You’re looking for people who are smart and motivated enough to make an impact and grow with the company over time.

Selecting individuals who fit this criteria isn’t always easy, though. You can’t screen junior candidates the same way you would with more senior staff simply because entry level applicants lack a long track record in the workplace. In fact, some may not have one at all.

What can you do, then, to make sure you’re recruiting entry level candidates who can hit the road running? The following steps can help:

Ask about academics

A good academic track record doesn’t ensure success, but it does say that the person is determined, focused, and able to meet deadlines and objectives. If someone’s school performance doesn’t “wow”, its worth asking why grades were low before ruling out a candidate.

You may learn the person’s test scores went down when a family member was seriously ill, for instance, and gain a new perspective.

Consider unrelated work experiences

Normally, you look for applicants who have had previous experience in the profession or at least in your industry. You may not be that lucky when it comes to recruiting entry level candidates, so be open-minded when considering their work history.

Skills gained in unrelated jobs may work to your advantage. For instance, someone who worked as a retail assistant during university may not have direct accounting experience, but would most likely have learned how to manage money, work with a variety of personalities and take instructions.

Look for the go-getters

People who are driven will make choices that separate them from the pack. For instance, they will complete internships in their field before graduation, even though it’s not required. They might volunteer their time with charity organisations or get involved with student groups. They’re the ones you’ll run into at professional association meetings, eager to learn more about their chosen career path and talk to those already working in that area.

The same ambition shown through their extra activities is likely to come out when they’re a part of your workforce.

Pay attention to first impressions

You can also get a good sense of what someone might be like as an employee by observing their behavior during the interview process. Entry level candidates may be extremely nervous, given that they will have little experience with interviews, so that shouldn’t necessarily be a key factor.

Their answers may also not have the refinement you’d encounter with seasoned professionals. However, smaller actions can say a lot.

Little details matter

Ask the front receptionist about how applicants conducted themselves waiting in the lobby. Were they polite upon arrival? Did they sit quietly and review notes before the interview or did they talk noisily on their hand phone? Also, write down your own impressions. Are they dressed appropriately? What body language did they convey?

The finer details in how people act during the visit can raise red flags or confirm that they should remain in the running for the spot.

Give extra points for enthusiasm

Someone may have had perfect scores at school and an interesting internship, but that doesn’t matter if the person isn’t showing any noticeable excitement about your job.

Candidates don’t need to have a cheerleader-like attitude, but they should show a real interest in their chosen field and your company. Expect those just beginning their careers to be especially passionate about their job paths. Take note of applicants who become more animated when talking about what they enjoyed most in school and what they hope the future brings at your firm.

Be frank

Let’s face it, most entry level jobs aren’t glamorous and sometimes they can be repetitive. While you definitely want to tout the benefits of joining your team to attract top applicants, also make sure you’re giving an accurate picture of the opening.

Being candid about the challenges and drawbacks associated with the job can help you weed out those who aren’t interested in hard work or paying their dues. Just watch candidates’ facial expressions and demeanour during the interview. If you still detect enthusiasm even after you’ve explained the position involves a lot of data entry, for example, you have a good contender on your hands.

Know how to screen their references

Another aspect of hiring entry level candidates that’s different from recruiting more-experienced professionals are reference checks. Chances are you’ll be asking a different set of reference questions from the usual questions you usually ask.

Instead of talking to the applicant’s former manager for instance, you may be speaking with a professor or a café supervisor. You might ask the professor about academic performance and the supervisor about interpersonal skills and reliability.

Work closely with your entry level candidates

Once you’ve selected and hired entry level staff, stay in touch with them during the period before their start date. They will likely require extra guidance, such as help from human resources in filling out employee forms.

Personal advice from you about what they can expect on their initial days on the job can calm nerves and set them up for a positive start with your organisation.

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