There is a lot of value to hiring entry-level workers. Some employers close themselves off to recent graduates, asking for five-plus years of experience even for jobs that technically are entry-level. At the same time, others are reaping the benefits of hiring young people who are passionate, energetic, eager to work, knowledgeable about technology, and ready to bring new perspectives and ideas to the table.
While there is value in hiring entry-level workers, doing so can be tricky. Work experience is an easy way to judge a potential employee because it often directly impacts that person’s ability to do the job at hand. When you make the decision to hire someone without much work history—beyond student jobs and internships—you are taking a gamble on an unproven employee. Here are seven things to look for in place of work history to help you spot the highest-potential workers in an entry-level applicant pool.
Resume items that show drive, initiative, and talent
Just because entry-level applicants don’t have a ton of work experience doesn’t mean that their resumes aren’t important. You might need to look even more closely at a resume for a recent grad to spot areas of interest. In most cases, these areas of interest won’t be the degree and GPA the person earned in college, or even the limited work experience they have.
Look for items that show drive, initiative, and sheer talent. Look for awards that your applicant won, organizations he or she started while in school, or leadership roles the candidate has held. Someone who can boast a laundry list of extracurriculars and achievements separate from their course of study probably has a lot of passion and spark. If those extracurriculars and achievements relate to what your business does, even better.
Relevant internship experience
Don’t discount internships. An internship might not have the same hours, pay, or responsibility as a full-time position, but someone who has worked multiple internships in and around your industry has likely netted a ton of relevant experience. Many internships are “renaissance” roles with the intern taking on a long list of different responsibilities depending on what their superiors require that day. As such, there’s a chance that a recent graduate who has just run the internship gauntlet will be a more agile and versatile addition to your team than someone who has been doing the same thing for years. Your business needs that kind of agility, so take internship experience seriously.
Relevant college coursework
When it comes to vetting entry-level workers, dig a little deeper on the education side of things. For most employees, it’s not enough to just look at school, degree, and GPA because there are so many other factors to consider in their background. One of the perks of hiring a recent graduate is that you get someone with fresh knowledge from an array of different high-level classes. Ask entry-level applicants to provide a college transcript, or invite them to discuss their coursework in an interview. With how expensive it is to manage ongoing employee education and training, it would be a mistake to let vital knowledge go stale because you didn’t know your new hire took a relevant course in college.
Impressive work on skills tests or sample projects
Skills tests and “homework” assignments are becoming more commonplace in the world of hiring. These extra vetting steps are particularly common for entry-level workers, and for good reason. These candidates don’t have the work history to prove their skills and qualifications, so having them prove it firsthand is a smart strategy. The best tactic will vary depending on the job. For instance, if the job involves software or coding, skills tests are effective. If the job is something creative, like graphic design or copywriting, assigning a more open-ended sample project is suitable. Either way, this step helps give you a good sense of what your candidates can do and how they might apply their skills to the job.
Millennials have grown up steeped in technology and surrounded by new devices, social networks, mobile applications, and software updates. People from this generation are, in general, more predisposed to have a mastery of technology than older generations are. Looking for technical skills and knowledge is one of the big perks of opening up recruitment to entry-level workers. From the software your company uses to power social media to the basics of graphic design, try to get a sense of what your young applicants can already do with tech.
Strong references from educators or mentors
Character, work ethic, and passion are things you look for in every employee, but they can be very hard to assess for someone with limited work history. As such, it’s a good idea to call up a few references and ask about entry-level workers before you hire them. Bosses, college professors, internship supervisors, and other mentors can vouch for young candidates and tell you about what they are really like in situations that require focus, hard work, and creative problem-solving.
Dishonesty on resumes is a major problem for employers, but it can be especially rampant among younger professionals. It isn’t difficult to see why this trend might arise: with so many employers closing off job opportunities to anyone who doesn’t have years of “experience,” recent graduates often feel pressured to lie or pad their resumes to be competitive. Running criminal background checks specifically tailored to verifying education and work history will help you spot inaccuracies on resumes. This step is important for two reasons. First, it saves you from hiring an employee based on false information. Second, it tells you whether you can trust the person you are thinking about hiring, which is critical to making a strong hire. Honesty says a lot about a person’s character and humility, and is an important quality to look for in every person you hire—entry-level worker or not.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.