Interviewing Students

Once you have posted an open position on the SEO Jobs Database, students who are interested will contact you by email through our online system or apply to the position as you outlined. We suggest that you interview at least 2-3 students who meet the position's qualifications and needs. While selecting the right candidate is the primary purpose behind the interview, keep in mind that the interview process is an important learning opportunity for your student candidates. It will provide them with experience, confidence, and will be an important step in obtaining post-graduate employment.


  • Develop a list of questions that may be asked of all qualified candidates. You may choose to ask open-ended behavioral questions (e.g. tell me about a time when...) or closed questions which require just a 'yes' or 'no' answer (e.g. can you edit photos for web publication?).

  • Be specific with your questions and don't make assumptions about a student's ability or skills.

  • Ask questions that will gauge how well a student will fit with the organizational culture such as "Do you prefer working independently or in a team?" and "What did you like most/least about your last job or volunteering position?"

  • Keep in mind that some students will have no work experience. In these instances, ask questions from which you can glean work-related information based on the student's extracurricular. If s/he was part of a science bowl team, ask about a time when they had to take a leadership role. If they volunteered at the school theatre on the weekends, ask about a time when they had to deal with a challenging customer.

  • Remember that employers are legally prohibited from asking questions related to any protected class (e.g. race/ethnicity/nationality, sex/gender/sexual orientation, marital/family status, disability, or religion). A seemingly innocent question such as "Tell me about your name" can be construed as discriminatory so be sure to keep your questions job-related.

The Interview

Many students are nervous when interviewing for a position. Devote a few moments at the start to put the applicant at ease with some small talk. Questions such as "Tell me about yourself" or "What year are you and what are your aspirations after graduation" are good ways to break the ice. Some students will arrive dressed professionally while others will wear more casual clothing. Don't let this deter you from hiring the candidate that will be the best fit. Give students the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their attire.

After some small talk provide some information on the department, essential job functions, dress code, your supervisory style, and any other factors you deem important. Be clear about expectations and confirm the student's understanding of the role. Some typically discussed factors are:

  • Work schedule

  • Rate of pay

  • Training to be provided

  • Employment period, anticipated start and end dates

  • Federal work study program eligibility

  • Personal conduct

  • Description of job responsibilities (beyond the advertisement)

  • Hiring decision timeline

  • COVID-19 safely protocols

Ask your interview questions and try to have a conversation. Listening to their responses and following-up with a relevant question is any easy way to guide the interview toward a conversation. After you have obtained the basic information needed, further questions may be necessary to ascertain specific skill levels (e.g. beginner or intermediate excel level, advanced Photoshop or just the basics?).

Always be sure to avoid discriminatory questions such as "Do you think a skinny guy like you can lift 75 lbs.?" or "Will your disability prevent you from doing a key part of the job?" Think about your intent and rephrase your question in a legal way such as "This job requires the ability to regularly lift boxes of up to 75 lbs in weight. Are you able to do this?" And finally, keep politics and religion out of the interview. If a student is wearing a political button or piece of clothing which is not appropriate for the workplace be sure to bring it up in relation to the job dress code.

Finish off by asking the student if s/he has any questions. Thank the student for their time and reconfirm the hiring decision timeline (and next steps such as a reference check). It is helpful to provide an email or contact information in the event of additional questions or a follow up thank you note.

We encourage you to inform students if they will not be receiving a job offer. It can be stressful for a student who is uncertain of the status of their candidacy after an interview, so a respectful notification that you will not be moving forward with their candidacy can help alleviate some of that stress.