Talent Agent

I was assigned to my company’s team that recruits grads. Now that I am on the other side of an interview, what should I look for in new hires?

Written by John Regan, former Director of Sales, for equity research.

Everyone in your company would have a different answer to your question. The hiring process can be tedious and time-consuming, but the cost of hiring the wrong person can be monumental. Finding the person with the right skills who is a good fit for the company is essential. Following are some things you should consider in potential recruits.

Most of your candidates will fulfill the educational criteria to get the job, as they just graduated. They may also possess good technical skills and be familiar with current tech applications and hardware. The deficit will come in soft skills, an ability that most grads lack.

Soft skills are intangible and generally refer to team-working, critical thinking, communication, motivation, flexibility and decision making. These are not easy to evaluate in an interview, but you can assess the candidate’s personality by asking leading questions.

People skills are hard to teach so you want to look for someone that is comfortable on an interpersonal level. Making small talk is a good indicator that they will be comfortable communicating with the rest of the team. A lunch interview is a good opportunity to test this, maybe with other members of your staff. Observe how the interviewee reacts and interacts with you and others, a relaxed and positive performance is a good sign.

Ambition and drive are also soft skills that new hires will need to succeed and benefit the organization. You want a candidate that gets fired up and is enthusiastic about working for your company. Ask them why they want the job or how they would approach a project or challenge. A passionate response is a good sign that they are motivated and want to make a difference, watch for body language and indicators that they are genuine.

A good work ethic is essential, which may be determined from previous work experience or college projects. See if they volunteer information and details of previous achievements. You want someone that is reliable, conscientious, hardworking and able to think for themselves. A manager will not want to micromanage all of their staff independently. Candidates should be flexible and able to switch job functions.

A likable personality is another good trait that virtually guarantees getting along with colleagues. Teamwork is not taught at college as courses are an individual undertaking. Someone that shines during the interview process and is instantly affable is likely to get on well in the workplace.

Interviews should not be a one-way process, so encourage them to ask questions. It will demonstrate many of the soft skills we mentioned and show initiative. While on-the-job training will provide specific technical abilities and experience, the candidate with good soft skills is the best one for the organization.

Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do… Malcolm Forbes.

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