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Campus Hiring   | 2 Min Read

In Campus Hiring: Hire Character, Train Skill

Written By poojaganeriwala
When interviewing students or recent college graduates to bring into your organization, a pressing question for many recruiters is how to find someone who has the necessary skills and the right personality type to deliver long term value.

This is always a difficult assessment to make in any setting, but when recruiting on campus, there is an even greater degree of difficulty. On-campus recruiters are often inundated with a band of resumes from overeager students who look for the slightest opportunity to list yet another academic achievement, an extra-curricular activity, or just highlight their GPA – information that isn’t always useful to the recruiter.

A good student doesn't equal a great employee.

While one may argue for the competition that a student is always up against, it still doesn’t match the stress of dealing with daily goals, achieving KRAs, or being responsible for actions that impact the bottom line. Also, grades are not always based on consistent performance. A student with straight A’s could have done well on several projects or midterms, but this doesn't take into account how they achieved this success. Did they work on their project daily, until it was completed, or are they a procrastinator who waited until the very end, and got lucky? Was their midterm graded on a curve, thus inflating their grade? Did they outright cheat on their exams? Did they get along with their teammates for group projects, or did they alienate others and create discord?

These are all questions that are vital for a recruiter to know because an individual's attitude often has much more to do with their long-term success in an organization than aptitude. This is because colleges focus on teaching theory and facts, while only work experience can teach how to apply that information. To make such a transition from academia to a real work environment, a recent college grad must be able to take criticisms, listen to instructions and work well with others – something a recruiter won't be able to infer from their resume alone.

Hire for Attitude, Aptitude Follows

The truth of the matter – and this is true for hiring across the board, at all ages and stages of an individuals’ life – is that skill can be acquired, through training, experience, and/or mentorship, but attitude is often a state of mind that develops long before an individual enters the workforce. In the case of new college grads, this is highly relevant because you’ll find just how of them are eager to learn the skills of a new job. However, if they don’t already come in with the right personality, you could have a liar, a cheat, someone who is lazy, or unmotivated, or too aggressive and in so many other ways a misfit for the role.


Dilbert by Scott Adams Dilbert by Scott Adams


Measuring Attitude

In response to a lack of personality insight in campus hiring, recruiters are turning to psychometric assessment exams to gauge applicants' personal characteristics better. This has become crucial because the difficulty of assessing student resumes has been compounded by a greater emphasis on collaboration in the workplace over the last decade. So much so, that roughly 70% of offices in the U.S. follow an open office format; where most employees work in an open area, without cubicles or private offices, to give employees more opportunities to communicate with each other and work as a team. In such a working environment, the ability of all employees to follow direction and get along with each other is indispensable.

Unlike an aptitude test, which measures a candidate's knowledge, psychometric tests are designed to give recruiters an insight into a person's behavioral patterns and help to predict how they will deal with pressure, conflict resolution, and other common problems in the workplace. Since there is no right or wrong answer, scores are often in the form of a scale – what percentile does a candidate rank in terms of aggression, motivation, honesty, etc., that help a recruiter to map candidates’ personalities to industry, organizational or specific campus benchmarks.

Effective psychometric tests are designed to help increase honest responses. The same questions or ideas may be asked several times throughout the test, and may even be written in a way that makes it impossible to guess what the recruiter wants to hear. For example, to measure aggression, one of the questions may be, "How many times have you engaged in a physical fight over the last 12 months?" Most participants will answer by saying "none," even if it's not true. However, another question may ask, "Do you believe it is important to be able to physically protect yourself against a physical attack?"

The second question is much more difficult to guess accurately, because on the one hand it is important to protect yourself if you are attacked, yet on the other, answering "yes" may suggest that a candidate has previously been in physical confrontations without being able to resolve them, and just walk away before things got out of control. This lack of obvious answers in a well-designed attitude test can significantly increase insights into an applicant's personality.

Effectiveness of Psychometric Testing

Though candidates may try to cheat on attitude assessment tests, and some will succeed, psychometric testing can be an invaluable tool in hiring recent college grads, because it can give a recruiter deeper insight; beyond the limited resume. Although it is not a crystal ball that will provide clear-cut answers, personality testing can go a long way in helping separate highly unmotivated and aggressive individuals from a pool of applicants. This will help narrow the pool of candidates, so a recruiter doesn't have to rely just on GPAs and extra-curricular activity information when hiring on campus.

Topics: Campus Hiring

Originally published May 27 2019,updated June 29 2019

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