What differences can I expect when interviewing a WIL student?

Interviewing a full-time employee usually involves multiple rounds of interviews and testing exercises, which isn't necessary for a work-integrated learning (WIL) student. For a WIL interview, keep it simple with a short phone, virtual, or in-person interview. Use the time to learn about the candidate and sell your WIL opportunity. 

During the interview: 

Regular Candidate: Will likely have done an interview before. Should be able to demonstrate basic interview etiquette.  WIL Student: This may be their first interview ever. They have likely learned about interview etiquette but may not have had a chance to apply it yet. 

 Advice: Be patient with small faux pas. To help students relax, take a moment to break the ice before starting the interview.

Their experience: 

Regular Candidate: Will have experience that is directly related to the position.  WIL Student: Will have little formal experience to draw from. 

 Advice: Frame questions such that students can draw from a variety of experiences including informal ones.  

Their qualifications: 

Regular Candidate: Will have the majority of skills requested.  WIL Student: May not have the required skills yet, but is eager to develop them. 

 Advice: Ask questions that allow you evaluate a student’s transferrable skills and demonstrate their relevance to the role (e.g. communication, time management, or problem solving). Pay attention to willingness to learn, interest in your organization, and general potential. Consider using the University of Waterloo’s Future Ready Talent Framework to help you identify clusters of competencies that are keys to success. 

Conducting the interview: 

Regular Candidate: Will meet with you for whatever duration you specify.  WIL Student: If the interview is part of an institution's processes, the student may only be able to meet with you for 15 - 20 minutes.

 Advice: Prepare your questions ahead of time. Plan what you will say so that you can leave most of the speaking to them. Have a form to easily record answers. Familiarize yourself with the student’s resume. Wrap up a few minutes early to give time for the student to ask questions. 

 The legal aspects: 

Regular Candidate: Can expect you to follow legal interview practices.  WIL Student: Can expect you to follow legal interview practices. 

Advice: Keep the questions focused on the essential functions of the job. Do not ask questions that lead to bias, such as age, cultural background, or any personal questions. Do not make assumptions about a student’s abilities or disabilities. If the student volunteers personal information, do not ask follow up questions or write down what they said. 

Two additional pieces of advice include:

  1. If possible, have the WIL position's supervisor participate in the interview. WIL students appreciate the opportunity to speak with the actual people with whom they’d be working. Also, consider including a current WIL student in the interview process. They understand the skills and abilities needed to be successful in the position, and may be able to help relate that to the candidate’s own experience. 
  1. Use the same questions for every interview to allow for consistent comparison between candidates. In the Resources section, you will find an interview question template that you can customize for your own interviews.

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