Hi folks!

I'm hiring a number of new reps for customer advisor roles. This will be the biggest batch I've hired to date (37) and most of the candidates will be university students fresh out of school. Traditionally, we've hired candidates who've already invested a couple of years in the workforce. 

We learned a while ago that attitude and aptitude are more important than real world skills out of the gate, so our approach is to hire green and train on the technical skills. I wrote more about it here (if you're interested):

The interview creation tool is awesome. We love it and use it all the time. Occasionally, the questions aren't relevant to a 'green' candidate without a lot of work experience.

My question is: Has anybody been using interview questions that are more geared to younger candidates, where the questions might be more insightful and appropriate to their particular set of circumstances? 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts,


Doris_O's picture

 I interview and hire college students regularly. The questions I ask when I know they don't have any work experience include:

Why did you choose to go to (the name of their) University?
- I look for answers that give me a sense: of how they make decision; their ability to explain their decision making.

What was your favorite class and why?
- I look for answers that give me an indication of what their interests are (ie: writing, history, math, etc...). 

What was the last paper you wrote for college? How long was it? What was it about? How did you choose that topic? How did you approach writing it?/What was your process for writing it?
- I look for answers that give me an indication of how they manage their time, plan for projects, research, brainstorm, come up with ideas, as well as how they ensure that they don't make errors (proofreading, etc..).

Have you ever helped a family member learn to use a computer? What was the hardest thing for them to learn and how did you help them? What was the hardest part of teaching them for you?
- I look for answers that give me: a sense of: a) their patience with other people, especially when the other is frustrated, confused, or angry; b) how they explain ideas or give instructions to other people; c) how they think about and interact with people who need their help.

Have you ever assembled a piece of Ikea furniture (or something similar)? How did you did you go about it? Were the instructions helpful? Why or why not? What was the easiest part of assembling it? What was the hardest part? 
- I look for answers that give me a sense of: how they solve problems (do they review the instructions first, or just dive right in and wing it?); what they find easy or hard to do; how they approach something that has multiple steps and pieces; do they prefer written instructions to pictures, etc...

In general I try to ask "easy" questions that relate to their life experience so that I can hear how they talk about themselves and things they've done. I should add that I ask the multi-part questions conversationally in response to what they say to get them to continue to elaborate on any one answer. 

Good Luck!

Doris O


Sebi's picture



my favorite question is allready up there:

Why Univiersity x?

You want a good reason. Or, more on the negative: The person I do not pursue answer: My Mom told me to. It was close. It was the only one I applied to. It

Next good one is: Why did you major in x?

How do you handle conflict? Can you give me an example? What would you change if you were in the same situation again?

- For the last, I got a funny answer once: "Well, I would argue harder." -

How do you communicate? Can you give me an example?

How do you solve problems? Can you give me an example?

How do you work in a team? What was the most sucessful team you were in, and what was your role in it?

If you need an additional language, I find the following question always very interesting:

Please answer in german/ spanish/ xxx: How do you feel about our industry? (you can ask about the company or the job if this could be an issue. I was in nuclear power and so the attitude was important)

-Funny thing is, even people with very good language skills have problem spinning or lying  when switching language. You get pretty much directly how they really think about this job. If they love it, they will tell you, if is is just the best thing in the area they could find, they will tell you this as well.


Hope this helps.




BranchM's picture

 I was interviewed in November for my internship this summer (college student here) and they gave 3 rounds of interviews, switching their 'focus' each time.

Stage 1: What do you know about the company? 

We have four major career fairs at my school every year. I'm not sure if your company recruits directly on campus, but this applies regardless. The recruiter for this investment company asked me what I knew about their company, and you would be surprised the number of students there who had NO idea what this company did (and they're a rather well-known company in my opinion). Please, take the time to weed these people out early because they obviously don't care enough to research your company website before they came (We were provided with a list of all of the companies that were coming). I researched the ones I was interested in and targeted those booths. You don't want the people who wandered in without even checking one website. /personal pet peeve. Trust me, if we want to work at your company more than anything, we should have done research on it.

Stage 2: What kind of person are you?

Nerding it out with the recruiter about this company and  investments must have worked because I was invited to the second round, where a different recruiter interviewed me one-on-one on campus (the first contact was just at the booth at the career fair). Here, the focus was behavioral skills. She had a packet of preset questions from the company with her, but each one was essentially "Tell me about a time when..."

If you want specifics for interviewing college kids, here's literally the questions we're taught in my Management and Interviewing Class (mandatory for all the business majors):

And, check out their facebooks. We're taught to clean up our profiles and people plainly ignore this(yes, we do have fun here on campus, but we should know how to keep it off the internet). Tons of people here at college know how to sweet talk their way through an interview, but if you want to know about reliability, check out our facebooks. We've been told time and time again to clean them up and if somebody hasn't, then they don't care enough about professionalism to get the job. If you really want a show, compare the facebook and the linkedin account to see if it even sounds like the same person. 

Stage 3: How do you work in a professional environment?

For this stage, the company hosted me to come to their office in Charlotte. It was essentially a 7am to 2pm interview. We were shown a presentation about the company and were encouraged (and I think 'judged') to speak on what we knew about the company along with what insightful questions we had to offer. Then we were asked to mingle with our fellow intern-hopefuls at tables of four (to see how well we did in conversation with competition dynamic I'm assuming [correct me if I'm wrong!]). After that we were taken back 3 separate times, each time for a segment of the interview. The first was literally going through my resume with another HR person and talking about my experiences, the second more of a Q&A interview with more of the questions I posted in the document above (a separate person here too), and the third a case study (another HR person). I had brought my calculator because, being in finance, I was expecting some calculation to be thrown at me, but the case was actually just about how to handle a team member who was seated with the majority of the responsibility in a project that had scheduling conflicts and could never show up. They left me in the room for about 10mins and came back to ask me what I would say directly to that person.

That was on a Friday, and on Monday they followed up with an offer (I thought this was extremely fast so I'm not sure of a normal time span for this), but hopefully this perspective can help you a bit coming from the college student side.


mattpalmer's picture

Doris, Sebi, thanks for sharing those, I've added a few to my repertoire.   Branchm, your experiences on the other side are useful, thanks for the writeup.