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Interviewing Students? Here’s How To Get Past Their “Perfect” Answers

In an ideal world, the hiring process would be viewed as a meeting between two professionals who are looking to create a partnership.

It would be an engagement where both individuals viewed each other as an equal. It would be a chance to assess each other to see if this long-term agreement would be beneficial for both parties.

However, to a student or grad looking to start gaining experience in their field, the playing field is anything but level. An over-saturated job market combined with a lack of experience can shift an aspiring professional’s view to survival mode… a desire to increase their chances by whatever means possible.

At first, this may seem like a plus for the recruiter. After all, you have the upper hand – there are tons of qualified students and grads vying for your attention and eager to please. However, all this can backfire when you realize that you’ve hired the wrong person.

The problem: Inauthentic engagements

Many students and grads are under the impression that they have to fit into a specific mould when presenting themselves to an employer. Why? Because everyone has told them to.

When’s the last time you wrote a job posting that asked for introverted qualities versus extroverted? And every employer seems to be asking for the same thing: top communication skills, assertiveness, and fast-paced people who thrive under pressure.

It makes sense that students feel that they need to fulfill these requirements, even if it’s not who they are. They need a foot-in-the-door, and they believe the best way to do that is to tell an employer they can ride a horse, and then learn how to do it later.

What does this mean for recruiters? It means they will be going through applications that are not a reflection of who the candidate is, but rather, what they think the employer wants them to be. It means spending many hours meeting people who play up qualities that they think you want. And in the end, you end up hiring an individual who is nothing like the person you met during the interview. And a mismatched hire is a waste of time for everyone.

The solution: Refocus your approach

More specifically, show candidates that you want to hire them – not an adjusted version of them. Focus your interactions on getting to know them, without making them feel like there is a cookie-cutter persona you are looking for that they have to fill. Of course, you may have a general idea of what you want your hire to look like, and that’s okay. But you may find that the best individual for the role does not 100% fit what you initially expected.

Job postings

Job postings set the tone for a job-seeker. It conveys the expectations and requirements of the role, and dictates the form the successful candidate must take in order to have a chance to prove themselves in the face-to-face interview. A good job posting also reflects the company culture through the copy and layout.

Be careful not to specify what you require of the candidates outside of the technical skills you need. For example, you can tell them you’re looking for individuals who will thrive in a fast-paced environment. But refrain from telling them that you require people who are outgoing and assertive. This will encourage applicants to assess themselves before applying.


Interviews are an employer’s opportunity to meet face-to-face with candidates and see if the personality matches the application. Like the job posting, it’s important to focus on the technical skills rather than the personality traits you want the candidate to have. But you can take your assessment a step further by asking the right questions.

Turn the questions around on a candidate by asking them what they are looking for. For example, instead of asking “What can you do for our company to deliver results?” consider reframing your question to “If you could create any work environment, and control all the elements involved, what scenario would get the best results out of you?” Asking the second question will force your candidate to assess themselves once again, and they are less likely to come up with answers they think you’re looking for.

The benefits

Students will feel valued.

During a long job hunt, many students may start to get discouraged: constantly trying to sell themselves, only to fall short of their ultimate goal. Employers have the opportunity to inject a fresh and engaging element to the hiring process by focusing on the individual candidate on a different level. Asking students and grads who they are and what their interests are will really make a difference, and help you stand out among other organizations.

You will get more honest answers.

This process really helps build rapport with students. The more they feel valued, the more willing they will be to open up. Putting a spin on questions in order to highlight their preferences will often encourage them to share more (as most people love talking about themselves). However, you’ll find that their answers will be much more revealing, so you can determine whether or not they’d be the right fit.

You may find a new persona that fits the role.

Almost every campus recruiter is guilty of going into an event or an interview with a specific persona in mind. It can be easy to sit down in an interview and immediately dismiss the person in front of you because they don’t fit your expectations. By keeping your options open, and encouraging students to show you why their qualities and skills make them a great fit, you may find someone who you never expected to fill the position.

Discussion: As a recruiter, how do you reposition classic interview questions to gain new information about students and grads?

Recruiting On Campus? These 3 Questions Will Quickly Reveal A Student’s Fit With Your Organization

If you have a campus recruitment session coming up, you’re probably bracing yourself for a busy day of shaking hands, presentations, and answering the same questions over and over. But as they say, a hectic day on campus is usually a great sign that students are interested in the roles that your company is hiring for.

That being said, these events leave very little time to actually get to know the students you meet. Let’s face it: after a few hours, faces and names begin to blur, and your attention is likely divided between their answers and the next thing on your to-do list.

