10 Red Flags to Raise When Interviewing College Students

By Elizabeth Hilfrank on August 6, 2017

If you are recruiting for entry level positions, you are bound to be faced with many college students eager to snag their first job. With so many students anxious to interview, it can be overwhelming to decipher the candidates, as many will have the same amount of experience.

Here are 10 tips for where to look for red flags in an interview that can separate the positive candidates from the negative.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

1. Passion for the role

The most important thing to look for in a candidate is his excitement for the position he is interviewing for. Ways to test this are by looking for his knowledge of what the role entails. Even if he found the job through a connection, that does not necessarily mean that he researched the position himself.

If he cannot clearly explain why he wants the position, or he cannot directly match his experience to the job description, then red flag the application. Also, ask him what his dream job is. If it is something completely unrelated to the current position, raise that flag.

2. Cleanliness of resume

If the candidate hands you his resume during the interview, and it is pages long or simply not succinct, then think twice before hiring him. He may be trying to hide his lack of experience within a lot of unnecessary words. Also, if the resume is not grammatically correct, red flag it.

3. Resume accuracy 

Ask the candidate about his work experiences listed on the resume. If he cannot clearly describe what he did in that position, then the experience may not be entirely accurate. Also, check for references to a manager or supervisor. If he fails to release that information, then really bring that experience into question.

4. Extracurriculars 

Make sure to ask about what the candidate does outside of work. These activities can provide a lot of insight into the candidate as an individual. Some candidates may put all the activities they ever did on a resume just to make themselves look busy, but they may not always be activities that prove relevant to the position they are interviewing for.

Question this aspect of the candidate to see what he is really about. Brian Hilfrank, a National Sales Manager who has been the interviewer for many entry level positions, said that asking about this section of a resume has proven to be a deciding factor on who he has hired.

5. Appearance

Is this candidate dressed appropriately for the interview? Is he alert? Does he make eye contact with you? While minor aspects, these little factors can weigh heavily in hinting at how the applicant will act when hired. If he is not put together no matter how early in the morning, then raise the flag. Relatedly, can the interviewee stay focused during his interview, or is he distracted by his surroundings?

6. Speech

If the candidate cannot be clear and direct in his answers, he may be avoiding answering something that he does not want to answer or does not know the answer to. Additionally, you want someone that can carry a conversation but not overtake the conversation. If he does not let you ask the next question, take a minute to think about the candidate. He might be a little more than you are asking for.

7. Timeliness 

Did the candidate arrive on time? If not, this should be a definite red flag from the start. You want someone who will show up to work on time and put in their required hours. How can this be guaranteed if they can’t make it to an interview?

8. Level of humility 

Some students may have been very successful in college and walk into the interview thinking that the job should just be handed to them. Watch out for these candidates by analyzing their level of self-awareness. Ask them for their weaknesses and their failures.

When they speak, do they speak in only “I,” or do they mention teammates? Do they willingly explain where they went wrong in a situation? If they cannot admit failure, if they completely turn their weaknesses on the flip side, or they don’t give credit to anyone else, then be cautious about these candidates. Someone coming into an entry level position should be willing to be taught, and if they cannot admit when they are wrong, this could be a problem for the company.

9. Respect

If you have a co-interviewer, does the candidate treat you and your partner the same? Or, does he treat the higher level person differently? Make sure your candidate does not fall into the “hierarchy” trap and only worry about titles. He may not be as responsive to his lower-level bosses as you wish.

10. Overall personality

Does this candidate seem excited to be at the interview? Does he show a fun side? If the answer is no to either of these questions, then think twice before extending an offer. While you want someone who will get down and do their work, you also want someone who will collaborate with coworkers and be a positive asset. This requires some level of friendliness.

Photo courtesy of pexels.com

It is important to remember that these are college students, and you want to be able to separate the people who just want A job from the people who want YOUR job.

By Elizabeth Hilfrank

Uloop Writer
Gettysburg College
I'm a junior at Gettysburg College with a self-designed major called Writing and Performing Media, and I am a Spanish minor. When I'm not studying, I'm probably running with the cross country or track team, hanging out with my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, looking at pictures of my dog or eating (mostly desserts). I love all things journalism, and I have a strong passion for storytelling.

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