Having a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree rarely makes it easier to do well in a job interview, especially if you are going after an industry role. Impressing an interviewer includes using your transferable skills to show your worth.
What are transferable skills? These are the core competencies that apply in every organization – whether in academia or industry, the private sector, or the public. They include:
- Research skills
- Critical thinking
- Leadership qualities
- Ability to work well with others
- Being able to write well
- Oral communication skills
- Project management skills
How do you express these skills in a job interview as a PhD professional? Learn more about transferable skills in Podcast Why Your Transferable skills Matter
- First, figure out what skills you have
Preparation truly is key, and it is especially important to help you enumerate your transferable skills. While practicing your interview questions, take some time to make note of all the roles and responsibilities you had in the past and what you had to do in order to get results. How did you carry out research for academic papers? What situations required you to collaborate with others? What skills have you been complimented on in the past and why? This exercise could reveal that you have more core skills than you originally thought.
- Cross-reference your transferable skills with job requirements
This is also a preparatory step. Look through the job post to see exactly what attributes they are looking for in a suitable candidate and the responsibilities of the position. Match each of the transferable skills you wrote down above with all instances where they appear in the job posting. Next, start thinking of examples from your previous roles that you can use as evidence to show you have what is required. If you identify any particular aspect of your past experience as being advantageous to the position you applied for, be sure to expand on it during the interview.
- Appeal to the organization’s style and culture
How you articulate your answers can determine how well you express your transferable skills in an interview. You want to avoid using jargon and terms that relate to your academic experience. Instead, you want to speak the language of the industry the company is in, as well as show you understand the firm’s business culture. This not only shows you took time out to get familiar with the company, but it also showcases your communication skills (an important transferable skill). Of course, this requires prior research into the industry, as well as the organization.
- Explain why you are valuable
Interviewers use questions such as “Tell me about yourself” and “Why do you want to work here?” to find out what you really have to offer. Use examples of how you used your transferable skills to achieve real results in your career, academically and otherwise. Use the PEE (point, evidence, explanation) or STAR (situation, task, action, result) method to detail relevant scenarios from past roles and how they apply to the job you are interviewing for. Learn more about interview tips and tricks How to stand out in any interview
- Never say “no”
If you are asked about knowledge of specific tools and resources that you are unfamiliar with (and which were not mentioned in the job posting), avoid saying “no,” even if you are totally unaware. Instead, talk about a similar tool or resource that you used in the past and articulate your achievements with it. You can also explain how quickly you are able to learn new concepts and tools. For example, maybe you have a history of having to quickly manipulate various software related to your studies or postdoc work and achieving mastery eventually.
To do well on any job interview, you need all the preparation you can get. As a PhD, you can set yourself up for success by taking the time to learn how to use your transferable skills.
Dr. Tina Persson |CEO| Career & Leadership Coach| Author | Helping people to fulfill their goals