Hiring Entry-Level Employees

By Eva Rykrsmith on July 18, 2012 No Comment

I hire and manage a number of entry level nonprofit employees (permanent full-time staff as well as AmeriCorps members and college interns). When I hire these folks, it’s often pretty tough to identify the best candidates — so many of them don’t really know how to give me the information I need to evaluate their abilities. The best person I’ve ever hired in this kind of position had a resume so bad… well, let’s just say that I did a Google image search for “bad resume examples” and couldn’t find a resume as badly put together as hers. (Why did I hire her? We had an incredibly short turnaround time to make a decision – one week from posting the job to signing a contract — so I read every resume super carefully.)

Any advice on how to see the superstar-in-the-making when she’s hidden by the uninspiring cover letter, light-on-the-details resume, and jangly interview nerves that often come along with someone new on the professional scene?

I have always thought that a resume and a behavioral interview, while a common combination for hiring professionals, is a poor way to evaluate entry-level candidates. Resumes and interviews aren’t very good at predicting high performers in the first place, but when a candidate doesn’t have much of a background of professional experience to draw from, it’s even more of a problem.

Your experience mirrors this; cover letters, resumes, and interviews are not providing the data you need to make your decision so you need a different way to evaluate whether candidates can do the job. First, make sure you have defined what skills, characteristics, abilities, or competencies the new hire must possess. Leave out anything that you can and are willing to provide training on.

You can then seek to evaluate them on the criteria you identified. Here are three less common, yet effective methods you can try to get the information you need:

  • Situational interview: rather than asking what they have done previously, ask what they hypothetically would do in a certain situation.
  • Written interview questions: instead of (or in addition to) a verbal interview, create a questionnaire and allow them to fill it out in written format (especially effective for introverts!).
  • Work sample or job task: assign a typical job task and see how well they perform.
  • Define the deal-maker: the opposite of a deal-breaker, this is the quality that reliably predicts success in that specific position. Entry-level non-technical position? Personally, I’d hire the one with passion and an eagerness to learn!

This was my answer to the June reader question on the Intuit QuickBase Blog. To see the other three experts’ answers, please view the original post at 360 Answers: How to Hire Entry-Level Employees.

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  Copyright © 2010 Articles by Eva Rykrsmith | Art credit for square in upper right hand corner to Michael D. Edens