The Five Be-All, End-All Interview Questions for Entry-Level Jobs

Interviewing entry-level job applicants requires questions that emphasize their soft skills and capabilities in lieu of experience—here are five open-ended queries that every recruiter should keep in mind.

Recruiters who are interviewing entry-level candidates are tasked with evaluating the applicants’ motivation and potential, and this is particularly challenging when candidates lack any real professional experience. Asking about relevant school or internship experience can encourage them to think creatively about their accomplishments, but for more non-traditional candidates, here are five questions that should give recruiters a good feel for how the potential employee would perform .

1. What is your motivation for applying to this position?

While variations of this query often land on lists of interview questions not to ask, it’s important that candidates explain how their goals and qualifications are in line with those required of the position. Knowing why they chose to apply at your company will also give you insight into how much their values and principles align with those of your organization, and whether or not the candidates have potential for advancement within the company. Underwhelming responses can also be helpful in separating weak or unmotivated applicants from stronger ones.

2. How would you approach a superior with a suggestion, problem, or criticism?

The aim here is to grasp how candidates handle team dynamics. Even if they have not had many leadership opportunities, they should be able to convey an understanding of conflict resolution. Emphasizing these soft skills, rather than more technical skills, demonstrates candidates’ ability to perform their role on a team, tweak processes, or communicate with superiors.

3. How do you think your education/previous experience prepared you for this job?

This may seem like a trick question to candidates who don’t have much—or any—prior experience, but it offers them a chance to focus on experience working on a team, meeting deadlines, or communicating effectively. By asking the candidate to tell you what they see as their most valuable qualifications, you will get a great idea of how well they will fit to the role and with how much enthusiasm. The goal here is to see how candidates can problem solve to apply their relevant experience to the job requirements.

4. How do you see this role fitting in your career plan?

What entry-level candidates lack in experience, they should compensate for with motivation and future goals. This question should reveal why this experience matters to the applicant, how this particular role will help them achieve their ambitions, and the next steps in the career path.

5. What do you hope to gain from this role?

Entry-level job applicants will probably have much they want to learn, so pay close attention to what they say and compare it to the skills and experience listed on their resume. Much like the previous question, thoughtful responses should indicate what areas a candidate wants to improve, and how that will help them in the next stages of their career. You can then weigh this against your organization’s skills training programs and the metrics for success for that role to see if the time and resources spent training a particular candidate are worth the effort.

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