In an article last fall on the key considerations in getting hired, I discussed three criteria that are of utmost importance to employers in virtually any hiring decision:
- Ability to succeed: employers must gain a solid sense of one’s ability to succeed in the work and bring value to the organization, ideally within a relatively short period of time and with minimal “hand-holding.”
- Interest in the position: employers need to get a sense of one’s enthusiasm for and commitment to the work and organization.
- Organizational “fit”: employers want to feel that one will be a good potential fit for their team in regards to considerations including organizational culture, personality traits, attitude, and simply whether the person is liked.
In all phases of the hiring process – networking, job search correspondence, CV/resume and cover letter, etc. – it is important for candidates to focus on these criteria. But nowhere is it more vital than in the interview. In interviews, candidates are basically charged with successfully addressing these key requirements, usually in a very limited amount of time. And virtually every interview question is a form of the employer asking about these areas.
So what is the best way to go about this? To begin with, research is vital. Absorb as much information as you can on the position, employer, and industry. Educate yourself in terms of what the most valued qualifications are, including digging into the job description, studying the employer’s website, reviewing industry links and publications, and ideally talking to people in the field. Dig for as much information as you can in regards to the culture of the organization and, ideally, the specific unit/team you would potentially be working in.
Then start connecting what you’ve done and who you are with those items. Make a list of the educational, extracurricular, and work related experiences and accomplishments that are most pertinent to the position you are pursuing, as well as your related hard and soft skills. Then start forming and rehearsing answers to potential questions from employers in each area. For example:
Ability to Succeed:
- Describe your research
- How will you go about revising your dissertation for publication?
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- How would you teach?
- Take us through your resume
- What are your strengths?
- Why should we hire you?
- Tell us about a time when you: led a team, organized a project from start to finish, overcame a challenge, had a conflict with a coworker, failed at something, etc.
Interest in the Position:
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why are you interested in our school/organization?
- How does this position fit into your career goals?
- What led you to choose your field of study?
- What are the major issues in our industry currently?
- What is most important to you in an employer?
- What rewards are most important to you in your career?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What are your hobbies and interests?
- What style of supervision do you prefer?
- How did you get along with your former advisers/supervisors/coworkers?
There is of course no guaranteed formula for acing an interview, as it is usually a highly competitive process with several factors of limited to no control. But if you can zero in on what is most important to an employer, in the context of these three key aspects, you give yourself the best chance of being hired.
Find out more professional tips on the interviewing process at my workshop next Tuesday, August 18, from 11 a.m. to noon in Career Services Room 1109. In this session, we will discuss the key aspects that employers are probing for and how to be ready as well as delve into some popular interview questions.
John Coate is the Assistant Director and Coordinator of Graduate Student Services for UCSB's Career Services. He periodically writes posts on career and professional development issues for the UCSB GradPost.