he more jobs a person has had, or the longer he has
worked at a single job, the less likely you will (or should)
care about what he did in college, let alone high school.
As important as particular courses and extracurricular leader-
ship positions may have been a decade ago, no amount of edu-
cational success can take the place of solid work experience.
But what about an entry-level candidate with a diploma so
fresh the ink could stain your fingers? How do you judge how
she’ll do on the job when her only (summer) job was inti-
mately involved with salad ingredients? More important, how
do you cut through the “creative” resumes that attempt to
transform a summer job at the local hot dog stand or on the
beach into what sounds like a divisional vice presidency?
I presume you’re seeking a well-rounded person who, in
addition to getting decent grades, demonstrated desirable
traits—leadership, team-building, writing, communicating—
either through extracurricular activities, internships, and/or
part-time work experience. So be prepared to probe relent-
lessly to ensure that the glad grad in front of you doesn’t cost
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS HIRE THE BEST PEOPLE
you six months and thousands of dollars to train—right in
time for her to move over to your competitor.
A candidate should list not just a major and minor on his
or her resume but pertinent courses as well. And a savvy can-
didate will ensure that each resume is custom-produced so
the particular courses mesh as much as possible with the re-
quirements of the job. The more technical the job, the easier
it should be for you to determine whether the candidate has
the pertinent training. She either knows C++ programming
language or she doesn’t. But a liberal arts candidate may have
little or no pertinent class work, which means you have to
make the connections yourself.
Here are some questions to get you started.
Q: What extracurricular activities were you
What do you want to hear?
I presume you’re seeking a candidate who can demonstrate
industriousness, not just someone who did enough to eke by.
What the candidate has been doing—whatever the candidate
has been doing—should show you a pattern that bears at least
some passing relation to the job at hand. What he did during
his summers, unless it was a pertinent internship or part-
time job, is virtually irrelevant. He chose a major, courses,
activities—you want to know the reasons why he made those
particular choices. That will be the clearest indication of where
his “real” interests lie…no matter what perfect “objective”
he’s branded onto his resume.
You’re seeking enthusiasm, confidence, energy, depend-
ability, honesty; a problem solver; a team player; someone
who’s willing to work hard to achieve difficult but worthy goals.
How has everything this person done in college demonstrated
her ability to become your “ideal hire”?
Your particular situation, job, company, and idiosyncra-
sies will affect how you evaluate campus activities versus com-
munity work versus other volunteer activities versus working
(especially if the student had to pay or help pay for school).
Personally, I like to emulate the draft philosophy of football
coach Bill Parcells—always pick the “best athlete,” even if he
plays a position at which you’re already overstocked. (The
alternative is to “draft for need,” in which you accept a less-
qualified player simply because he plays the right position.)
Translation of this wandering metaphor: Seek someone who
found a way to do it all.
Activities that bear some relationship to the job/
industry (for example, a college newspaper editor apply-
ing for a job in newspaper, book, or magazine publishing).
Activities that show a healthy “well-roundedness.” Some-
one, for example, who participated in one or more sports and
a cultural club (chess, theater, and so on) and a political club
and who worked part-time, not someone whose focus was solely
on a sport or cause, no matter how illustrious her athletic or
A candidate who demonstrates the ability to manage mul-
tiple priorities (let’s not forget course-work and maybe a part-
time job here) and good time-management skills. (Unless, of
course, you want a single-minded, green-eye-shaded accoun-
tant who adds numbers all day and thinks that’s just the great-
est thing in the world. In that case, look for the guy or gal who
was class treasurer and president of the Accounting Club.