Concerned About Hiring Grads? Ask Them These five Questions

Employers across the country are busy recruiting, interviewing and hiring college grads. While many large corporations recruit at campuses and have staff in place that solely to recruit college grads, most small businesses don’t have that luxury.

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So to make sure you are interviewing – and hiring – a candidate who is prepared for the real world, ask specific questions that help you learn about how prepared they are for the world of work – and for the job at your company. Here are four questions to ask, from Ron McGowan, a former small business owner and recruiter who is the author of the international bestselling book How to Find WORK – In the 21st Century. McGowan frequently speaks at colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. He’s also presented at conferences for college career counselor associations, where he has direct access to what is going on at today’s colleges and universities.

Here are the four questions and what to look for in the responses, according to McGowan:

1. What key points did you learn about our company from our website?
You would quickly find out who did their homework before the interview and how intelligently they went about it, says McGowan.

2. What did you learn in college that might help our company?
How they respond will give you valuable insight about the individual, their maturity and intelligence. In one interview, McGowan recalls how one applicant described the messy and difficult process of gaining mastery of a foreign language and how this experience could apply to solving some of the problems the company faced. The business-oriented company that asked this question hired a French major and a music major from the many applications they received – something that probably wouldn’t have happened using a more traditional approach to hiring, said McGowan.

3. If you had a budget of $4,000 and a month to work on it, think of a project you’d love to work on and how you’d go about it.
This is one of several questions L’Oreal, the French-based cosmetics company, asks potential hires, says McGowan.

“Like other companies, they’ve learned that relying on resumes and grades earned in college are not the best indicators of who will succeed with them,” says McGowan.

Here’s how one applicant responded: “I would set up an online shop that sells desserts to college students. The shop would provide door-to-door delivery service.

Not only was this graduate hired, L’Oreal determined that had they used the traditional approach of relying on resumes and high-grade achievers, she wouldn’t have made the first cut.

4. How would you handle this problem?
Describe some tasks they will be working on that require some initiative and problem solving capabilities on their part.

5. Why do you want to work for us?
“Their response will give you some insight into how seriously they’ve thought about their careers, the types of companies they want to work for, and what is important to them,” says McGowan.

Additional thoughts from McGowan:

Document the hiring process.
For companies that don’t have an HR department, it’s important that the people doing the hiring, do so in a consistent way. The documentation doesn’t have to be that detailed; just enough to keep everyone on track. It’s also important that everyone involved be aware of past mistakes made in hiring to ensure they don’t repeat those.

How addicted are applicants to Social Media and other Internet Apps?
Given how addicted some graduates are to their smartphones, tablets, social media, McGowan says it’s important to weed out the worst offenders because “I’d be concerned about how focused they would be on the task they were working on at any given time and their attitude to accessing these apps during working hours,” says McGowan. “I would express this concern to them and carefully watch their response.”

If you are concerned about hiring college grads, ask these five questions to help make the right decision.

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via, connect with him on LinkedIn ( and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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