It’s one of the ultimate catch-22s: We need entry-level college graduates AND we want them to have experience. But as most recent grads have not yet spent a lot of time on the job market, we need other ways to judge an entry-level candidate. How can we evaluate job seekers who do not have significant work experience?
If we’re completely honest, excluding highly technical jobs, most people can be trained for most jobs. Perhaps the most important part of your decision is: Do I like this person? Would I like to be around them everyday?
Based on working closely with graduates and entry-level hiring managers, here are some signifiers we’ve identified:
1. Internship Experience
This is perhaps one of the strongest signifiers that a recent grad is ready for entry-level responsibility. Often unpaid, internships serve as a crash-course in professional conduct, office etiquette, handing deadlines and pressure, as well as specific job-related skills. For many students and grads, this is the transition between academic and work life. And regardless of whether the internship is menial & mindless or challenging, the intern will learn a lot about responsibility and how to work with a manager.
2. Hourly Summer Jobs
Bartending, grocery store clerks, waiting tables – hourly rent-paying gigs are often undervalued on entry-level resumes, but should not be taken lightly. These are often great ways to refine interpersonal, customer service, emotional intelligence, and time management skills. Hourly summer jobs can prepare candidates better than any extracurricular club. These candidates probably know how to show up on time, stay attentive when training, handle criticism, and know how to put in a 40-hour + work week.
3. Academic Projects & Extracurriculars
Extracurriculars are a classic indicator of energetic and active students. From community involvement to research projects, extracurriculars build communication and even directly job-related skills. Some believe the best salespeople are college athletes. Think about the skills and conditioning that come with certain extracurriculars and you can get a good idea of the type of candidate you have.
4. Independent Learning
Nothing shows self-motivation better than someone who learns outside of school hours. Workshops, online courses, DIY projects are great hacks for accruing extra experience and skills as a student or grad. This is a signal to you that they are self-motivated, avid learners, and growth-oriented.
5. Interview Conduct and Follow-Through
If we’re completely honest, excluding highly technical jobs, most people can be trained for most jobs. Perhaps the most important part of your decision is: Do I like this person? Would I like to be around them everyday? Keeping an eye on how they communicate throughout the entire job application process will help you get a feeling if they would be a good person to be around. Being likeable, dependable, and a clear communicator are arguably more important to long-term success than specific work experience.