The Top 3 Mistakes Employers Make When Hiring Recent Grads

03/07/2017 02:32 pm ET

When it comes to hiring recent grads, most employers look for the same things: enthusiasm, drive and a strong desire to learn. But along with knowing what to look for, it’s also important to be aware of what you shouldn’t overlook. For example, although a candidate’s major can tell you something about their interests, it doesn’t paint the whole picture when it comes to their career goals. After all, how many political science majors do you know, and how many of them became politicians? You get my point.

How can you ensure that you’re making the best hiring decisions? By knowing the most common mistakes.

Here are the top three mistakes employers make when screening candidates and what you can do to avoid them.

1) Focusing too much on the candidate’s major or GPA

Although it’s important to get a sense of a candidate’s background — including their major and GPA — these two things alone almost never tell the whole story. In fact, they only offer partial insight into the candidate’s background and interests. Instead of focusing too heavily on these two things, we recommend getting a sense of who the candidate is beyond their academic major. A good way to do this is by asking questions about previous classes, they’ve taken, projects they’ve worked on or extracurricular activities they’re involved in. This approach will give you a much better sense of who the candidate is and what they have to offer. As an added bonus, you might also discover that they have skills and interests that could help them go beyond their job description and add value other ways.

2) Not giving enough weight to extracurricular activities or clubs

Another common mistake employers make is not taking into account a candidate’s extracurricular activities. These can include leadership roles in school organizations or experience managing projects for a particular team or club — roles which help students build organizational, problem-solving and project-management skills. A good way to determine what type of skills and experience a candidates actually has is by asking them questions like: How big is the club you’re leading? How long have you held this position for? And finally, what was your greatest accomplishment in this position? This will give you a sense of what they’ve done in the past and what transferrable skills they’ve developed through their extracurricular activities.

3) Looking only at internship and work experience

The final major mistake that many employers make is overlooking work experience that doesn’t come directly from previous jobs or internships. This can include experience gained during previous roles such as being a barista or server in a restaurant. Even more shocking? Employers are not the only ones who overlook this. Many students omit it from their resumes, thinking that it’s not directly relevant to the marketing or consulting role that they’re applying for. In fact, food service and retail jobs are a great place to learn about time management, problem solving and customer service, skills that are useful and (and relevant) to almost any career. The best way to ensure you’re taking this kind of experience into account is by asking candidates what other experience they have that might not be included in their resumes. This will give them a chance to highlight some of the skills they’ve developed and talk about how those roles have informed their current goals and work ethic.

Finally, many recent grads might be quite nervous during the hiring process. After all, for many of them, this is their first full-time job. Although it might seem like this nervousness signifies a lack of experience or self-confidence, it’s important to keep in mind that they are just learning the ropes of having a career and are going to need a bit of time to get acclimated. By being flexible and encouraging them during this process, you’re more likely to end up with talented, hardworking and enthusiastic employees who are eager to learn and add value to the organization.

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