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Draft questions to predict young applicants’ true potential

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Issue: You often can't rely on past experience when interviewing for entry-level jobs, but you can gauge maturity and responsibility.

Benefit: Hiring becomes less of a guessing game.

Action: Sharpen screening skills by adding new tactics to sort through young applicants.

Hiring younger workers for entry-level and managerial-trainee jobs poses unique challenges. Because those applicants have little or no experience under their belts, interviewing requires special insights.

The key: To predict job success, focus on applicants' maturity level by asking the right questions and looking for certain nonverbal cues. Here's how:

Look for indicators of responsibility. A good gauge of maturity—especially vital if the applicant is being eyed for a supervisory job—is to examine how well he or she is doing in school. Consider the coursework; you're looking for a more rigorous academic program.

Secondly, ask whether the applicant has participated in activities, such as clubs and sports. That demonstrates an ability to get along with others, a critical job skill. Lastly, ask about volunteering in community activities, which can give you a sign of willingness to serve others.

Sharpen your observation skills. Applicants communicate on three levels: words, tone of voice and body language. Take notice of each during interviews. Examples: Eye contact, gestures, friendliness, interest level, speaking style, word choice and even grooming and neatness. Specifically, assess these factors:

  • Do they speak clearly and with proper grammar, leaving out the slang? Do they write clearly with proper spelling and grammar? 
  • Is their job application neat, thorough and complete? 
  • Are they ambitious? Courteous? Friendly? Energetic? Willing to learn? Reliable? 

Weed out potential troublemakers. Discuss work requirements frankly and observe the person's response. Talk about dress code, appropriate conduct, attendance and customer service. Most employers save this discussion for orientations, but tackling it up front gives you valuable clues into your young applicants.

Judge maturity level. Ask questions that elicit responses describing confidence, judgment, accomplishment, decisiveness and team skills. Were the applicants club organizers or leaders? Ask how they liked that leadership role. Were they persuasive in getting others to join? What was their leadership style? How did they set goals and resolve conflicts?

5 questions to detect maturity

1. "What do you think distinguishes a great employee from a good one?"

2. "If I were to talk with your previous [teacher, manager or other authority figure], what would he or she say about you? Your strengths and weaknesses?"

3. "What do you take pride in?"

4. "Tell me something valuable you've learned that you could bring to a job."

5. "What's the best idea you ever 'sold' to a teacher, supervisor, parent?"

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