How to Evaluate Entry-Level Job Candidates

While many refer to the past few years as the Great Resignation, recent graduates, other young professionals, and people changing careers are energetically looking to start their new walk of life. This can be great for many companies, as these young professionals are often thirsty for experience, mentorship, and the chance to advance their existing skillset. However, it can be challenging for companies to know what to look for in entry-level candidates.

Nevertheless, candidates can be effectively evaluated through resume review, asking calculated interview questions, determining what can be taught to a candidate through training and mentorship, and discovering what skills they must already possess.

Consider What You Are Looking for in a Candidate

Before evaluating entry-level candidates, you should determine what you’re looking for in an employee. New positions open up for a myriad of reasons. That may include company growth, fulfilling further business needs, or replacing employees who’ve moved on to new roles.

Along with the logistics of opening a new position—determining required and preferred qualifications, gaining budget approval, and opening up the requisition according to compliance—hiring managers must consider what skills are essential for their next candidate.

Some questions to consider are:

  • What programs, databases, or additional computer skills are necessary, and what systems can be taught?
  • What transferable skills will lend well to the open position?
  • What kind of education are you looking for in a candidate?

These questions help outline your search so that when you begin reviewing applications and evaluating candidates, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for.

Reviewing Resumes of Entry-Level Candidates

Once you’ve determined what you’re looking for in your next candidate, you can begin considering applications. This next step typically involves reviewing a lot of resumes.

Though occasionally tedious—especially when hundred of resumes come in for one requisition—resume review is an invaluable part of the evaluation process.

Resumes communicate a person’s qualifications and brand, thus illustrating why they’re unique from other candidates. A top-notch resume can help entry-level candidates stand out from the crowd and land introductory interviews. However, hiring managers can learn much from an entry-level candidate’s resume prior to the interview process.

What to Look for in a Resume

A few key things to consider when reviewing the resume of entry-level candidates are:

  • Their highest level of education as it pertains to the requirements of the job
  • Past relevant working experience or internships
  • Volunteer experiences gained before, during, or after college
  • Experience with industry-specific skills, programs, and systems
  • Clubs, academic affiliations, and other extracurricular activities

By evaluating resumes and considering these things, hiring managers can assess leadership skills and work ethic and determine what unique skills an entry-level candidate can offer the company.

A cover letter is another excellent way to get to know a candidate before bringing them in for an initial interview. They provide hiring managers with additional details about how skillsets align with the role, what they can offer to the team, and why they’re interested in the position. Cover letters are great ways to tip the scales in helping hiring managers make that decision, particularly when conflicted about bringing a candidate in for an interview.

The Interview Process

Speaking of interviews, some may wonder what questions are best to ask when you interview entry-level candidates.

Interviews allow hiring managers to get to know the candidates, observe how a candidate conducts themselves, and ask engaging questions to help with their evaluation. But because interviews are limited in time, preparing for them is essential to their success.

Asking the Right Questions

Though each hiring manager is different, many may begin by asking candidates to talk about themselves and past experiences. However, hiring managers can gain additional information and insight by asking the right questions. Here are some questions to consider asking entry-level candidates:

  1. Why are you looking for a new position, and what attracted you to this role?
  2. What skills can you bring to the team in this position?
  3. How do you think your boss and coworkers would describe you?
  4. Can you describe a work or life accomplishment that makes you proud?
  5. What are your top three strengths and weaknesses?
  6. Can you describe when you had to solve a critical work problem or overcome a significant challenge?
  7. What are you looking for in your next role and work environment?
  8. Can you walk us through how you organize your day, prioritize your tasks, and manage your time?
  9. How do you handle or respond to constructive criticism and feedback?
  10. Can you describe how you feel your long-term career goals align with those of this company?

Of course, a hiring manager may ask many other strategic questions during an interview that will help them better evaluate entry-level candidates. But these are a good start.

Verbal responses aren’t the only thing to pay attention to during an interview. You can also learn much from a candidate’s nonverbal communication.

RELATED: How to Recruit Entry-Level Talent

Important Observations to Make During an Interview

The first thing to observe is whether or not a candidate is on time for their interview. Additionally, assessing how a candidate speaks, presents themself, and their professionalism factors into your overall evaluation.

If an entry-level candidate arrives late, looks sloppy, and doesn’t act professionally, it forces you to wonder how they’d present themselves in the office or when working with clients. These nonverbal cues in an interview may be red flags to how they behave as an employee.

Observing and noting nonverbal communication is just as valuable as how they answer interview questions when you screen entry-level candidates.

Final Evaluations of an Entry-Level Candidate

Depending on your requisition, you may or may not have multiple rounds of interviews. More than one interview can be beneficial as you will further get to know the candidates and ask any clarifying questions.

Unfortunately, most entry-level candidates lack experience and industry knowledge. This position may be their first attempt at starting their careers. In these cases, you should consider certain factors when evaluating to make a final decision.

If an entry-level candidate lacks experience or industry-specific knowledge, evaluate what skills can lend well to the current position. Transferable soft skills they possess may include:

  • Ability to take initiative
  • Communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Computer skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Dependability
  • Accountability and strong work ethic
  • Ability to meet deadlines

Company-specific software, programs, and procedures can typically be taught. Work ethic can’t. Sometimes the most essential qualities in entry-level candidates are durable ones: a strong work ethic, eagerness to learn, and an ability to take pride in their work.

At the end of the day, making the right decision sometimes requires you to consult your gut feeling. But considering all these factors can help your evaluation process and give you the confidence to make the decision you feel is best!

Looking to Hire for Entry-Level Roles?

We've vetted thousands of qualified candidates who are ready to work. Let us know your need below! Questions? Call us toll-free: 855-485-8853