You’re not ready to commit to a full interview with these eager applicants, but you should make the most of your brief interactions. These 3 questions can reveal a lot about a student or grad’s fit within your organization.

1. “What do you know about us?”

This is a common question – and for good reason. It’s a great indicator of a potential candidate’s preparedness, and their interest in the company. Most of the time, you will get one of two reactions: a confident, prepared answer, or a vague, broken response.

This is a highly effective tactic when dealing with a high volume of individuals. Inquiring about an applicant’s knowledge of the company is usually done during the face-to-face interview. However, asking this questions during a campus recruitment event is a great way to separate the students you meet into two categories: the ones who are browsing and the ones who are committed to joining your team.

Keep the question open ended, and see which direction the candidate takes their answer. Don’t ask for dry facts about the company – students know that you’re looking for those. Pay attention for the individuals who tie your organization’s mission to their own passions, and bonds with the company on a deeper level.

2. “What are you looking for a company to offer you?”

One important thing to note: you are not asking about what they can do for your company, but rather, what you can do for them.

When students engage with recruiters, most of them will do so with the goal of telling them what they want to hear. Even if they answer your questions with honourable intentions, it can make it difficult to determine whether or not they will fit in with your company.

This question flips the table on the student. You’re putting their needs before your own. “What do you need to advance your career? How can we help you succeed?” This is something that they will not expect – as a result, they are more likely to see your company as an organization that invests and cares about their employees. At the same time, you’ll be able to determine from their answers if they are the right fit for the culture and role that you’re hiring for. It’s a win-win!

3. “What are you passionate about?”

This is another opportunity to put the spotlight on the candidate. Most students and grads will have their core competencies, skills, and educational background rehearsed to a tee. They’re probably tired of rattling off their resume in an attempt to pitch their value to employers. And because they’re in “show mode”, recruiters will find it more difficult to assess their personalities and how they fit in.

The majority of students today associate their identities with some sort of social cause. They have work that they’re passionate about, and excited to share with others. Plus, people naturally jump at the chance to talk about things that they love with other people – giving them the chance will help them ease out of their “interview persona” and settle into their everyday personalities.

Of course, not all students will talk about social causes. Some individuals will bring up their hobbies or activities that they love to do in their spare time. Remember that these are still valuable experiences – and if they have the type of energy and enthusiasm that you’re looking for, then they may be someone you want to bring on board for a face-to-face meeting.

These 3 questions are not meant to be a full assessment of an applicant’s potential. However, it’s a great way to whittle down the volume of applications you receive at a campus event. On top of that, the types of questions you ask can show applicants that your organization is about more than finding top talent – it’s about listening to their needs and supporting them as they advance their careers.

Discussion: What time-saving tactics do you use when you’re working a campus recruitment event?

3 Signs That A Candidate Has Lost Interest During An Interview (And How To Address The Situation)

There’s at least a few moments in any recruiter’s career when they realize that a candidate has lost complete interest during the interview.

It’s not always obvious – chances are, they don’t want to offend you (especially if they’re a student or new grad) so they won’t make a show of it. After all, it doesn’t make sense to burn bridges. So the next time you feel the feeling you’re losing them, look out for these 3 signs.

1. They’re not physically engaged

They may be saying all the right things, but if their body language says “I’m bored (or worse, “get me out of here!”), then you need to take steps to reel them back in.

Observe them – are they making eye contact? Slouched? Are they not smiling? Compare their behaviour to when the interview began. If there’s a noticeable difference, it should set off a red flag.

2. They’re giving short(er) answers

Most students and grads are eager to give in-depth answers about their experiences. And while there are some that may become nervous and give you short answers, there will be some that are clearly giving you bullet-points on their experience in hopes that the engagement will end sooner.

This may not last the entire meeting. Pay attention to which questions they answer in a shortened manner – it may be in response to something that they’re not comfortable with, or they’re feeling hesitant about.

3. They’re talking about other opportunities they’re considering

They’re not necessarily doing it in a patronizing manner – most likely, this will sound something along the lines of “I just want to make you aware that I’m considering a few other job opportunities.”

It’s a tactic that some students or grads use to try and soften the blow on recruiters when they are feeling hesitant about a job they’re interviewing for. The idea is that if they make the recruiter aware that they’re being considered elsewhere, it won’t sting so much when they finally turn them down.

Solution: Get to the root of the problem

It’s disheartening when you realize that the young professional in front of you in much less invested in taking the role than you are. And while it’s easy to start questioning yourself (was it something I said??), it’s important to identify why they are exhibiting these signs.

While there are times when the circumstances are out of your control (i.e. it’s not the right fit, they cannot commit to certain components of the role, etc.), there are times when you may be able to clarify any misunderstandings and get things back on track.

