Best practice for interviewing graduates
As early as March this year there were strong signs that staff hiring was on the fastest rise in 12 years since October 1997 (Recruitment and Employment Confederation together with KPMG, Survey of 400 Recruitment agencies). If this trend continues, it is anticipated that projected 2011 graduate numbers will also be on the up.
Whether or not your numbers increase, the logistics behind a successful recruitment campaign are immense and often you rely on assistance from the line. Their assessment of candidates technical knowledge and capability is invaluable when selecting the most appropriate graduates to join your talent pool.
In a recent survey on how the financial services interview is changing (conducted by eFinancial Careers), one recruitment consultancy whose clients include fund management groups and hedge funds commented that companies face increasing pressure to get hiring decisions right due to both the economy and employment legislation.
For seasoned graduate recruiters this may translate into added pressure to ensure line managers are equipped with best practice techniques for graduate interviews.
Fair and consistent interview approachYour interviewers may be willing volunteers or have been persuaded by their managers to take part for their own development either way they need to be able to sell your organisation in a positive light, clearly explaining your values, culture and approach to clients.
However, with time pressures and impending deadlines, observing graduates at assessment centres or interviewing them at subsequent meetings is not often a high priority for your business representatives. If this is their first time assisting with graduate recruitment they may not have had any formal interviewing training.
Many will have taken part in the lateral hire recruitment process and will have their own tried and tested interview techniques, often based on questions asked of them when recruited into their current position. Others may not have interviewed before, but might feel confident that they can read a candidates CV a couple of hours before the interview and get by.
Although either approach could have a positive outcome, current employment legislation requires a fair and consistent recruitment process be followed. Your team will need to demonstrate this if asked for feedback directly from the candidate or if audited. Therefore, to guarantee this fair and consistent approach, you will need to prepare your business representatives to interview to the required standard.
Whether you use competency-based questions, behavioural interviewing techniques, psychometric profiling or a combination of these your interview team need to understand how to:
- Build rapid rapport and provide a positive interview environment for the candidate
- Discover someones motivation and ability to do the role
- Take notes providing evidence rather than opinion
- Avoid unlawful interview questions.
At 7city we have direct experience of both recruiting graduates into the financial markets and providing them with appropriate training to get them desk ready. This gives us a real insight into their psyche and generational approach to work.
Interviewing potential graduate candidates?
Typically we have seen a shift in the work requirements of graduates. Over and above their usual concerns regarding technical capability, on entering the industry most graduates are focused on how they will cope with the long hours, whether or not they will be able to maintain some semblance of work/life balance, and what career development will be offered to them.
Your interviewers therefore need to be honest about these factors to ensure that graduates fully understand what its like to work at your organisation. It is neither advisable for them to over-sell nor under-sell a role because this risks mismanaging the candidates expectations, wasting valuable time and creating confusion.
Use the following to attract and sell the organisation and the role:
- Be positive about the career possibilities
- Use warm language that convinces
- Structure your documents carefully
- Avoid repeating information unnecessarily
- Be honest but avoid flat statements and empty clich??s
- Put a positive spin on the crunch issues (hours, conflict, stress)
- State essential and desirable skills / experience
- Include a summary of the role at the start
- Add stretching and challenging tasks
So, how do you ensure your interview process discovers true potential for your organisation? There are many websites, books and other forms of career guidance available to candidates. Indeed many of your careers websites provide clues, hints and tips on how to succeed during the recruitment and assessment phases.
While allowing candidates to self-assess their suitability for the roles on offer, these websites also make it harder for interviewers to truly understand whether or not someone is the right fit.
It is easy to tell when someone is answering your question with a well-rehearsed, stock response.
Uncovering the graduate
To get beyond the stock answer and find out what really drives the candidates try the following:
- Review the online graduate resources to see what advice is given to graduates regarding interview technique. Once you know what they are expecting during the interview you can aim to be different.
- Use a variety of motivational, competency and behavioural-based questions as well as those designed to assess technical ability.
- Encourage candidates to talk about their specific role when describing scenarios/situations.
- Use probing questions to delve further into a subject and cross-reference previous answers.