While companies are slated to hire considerably more recent college graduates this year, the process of choosing talent from a large pool of inexperienced candidates hasn’t gotten any easier. Every year hiring managers have to gamble when they hire recent graduates whose professional experience is often minimal. Hiring managers combine volatile factors like GPA, course load, and internship experience, and then they pick the candidate who seems the most promising.
Hiring graduates doesn’t have to be so risky. Companies should clearly define the role they’re hoping to fill, and they should hire strategically to find high-potential candidates.
Here are 6 tactics for identifying high-potential recent college graduates:
Look for commitment
A dedicated graduate will put in the extra hours to finish their work; they’ll stick with tasks even when they get difficult; and they’re more likely to stay and grow at the company.
Study a candidate’s resume: were they involved in the same organization throughout college? Do they volunteer regularly, or are they a competitive athlete? Look for signs the candidate understands and practices commitment, either in school or in their personal life.
Interview for initiative
The best graduates will be hungry. They’re ready to work hard, even if they’re new to the industry and have a lot to learn. They will look for solutions before bringing problems to their managers. Despite their inexperience, they will hit the ground running from day one. When they finish projects, they’ll ask for more.
To gauge a grad’s initiative during an interview, ask them to share what they know about the company… if they can’t tell you much, then they likely didn’t prepare well. Ask candidates to share their biggest success stories, and listen for decisions they made or actions they took requiring independence. Good candidates should have strong examples ready, and they should be able to articulate how they were successful.
Hire for emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to gauge, understand, and manage emotions. Emotionally intelligent people are better employees, coworkers, and friends. Graduates who exhibit emotional intelligence will likely be able to collaborate with their peers, build relationships at work, and communicate well with their manager. The ability to communicate and collaborate is particularly important for recent grads, yet 52% of employers say this is the top skill graduates lack in the workplace.
Ask candidates what role they think they play on teams or in group projects, or give candidates hypothetical situations and have them talk through how they’d handle them. Emotional intelligence is tough to glean from a resume or an interview, but asking pointed questions about how candidates communicate and work with others is a good start.
Ask about goals
Recent graduates can sometimes panic when asked about their short and long-term goals, but it’s important to know what they hope to accomplish in their careers and how they think the company fits into their goals.
Find out if they’re hoping to grow within the industry, or if they consider the position a stepping stone for other career dreams. Candidates should be able to articulate why they want to work there, what they will contribute, and what they hope to gain from the experience.
Check their references
Few companies ask for references from recent college graduates, but that doesn’t mean grads don’t have them. A proactive candidate will have professors, managers from past internships, or other professionals who are ready and willing to act as a reference for their qualifications and character.
Assign them work
Giving candidates assignments is one of the best ways to gauge their potential; they have to prove they can do the work. It can also show a candidate’s commitment to getting the position as well as their understanding of what the role is. After the initial interview, give candidates an assignment to complete. The assignment could be a presentation, data analysis, competitor research, or a set of writing samples. Companies can also have candidates give a presentation on the company; leave the assignment open-ended, and see how they interpret it.
The candidates who over-deliver on the assignment, can explain their thought process, and produce great work are far more likely to bring these qualities into their roles.