1. Give them the floor: If you give your candidate a safe space to voice their concerns, you can react accordingly. Be sure not to approach this situation in a patronizing manner – be understanding, and perhaps start the conversation with a phrase like, “I was hoping to get some feedback from you – is there anything about this position that you have any concerns about?” Position yourself so that they know you’re asking because you want to make sure they feel this position is the right fit so that both parties will be happy with the outcome.

2. Listen, don’t judge: This is more tricky than it sounds – pay attention to your posture, expressions, and reactions to make sure you’re not giving off an aura of judgement. Asking a student or grad to voice their concerns can make them feel like they’re in a vulnerable position, and you don’t want to make them feel like they’re being backed into a corner. If you’ve build a strong rapport with your candidate in advance, it will be easier to address concerns like these.

3. Address concerns: Having students and grads voice their concerns puts you in a prime position to address them. As mentioned above, sometimes their concerns are out of your hands. But if their concerns are within your control, or a misunderstanding/miscommunication, then take steps to correct it. Going out of your way to make sure they have the right info shows your candidate that you’re looking out for them, and you’re willing to go above and beyond to make sure they’re well informed.

Discussion: If a candidate has visibly lost interest during an interview, do you feel it is worth pursuing?


4 Symptoms Of A Disillusioned Campus Recruiter (And How To Fix Your Perspective)

Do you remember your first day on the job as a campus or college recruiter?

It may have been a short time or perhaps years ago, but most people remember that feeling of excitement – being high on ambition, and pledging to do their very best to build their company or organization by connecting with great people.

Unfortunately, almost every professional goes through a phase where they become disillusioned with their job. It’s not that they stop producing great work, or the role itself lessens in worth. But people often forget to step back from the details of their day-to-day work and remind themselves of why they chose to pursue this career.

So the question is, are you going through a gray phase with your recruitment career? Here are some symptoms you might be facing.

1. You’re seeing names in your database, not people.

When you’re going through resume after resume, day after day, it can be easy to forget that there is a person behind each application. You focus on the text, but not the sentiment behind it.

Remember that every application takes time to craft – students and grads spend hours researching your organization, and thinking about how they fit best in your company. Behind every file in your database, there is an individual who genuinely wants to work with your team and demonstrate why they’re worth your time.

Take some time to look past their educational background and their previous titles. Think in terms of transferable skills – for instance, if they’re applying for an engineering job, but they only have door-to-door sales experience, consider the fact that many engineers benefit from presentation skills when working with clients.

2. Their seemingly obvious questions feel like a huge hassle for you.

If you are a campus recruiter, you know that you will often get the same questions all day long from many different students. From “what does your company do?” to “how much does this job pay?” you’ll have to answer and sometimes redirect both professional and unprofessional inquiries.

This can get frustrating, especially when you know that all this info is readily available on your website. Perhaps you feel you are interacting with people who are not committed to joining your company because they didn’t prepare or do their research first.

Always remember that there is not a one-size-fits-all explanation when it comes to why candidates ask what they ask. Some individuals might have attended the event on a whim, and perhaps some genuinely might not know that the question they asked was inappropriate. Use your discretion, and remember that most people are acting with their best intentions, and they deserve the benefit of the doubt when being considered for a role with your company.

3. Every interview feels like a re-run.

Being in the “driver’s seat” of an interview can be exciting – but after awhile, you can feel like you’re caught in an infinite loop.

You know what you’re going to ask, and you more or less know what the candidate is going to say. Sometimes, you may feel like they’re making up answers to impress you, using generic phrases like “go-getter” and “hard worker”.

If you’re getting the same answers all the time, it probably means you need to change it up. Don’t ask the same questions all the time – turn your interaction into a two way conversation. Get to know the candidate on a personal level beforehand, and base the questions on what you know about them. Think about the phrasing you’re using in your conversation, or use more scenario-based questions that will force them to draw from their own experiences.

4. You wait for them to impress you, and are let down when they don’t.

Have you ever seen one of those movie scenes where a court jester is tasked with impressing a stone-faced member of royalty? If your interviews are taking on this image, it’s time to make a change.

Students and grads often feel like it’s their job is to make an impression on the campus recruiter, which is absolutely true. However, if they are not receiving any feedback from the person they’re speaking to, their performance will likely be much lower in quality.

Don’t wait for them to come up with a stellar act – meet them part way by interacting with them during the interview. This can be something as simple as a nod, or even a phrase like “I agree.” You’ll find that when the candidate is at ease, they will naturally show what they have to offer.

Discussion: How much of an impact does a campus recruiter’s attitude have on a potential candidate?

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