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The Best Interview Questions to Ask Entry-Level Candidates

The pandemic has changed the applicant landscape. As companies around the world were forced to lay off employees and pause hiring, the current unemployment market became saturated with individuals from all walks of life and varying skill sets.  This means that no matter what level role you’re looking to hire for — from seasoned professionals to entry-level candidates — quality candidates are out there.  

Hiring for an entry-level role requires a different interview strategy than hiring for more senior roles. Many entry-level candidates or recent graduates have little to no experience, so you’re not often able to reference an extensive resume to prove an individual’s qualifications. Instead, you should ask questions that gauge a candidate’s ambition, enthusiasm, and motivation to do the job.

Hiring entry-level candidates can be a challenge. According to Indeed, 41% of recruiters say entry-level positions are the hardest to fill. But, by asking the right questions in your interviews, you can separate the best candidates from the pack. Here are a few that top our list. 

Great interview questions to ask entry level candidates

What interests or activities have you decided to pursue outside of work or school?

Why this question matters: This question is telling for several reasons: 

  1. “Involved” candidates (like a student athlete or student government member) have taken the initiative to get through school and also participate in additional activities. This behavior will continue into their future careers. 
  2. Candidates who participated in extracurricular activities or had part-time jobs  tend to be better at multitasking and managing their time. If a candidate can describe a time when they managed multiple projects at once, they probably have experience in this department.
  3. Taking additional classes or workshops shows the candidates abundance of curiosity which means they like to broaden their horizons and are interested in new things.
  4. Talking about mentorship opportunities or passion projects related to their field of interest is another great way to answer this question as it shows that they are dedicated to learning and growing their skillset.

What do you think has prepared you for this role?
Why this question matters: Candidates should be able to highlight their strengths to show why they’d be a good fit for your organization, even if they’ve not had direct experience. You’re looking for someone who’s able to relate real-life situations to what they’ve read in the job description along with what they know about your company and the industry. This question, along with several others on this list, will demonstrate a candidate’s dedication to researching your organization. 

What about this role excites you? 

Why this question matters: There are a lot of ways your candidate can respond to this question, but you want someone who looks at your role as a great learning opportunity and a stepping stone in their career. It also can give insight into what tasks they look forward to doing, technology they’re excited to learn about, and other role-specific skills they are looking to acquire or grow in. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Why this question matters: A candidate who can plan for the future will be more strategic in their role and will work hard to make sure their goals are achieved. If their answer doesn’t align with the growth offered by the role they’re interviewing for, that may be a sign that the candidate won’t be happy in the position and you should find someone else.

How would your best friend describe you in three words? 

Why this question matters: Without a former employer, it may be difficult to understand what type of employee your candidate will be, but this question should give you some insight. You of course don’t know their best friend, so they are effectively describing themselves. This gives your candidate an opportunity to show why they’re the right person for the job based on the soft skills they mention.

Tell me about a mistake you’ve made and what you learned from it. 

Why this question matters: Mistakes happen. It’s all about how you address the mistake and what lessons you learn from it. The best candidates will share a detailed example rather than a general answer, followed by how they grew from having the mistake occur. Their answer doesn’t have to be related to the role to show that they are self aware and take responsibility for their actions.

Can you give me an example of a time when you had to find motivation to complete a difficult task?

Why this question matters: Motivation doesn’t always come easily. Especially in the current climate, self-motivation may be extremely difficult. But it’s a necessary characteristic of an independent worker. You want someone that can determine what needs to be done and do it themselves, because you or their trainer won’t always have time to walk them through a process or give them an assignment. 

Why do you want to work for this company?

Why this question matters: This is likely the candidate’s first job, so why they want to work for your organization is important. Their answer should reflect the level of research they conducted, but it also should have a personal element to it. There’s something that made  your company standout to them as a great place to work, so find out what it is.

Your entry-level positions matter just as much as your leadership roles, so choose your employees carefully. Candidate responses to these questions can be very telling, and ultimately help you differentiate the best candidates.

Want more tips on interviewing? Check out our blog on creative interview questions to ask to weed out bad candidates.

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