Interviewers will be interested in four main areas of discussion:
* Your skills
* Your motivations (what interests you, what you think is important in a job)
* Your personality (what you are “like”)
* Your knowledge base
You need to be able to discuss each aspect of your background. Prior to the interview, it would be a good idea to think about these a little – even make some notes to yourself. Let’s examine each of these four areas in turn.
1. Your Skills
Skills are, simply, what you do well. These can be grouped into a few major areas: skills with things, skills with information or data, and skills with people. You could be good at setting things up, like in a lab or shop. You might be good at researching – using the internet or the library to find new information on a subject. Again, you might be “good with people,” but how? Can you motivate people on a committee or team? Can you delegate tasks, or interview well?
2. Your Motivations
These are the interests or values that “drive” you at work – that make you want to do the work required by a specific organization. Some of these might be broad, like independence -- maybe you value being trusted enough to work on your own, and then doing it. Or, conversely, maybe being part of a team is more important to you – does the job for which you’re interviewing offer an opportunity to work with a team? Maybe you think service to the public is important, or helping women with small children, or maybe you think that medical devices are really interesting (which interests would be good matches for an insurance company, a non-profit organization, or a biotech firm, for instance).
Employers will also be interested in why you selected their particular career field to pursue, and why you’re interested in their particular company. What they make, what they sell, or what services they provide will have to interest you or motivate you in some way, in order for you to work well there – and in order for them to consider you as an employee. We’ll talk more about how to research an organization in a little while.
3. Your Personality
Your personal characteristics are not the same as your skills. For instance, you may be an organized person (and also be able to use Excel, which would be a kind of organizational skill). Maybe one of your real qualities is patience (like with children, or difficult customers). You could be serious, and or have a sense of humor. Are you confident? Do you have stamina, or focus, as an athlete or musician, for instance? Are you thoughtful? And how have these qualities helped you in the past?
4. Your Knowledge Base
You may have gotten A’s on all your Sociology projects, but that won’t mean much unless you can talk about them – talk about what you know. What did you learn in college? Did you learn how new State legislation impacts the welfare system, and then schools? Have you studied what marketing strategies work, and for what businesses? Do you have the language to describe graphic design programs? These are all examples of knowledge you may have gained in school. You probably also know some things as a result of your family background, as well as from the pursuit of your own interests.
Organizing your thoughts according to the categories above takes a little time, but it can be very exciting and illuminating as you discover what you really have to offer.
A very important tip: always be prepared to give actual behavioral examples of when you demonstrated a skill, or an interest (motivation), or a personal characteristic, or when you utilized your knowledge. For an employer, the best predictor of future behavior in the organization is your recent past behavior. So, know your resume. Tell the truth about what you know your assets to be, and give examples of how those assets have come in handy in the past.