Campus Interviews in 4 Proven Steps

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Be a Pro Interviewer

panel interview
You’ve promoted your company and job opportunities on campus, put out a strong call to action for students to apply, have received a good quality and quantity of resumes, and have selected the candidates you would like interview.

Read my 4 tips to build a successful interview process.

4 Steps to Plan Successful Campus Interviews:

Step 1: Define What you Need to Know Upfront

Build a Thoughtful In-Person Selection Process by breaking your interview guides into 3 components:

1. Resume Review: Have your candidates spend the first 3-5 minutes of the interview talking you through their resume, accomplishments, and why they are interested in joining your company. Take notes on relevant experiences that showcase similar work.

2. Qualifications: What criteria do the candidates HAVE to meet to be considered? Hopefully they have been pre-vetted through your CV screening process and are just being double checked here.

  • Think about things like: degree, experience level, location, software experience etc.
  • 3. Skills & Attributes: What are you trying to identify and how can you un-cover them? Are there any deal-breakers?

  • A key question to answer here is “What are the minimum requirements for someone to be successful in the role?” Answering this question will help you identify what skills and attributes you are looking for. Examples: problem solving, initiative, communication.
  • Then identify how a candidate can demonstrate this to you. This will help build your interview approach. You may use a behaviour based question or a more creative approach.
  • Examples:

    Behavioural Question Example: Skill = Problem Solving. Question = “Tell me about a time when you had to overcome last minute complications on a large project.”)

    Creative Example: If strong presentation skills are critical to success in this role and they could be considered a deal-breaker, why not incorporate delivery of a presentation at the front-end of the selection process? Candidates delivering a strong presentation would move forward, while others would not.

    By building a true funnel of candidates that have demonstrated key attributes, you can focus your time on the right candidates

    Step 2: Tools & Consistent Evaluation

    Finally, what do you use as an interview guide? How do you consistently evaluate candidates?

    First, ensure that you prepare your interview guides using my 3 section tips from the above point. Ensure that all interviewers ask the same questions to compare candidates fairly.

    Plan a clear scoring system to evaluate candidates’ answers. Identify what you want to know and award points for each. This ensures evaluators grade consistently.


    Think about awarding points based on completeness and relevance of the answers:

  • If you have used behavioural questions in a “star” format (situation, task, action, result), you can award points for relevance of the example, sound action by the candidate to resolve the situation and the end result. Thus the candidate is scored out of 4.
  • You can also consider scoring the level of mastery of a skill you are looking for, i.e. on a scale between “mastered skill,” “meeting expectations” and “major gap”. Again, the candidate would be scored out of 3 for each question.
  • Second, rank your candidates after completing all interviews. This allows you to compare results and identify your top candidates. My recommendation is to create an overview document (ie a summary excel spreadsheet). This allows you to list all candidates and their score. It is easy to then sort based on overall score. Besides the interview scores, you can consider adding additional scores at this time for overall presentation, company fit, availability, etc.

    I have found it extremely useful to schedule a ranking session with all interviewers immediately after interviews have been completed. This allows you to talk through the rankings as a group and ensure results are interpreted correctly and consistently. This also allows a good check on your training to see if all interviewers are consistently looking at candidates.

    Thinking with a Legal Hat:

    A few considerations – interviews can have both reputational and legal impacts, it’s worth your time to develop a strong campus recruitment toolkit and potentially have it vetted with your legal team or HR senior leader in terms of employment law.

    Whatever your process may look like, ensure to use the same tools for each candidate so you provide a fair and equal opportunity for all and can compare “apples to apples”.

    Think about interview guides with scoring keys; ranking sheets to monitor and compare results and “next-steps” scripts. Be clear in your expectation setting with your interview teams and before you start the interview process clearly identify:

  • How and where interview notes are taken (in the guide, paper-based or on lap-top)
  • How and when interview results are transitioned to the ranking document and who is accountable
  • When/if you schedule your ranking session – build this into your critical timelines and make sure your interviewers are available
  • Who, when, and how you will collect the interview and ranking documents
  • Who and where interview results are processed and filed (ie your ATS or a master spreadsheet)
  • Don’t default to manual processes if you have an opportunity to incorporate technology – campus recruitment is typically high volume in a short timeframe – be smart in managing through this volume!

    Step 3: Location

    Let’s focus here on the 2 most obvious options – on campus or at your company:

    There are pro’s and con’s to both.

  • Interviewing on campus increases the convenience for your candidates (it limits their travel time and limits impacts to class schedules) – your “no-show” rates are typically the lowest.
  • Interviewing at your company will allow you to showcase your company’s unique culture and any other differentiators that might impact acceptance rates. You can consider building an “experience” – i.e. incorporate tours, lunch with executives or future co-workers etc.
  • When deciding on location you need to take into consideration:

  • Number of schools you recruit from
  • Timing of interviews dictated by schools (especially engineering “rounds”)
  • Travel time
  • Cost and arrangements for either candidates or company representatives
  • How you are managing candidates from schools not visited (if open applications)
  • Protip:

    Consider incorporating “remote” interviewing options via skype or video if hire numbers are very low in a certain region.

    Step 4: Participants: Choose Wisely

    Who will be participating in the interviews will depend highly on how you have structured your selection process. Read Grace Lanuza’s tips to choosing and training interviewers here.


    Personally, I have found the business participating in the interviews extremely important even if it is not the final decision maker.

    Remember, It’s All About Your Employment Brand

    Every time you engage with a student, you are creating an impression about your company’s culture. Creating a solid experience for the candidates will go a long way to impacting your acceptance rates. Read Chelsea’s tips on communicating with candidates throughout your interview process here.

    To help close the % rate of acceptance to start dates, my recommendation is to build in a touch point for candidates with the business prior to candidate’s start dates – especially if the hiring manager was not involved in the hiring process. Don’t let all of your hard interviewing work go to waste with student drop offs!

    Have you interviewed as a student? Remember what you liked and disliked? Would love to hear your experiences below!

    Helen has more than 20 years of experience in Talent Acquisition working in Canada and Europe in a variety of industries including manufacturing, sales & marketing, and currently in Oil & Gas. No matter how challenging a recruitment project seems, Helen’s ability to break daunting goals into actionable steps have been proven time and time again. Watch for Helen's posts on recruiting tips and tricks. Trust Helen as an expert who has staffed projects targeting Olympic athletes, remote merchandizers, and hired over 1,200 students and new grads annually.

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