Best Practices for Interviewing and Hiring Students

Once you’ve posted an open position on JobLink, you’ll be emailed every time a student applies. Students should apply using a resume for all positions. Please review each resume and plan to interview students who meet the position’s qualifications. 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.

Prepare some questions

  • Create a list of questions to ask candidates. Choose open-ended behavioral questions (“Tell me about a time when…”) or closed questions which require just a “yes” or “no” answer (“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 in the organizational culture. For example, “Do you prefer working independently or in a team?” and “What did you like most/least about your last position?”
  • Keep in mind that some students will have no work experience. In these instances, ask questions that will give you work-related information based on the student’s extracurricular activities. For example, ask about a time when they had to take a leadership role on the science bowl team or about a time when they had to deal with a challenging customer volunteering at the school theater on the weekends.
  • 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 like “Tell me about your name” can be construed as discriminatory, so be sure to keep your questions job-related.

Break the ice
Many students are nervous when interviewing for a position. Devote a few moments at the beginning to put the applicant at ease with some small talk. Questions like “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.

Provide basic information
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. 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 ad)
  • Hiring decision timeline

Ask your questions
Ask your interview questions and try to make it a conversation. Listening to their responses and following up with a relevant question is an easy way to guide the interview toward a conversation. After you have obtained basic information, you might need to ask further questions to ascertain specific skill levels (e.g., beginner or intermediate Excel level; advanced Photoshop or just the basics?).

Be sure to avoid discriminatory questions such as “Do you think a skinny guy like you can lift 75 pounds?” 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, like “This job requires the ability to regularly lift boxes of up to 75 pounds. 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 that is not appropriate for the workplace, bring it up in relation to the job dress code.

Finish off by asking the student if they have any questions. Thank the student for their time and reconfirm the hiring decision timeline.

  • When you decide which student(s) to hire, you can report the hire in JobLink.
  • You must notify the student to complete their I-9, WTPA, Missed Meal Period Acknowledgment, and the Student Confidentiality Training.
  • It is also the department’s responsibility to train the student how to use HRMS or how to manage time entry. Remember that student employees are University employees; all the same labor laws apply.
  • Lastly, it is good practice to notify the students who have not been selected. There is a mass email function available in JobLink to tell students the position has been filled.

You must help your student employee(s) meet all compliance requirements at the federal, state, and University levels before they can begin work.

I-9 (Federal requirement)
The I-9 form is a federal requirement for employment eligibility and is completed in two parts. The student can complete Part I of the I-9 on their own. Part II requires the student to present their documents to verify identity either with the Student Employment Office, the HR Service Center (Brooks Landing), or the Financial Aid Office at the Eastman School of Music or School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

Wage Theft Prevention Act (State requirement)
Students must acknowledge their wage and sign the Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA).

Student Confidentiality Training (University requirement)
The University requires that all student employees complete the Student Confidentiality Training via the employee training portal, MyPath. The training is compensable and must be completed upon hire during the department on-boarding process. If the training is not completed within 30 days, the Student Employment Office reserves the right to terminate employment.


Compliance Resources:


Completing the WTPA Requirement:

  1. Click My Activity, then the Placements tab.
  2. Locate the relevant position and click View.
  3. Click Edit at the bottom.
  4. The agreement date should be the date the student is completing the form.
  5. If the student’s primary language is Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Polish, Russian, or Spanish, the student must meet with their employer to complete this requirement in their primary language.
  6. Type initials and click Save.
  7. Until this section is completed, the student will not be hired into the position.

Note: For more information, go to the Resource Library and open the Wage Theft Prevention Act folder.

  • Performance management is a continuous process of assessing progress, providing ongoing coaching, feedback, and setting goals.
  • Student employees should receive annual written performance assessments at the end of the academic year.
  • The Student Employment Office recommends utilizing the department’s performance assessment form or the form created by Human Resources for hourly employees.

Performance Expectations

  • Student employees are required to demonstrate the competencies (knowledge, skills, abilities, appropriate behavior, etc.) necessary to perform their specific job as outlined in their job description.

Performance Gaps

  • If a student employee is not meeting the expectations of their position, it is important for supervisors to take actions that help the student succeed.
  • Connect directly with the student employee and describe the unacceptable performance, behavior, etc., using specific work examples.
  • Identify the desired performance, behavior, etc. necessary to allow the student to succeed in the position.
  • Follow the discussion with a confirming email that captures the conversation and outlines the agreed-upon acceptable performance, behavior, etc. that will allow the student to succeed along with the time frame allowed for improvement.
  • If improvement has not occurred within the time frame allowed, connect directly with the student and create a formal written action plan that identifies the specific performance issue, the expectation/competency, etc. that must be demonstrated, the action that the student must take to address the performance gap, the assessment method (observation, etc.) used, the frequency of discussing progress to date, and the timeline expected for improvement.
  • A student may be terminated if they are not able to meet the expectations of the role within the time frame outlined.

Corrective Discipline

  • Some types of misconduct may warrant efforts at corrective discipline.
  • Some types of misconduct are severe enough to warrant immediate termination.
  • Some workplace behaviors may violate the University’s Standard of Student Conduct.
  • Contact the Office of the Dean of Students at (585) 275-4085 to learn more about the judicial process for students.

University of Rochester, Personnel Policy & Procedure Manual, Policy 154

Students employees are considered hourly, non-benefited staff and are required by law to enter time minute-to-minute. Each department handles time entry and management differently and it is the department’s responsibility to train students on how to clock in and out.

Students often hold multiple positions with the University. Teaching students how to clock in and out in the correct record will help eliminate timekeeping and approval errors.

Learn more about timekeeping rules and policies for hourly staff.

When a program is complete or a student has graduated, taken a leave of absence, or resigned, you must submit a termination request to the Student Employment Office. Submitting this request will remove the student’s record from HRMS and provide an accurate employment history. Termination forms are located in JobLink in the Resource Library.