As I've mentioned before, a paycheck represents only half of the value that a person gets from working their first job at a company. The experience gained provides the other half, and supports the long term investment in one's own ability. Many of us in technical careers wrongly assume that focusing on technical prowess is the only skill that matters; thinking that being able to create the best designs will solve any career insecurity. While that is true to the extent that being able to create something from nothing is always valuable, maintaining only one set of skills will limit the potential to which one might aspire.
Perhaps the most under-rated skill to acquire is the ability to determine a person's fit for a job from their resume, experience, and an interview. Interviewing is no different from any other skill; it is best learned by watching a master and gaining experience as often as possible. And interviewing should be learned as early as possible in a career.
Why is interviewing such an important skill to gain for one to attain early? Simply put, those who will join your team will likely have daily interactions with you and can make or break your time at work. After all, these are the people that will be next to you during the late nights that ensue as project deadlines approach. Do you really want to put in extra hours for a month straight with a person that isn't very good at their job or doesn't get along with the team? Interviewing others is also a great way to meditate on your own growth. We recognize ourselves in others, so judging a fellow engineer on their resume, experience, and interview can be quite telling. Do you exhibit the same strengths that you admire in the candidate? Are you currently making the same mistakes that are now biting the candidate in their job search? What did others say about the candidate that could also be said about you?
Being awesome at picking the best people to launch your projects and career will continue to pay dividends over decades. It may not seem like it at the start of a career, but before too long an engineer can amplify his or her impact on the world through employees. Being able to recognize people who can work well under your guidance will have a direct impact on the designs that you are capable of completing. By that same note, those who are recognized as 'good' interviewers will be given a lot of say when deciding who is the best person to hire. This will allow you to indirectly impact company culture beyond your team and support what you believe to be the most important characteristics of an employee.
Many companies don't readily allow new graduates an opportunity to be a part of the interview process, and miss a huge opportunity by doing so. The values that a company seeks and avoids in their candidates should be something that is engrained into all employees. Guiding non-management employees to prize certain characteristics over others when judging candidates for job fit will remind and encourage existing staff to reach those ideals and further company culture. Furthermore, the costs and risks with involving young employees is very low. It's an hour of their time, and the input from a new hire will be weighted lightly against other more experienced interviewers. In the cases that the outcome doesn't match the younger interviewer's opinion, another opportunity is created to talk about the decision and further exemplify company culture by the decisions that are made.
Clearly, getting young employees behind the interview table will benefit both the employee and the company. And the interviewee will likely enjoy having a few softball questions from a rookie. At the very least, it shows that the company is investing in their people. Everyone wins!