Interviewing candidates is the most important process in determining the potential fit and success of a future student employee. Creating a strong and intentional interviewing process can help you continue marketing your position to students, establish rapport with candidates while conducting a deeper investigation into their qualifications and potential fit, and provide candidates the opportunity to ask questions about the position. In addition, an interview can help employers uncover information that may not have been included on application materials, both hidden strengths of a candidate and potential red flags.
Design Your Interview Format
Before designing and selecting interview questions, important considerations for the most effective and appropriate format of the interview include:
- Who should be part of the interview process?
- Should the format be more of a panel interview with multiple people involved?
- Are your current student employees available to sit in on the interviews and provide their input in the hiring decision?
- Should the interview process include more than one round of interviews?
- Should the interview include some sort of exercise, test, or presentation requirement for the candidates?
Similar to the process of reviewing and evaluating application materials, it is critical to look objectively across all interviews to select the best candidates to hire. You may determine an informal checklist approach to establishing criteria serves the purpose of your search for a student employee. For example, you could create a short list of items to look for during the interviews:
- Did the candidate demonstrate genuine interest in the position?
- Did the candidate articulate his or her strengths and weaknesses?
- Did the candidate verify information contained on his or her application materials?
- Did the candidate provide examples of how he or she possesses the necessary skills for the position?
- Did the candidate ask questions about the position either throughout the interview or at the conclusion?
Alternatively, you may choose a more formalized approach by creating a rubric to guide you through evaluating interviews. A more formal approach may help you provide weight to specific criterion over another. For example, the candidate may not have experience with Microsoft Excel, which is an essential part of the job, but they may have demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for learning new skills.
The IUPUI Principles of Undergraduate Learning (PULs) are useful in identifying and tailoring the competencies required for a specific position, as well as establishing criteria to evaluate interviews. Click here for a sample student employment interview protocol and evaluation rubric based on the PULs.
Select Intentional Questions
While the time spent in an interview only provides an employer with a snapshot of a candidate’s potential and fit, using intentionally selected questions can make the time valuable and uncover necessary information to inform a hiring decision. While some questions are focused on simply gathering information about work or involvement history, others may focus on the key success indicators that make someone successful in a position. For example, it may be useful to learn about a candidate’s expertise with specific technology. However, it may be more important if they possess a desire and drive to learn, as expertise in a specific technology system may be trainable with the right type of student, so questions may focus on those competencies.
Use the below categories of interview questions to inform the interview protocol you create for student employment positions. You may find it most useful to select a combination of behavioral, situational, and traditional questions. Click here for a sample student employment interview protocol and evaluation rubric based on the PULs.
- Unacceptable Interview Questions: Before discussing types of interview questions, it is important to note there are interview questions that are unacceptable and should not be asked or should be phrased intentionally. For a full list of unacceptable interview questions, please consult with IUPUI Human Resources Administration (HRA) and visit HRA's interview guidelines. For example, it is unacceptable to ask “do you have any physical or mental disabilities?” It is, however, acceptable to ask “are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodations?”
- Behavioral Interview Questions: These types of questions are rooted in the premise that “the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.” Questions may begin with “describe a time when . . . ” or “give me an example of a time when you . . . ” Examples of behavioral interview questions include:
o Give me an example of a time when you identified solutions to a problem and expressed those to others. How did you present those solutions? What was the end result?
o Give an example of a time you changed your approach to a class or work project to make progress on it. What made you change your approach? What was the end result?
- Situational Interview Questions: Similar to behavioral questions, situational questions describe a specific circumstance or context and ask the candidate to navigate it. Examples of situational interview questions include:
o What would you do if you were working and the phone was ringing, a student was at the front desk asking for your help, a colleague was trying to ask you a question, and you had another call on hold?
o If you were given a project, but were uncertain how to do the project, what would you do? What if the person who gave you the project was unavailable?
- Traditional/Information-Gathering Interview Questions: The most common types of interview questions can be useful to learn general information about the candidate, as well as to verify information contained on their application materials. Examples of traditional interview questions include:
o Tell me about yourself.
o What interests you in this position?
o What is your greatest strength?
o What is your greatest weakness?
o How have your past experiences prepared you for this job?
o How will this position prepare you for your next job?
Click here for a sample student employment interview protocol and evaluation rubric based on the PULs.
Before, During, and After the Interview—Planning Considerations
- What information needs to be communicated to students before the interview?
- What do candidates need to bring with them to the interview? For example, if the position is offset with work-study funds, you may require candidates to bring their financial aid summary from OneStart to provide proof of their work-study award.
- Is adequate space secured for the interview?
- Do candidates need directions to get to the interview?
- Who needs to be notified that interviews are taking place?
- Welcome candidates.
- Introduce candidates to interviewer(s).
- Provide candidate an overview of the interview process.
- Allow candidate to ask questions either throughout the interview or at the end of the interview.
- Provide candidate with an anticipated timeline for making a decision on filling the position.
- Clarify if and when the student can follow-up with you with questions.
- Check References: If you required applicants to submit a list of references, you may conduct a reference check by contacting the individuals provided to verify the candidate’s employment and speak to his or her overall fit for the position. Click here for guidance on conducting reference checks.
- Evaluate Interviews and Make Hiring Decision: At this point in the process, adequate information should be gathered to allow you to evaluate the interviews and begin making decisions on hiring. If you used a rubric to evaluate interviews, assign scores to each candidate to help facilitate the decision-making process. It is important to involve your current student employees in decision-making processes. Consider soliciting their input on a candidate’s fit and the students' recommendations.
- Communicate with All Applicants: For both applicants and interviewees who were not selected for the position, it is important to notify them that the position has been filled. Use the same message for all applicants and interviewees to continue equal treatment and limit risk that comes with a desire to provide individualized feedback on interview suggestions. See below for a sample message:
Thank you for your interest in the _____ position. At this time, we have decided to pursue other candidates whose qualifications better match our job requirements.
Thank you for the time and effort you spent in applying for this position.
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