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Interviewing Potential Student Employees

Once you have listed and advertised a position with the SEO via Jobnet, students who are interested in the position will contact you. You should plan to set aside a specific amount of time to interview these students to determine which student is best suited for the position.

While selecting the right person for the right job is the basic purpose of any job interview, you can also utilize this opportunity to achieve other important goals. During the interview, employers and students should come to some mutual understanding of expectations. Additionally, you can obtain information that is not only vital to hiring students, but also beneficial in determining their future training and supervisory needs.

Beyond these objectives, the job interview is an important step in the student's progress toward becoming a confident and able participant in the world of work. For the student, the process of applying for a position and discussing his/her qualifications is an excellent learning opportunity. It provides them with experience and confidence that will assist him/her in obtaining leave term and post-graduate employment.

Interviews should be structured to meet all of the above purposes. As with virtually all aspects of supervisory functions, individual adaptations need to be made to meet the needs of specific work assignments. But in general, the following outline of interview guidelines will benefit both supervisor and student:

  1. Prepare for the interview
  2. During the interview
  3. After the interview

1. Prepare for the interview

  • Develop a list of questions that can be asked of all candidates. Questions can be open-ended ("Can you give me an example of...?"), or closed, requiring only a "yes" or "no" answer ("Can you operate a...?"). You need to be specific  and ask about necessary information concerning computer ability or other skills essential to the position. Do not assume anything.
    • To determine how the student will fit into the organizational structure, you can use "choice" or value questions, such as "What did you like the most and/or least about your last position?" or "Would you rather spend your time working in a team or independently?" A student who dislikes dealing with children, for example, should probably not be hired for a position in a day care center. You may want to select from some of our sample interview questions (pdf, 277KB).
    • When drafting your interview questions, keep in mind that employers are legally not allowed to ask applicants questions related to any protected class (e.g Race/Ethnicity/Color/Nationality, Sex/Gender/Sexual Orientation, Martial/Family Status, Disability, Age, or Religion). You can download this handout (pdf, 48KB), which gives more specific details about this concern.
  • If a resume is needed, notify the student and ask for this to be provided to you in advance.
  • Review applicant materials before your scheduled interview time. Know the student's name and general background if possible.
  • Have appropriate materials describing the position on hand to share with the applicant during the interview. This could include a position description, the mission statement for your workplace, etc.

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2. During the interview:

Most job applicants are a bit nervous when interviewing for a position. Devote a few moments at the start of an interview to put the applicant at ease with "small talk". "Tell me about yourself" is usually a good opening question.

Give information on the department, essential functions of the job, standards expected, supervisory style, and other factors. You need to be clear about your personal expectations and to ask the student for responses, questions, or comments. Some points that should be discussed are:

  • Hours of operation and student's schedule of weekly hours
  • Description of job duties (clarification beyond the Jobnet listing)
  • Personal conduct and dress expected of student
  • Rate of pay for the position
  • Previous experience needed to perform the job
  • Training to be provided to perform the job
  • Employment duration, anticipated start and end date
  • Expected hiring decision timetable (ideally, less than a week and, if the timetable changes, you should notify the student.)

Ask your interview questions. As the student talks about education, training, and experience, it is important to listen carefully and to pose questions or comments that encourage elaboration.

  • Be careful not to ask personal questions that do not apply to the job (i.e. Where are you from?).
  • Clarify information related to skills and talents.
  • After the basic information has been obtained, further questions may be necessary to determine levels of skills or degrees of talent and examples of ways in which these have been demonstrated.
  • Avoid discriminatory questions and statements such as "Do you think a girl like you can lift 50 pounds?" or "Will your disability interfere with the job?" You can obtain the information you seek in legal ways such as "As I stated on the Job Description Form, this job requires that you be able to lift 50 pounds easily. Are you able to do this and do you have any experience?" or "An essential function of this position is that the student assistant answer the phone when the receptionist cannot. Do you have any experience in this area in an office setting? Do you think this is the kind of work you will enjoy?"

Thank your applicant for their time and confirm how you will let them know of your final decision (email, phone, Hinman mail) and when they can expect to hear back from you.

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3. After the interview

  • Evaluate the students you've interviewed on the basis of their necessary and desired skills. Select the candidate that most closely meets the needs of your position. 
    • An evaluation form (MS Word, 30KB) can be helpful in this process. You may wish to select an alternate in case your preferred candidate does not accept the position.
  • It is a best practice to request references from your applicants.  When checking references, limit questions to information that is job-related; don't ask for medical information, information about physical characteristics, and/or other personal information that is not related to the employee's conduct on the job.
    • Consider preparing a list of job-related behavioral-based questions that will be asked during the reference check process. This may help avoid claims of discrimination or claims that the prospective employer inquired about information that s/he was not legally entitled to have. Reference check guidelines (pdf, 80KB) and behavioral-based reference questions (pdf, 30KB) are available on the HR website.

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Last Updated: 10/2/17