Interviewing Graduates

 Graduate Recruitment Guide: Interviewing

 There are many ways of selecting graduates to join your organisation. The job interview is the most common but it is not always the most useful. It is best combined with other assessment methods. 

Selection interview

An interview is often spoken of as a 'conversation with a purpose'.

The selection interview is aimed at employing the most suitable graduate candidate whilst ensuring that they have a realistic view of what to expect as your employee. It is therefore unlikely that a telephone interview is appropriate for a graduate level job but you may want to use these to screen candidates before deciding who to invite to interview. 

The success of interviews lies in the planning. The least valuable interviews are those that just go through the application form to see ’what comes up’. These are also the most difficult to defend if your decision is challenged.

Think about what you are going to assess at the interview and how you are going to assess it.

  • Provide relevant job and company information before the interview to save time and to give all the candidates the same information.
  • Expect the conversation to be split 30:70 in the candidates favour.
    Include at least two interviewers, one of whom should be the successful candidate's line manager (but more than four can make it difficult to manage) and aim for a gender balance. 
  • Start with introductions and explain what is going to happen - and stick to it!
  • Cover the job and person specification requirements, focussing on the most important aspects.

Competency or behavioural based interviews

These can be used to separate out the good candidates from those who are simply trying to bluff their way into a job without the right skills and experience.

The thinking behind these interviews is that past behaviour is a good predictor of future job performance. Asking candidates how they have tackled real problems will give you an indication of how they would approach future problems if you were to offer them a job.

  • Use a mix of open and closed questions.
  • Probing further is a good way of gathering information.
  • Open questions allow the candidate to explain themselves. For example "why would you like to work with us?" If you want clarification, you could ask how or why they did something.
  • Closed questions usually check facts. For example "you have a marketing degree - did you study any other topics within your course?"
  • Hypothetical questions should be used later in the interview and can help you assess how a candidate would respond to a common situation. For example "what would you do if an irate customer phones and wants to speak to a senior manager but you are the only person available?"

Our Interviews and Assessment Methods download contains more information about interviews, including sample questions.

Questions to avoid

  • Leading questions. For example "I think it is important to be available to customers 24/7 don't you?" The candidate is unlikely to disagree. Ask instead how they can work flexibly to provide a good service for customers.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time? This is often asked to assess ambition but candidates cannot possibly know the answer. Ask instead what knowledge, skills and experience they would like to obtain in the near future.
  • Any questions that could be interpreted as discriminatory - take particular care not to stray into personal territory once the formal interview has closed.