Three Things Institutions Want to Know About Job Candidates

Predicting which questions will be asked during an interview is difficult for job candidates. Sure, there are common questions that interviewers ask to start the conversation, like “Why do you want this job?” But those questions are about the candidate’s story, a key part of the narrative but not the purpose for the interview. Hiring committees are really most interested in what’s best for their institutions.

Candidates can better prepare for interviews if they anticipate what institutions generally want to know about them. Then they can volley a response to any question in that direction. With the help from a university’s recruiter who has more than 25 years of experience in higher education, here are three things institutions are thinking when they ask interview questions:

Are You Innovative?
No college president ever pounded his or her desk demanding the status quo and the hiring of more order-takers. Higher education evolves too quickly for institutions not to seek the type of innovative talent that is forward-thinking, adaptive to a changing environment, and able to provide new solutions. Candidates need to express how they embrace this part of the work and what inspires them to generate new ideas.

“I love to hear what excites the candidates about the work,” said R. Kriss Dinkins, assistant vice president, Recruitment and Human Resources Operations, at Wake Forest University. “When I hear things about creativity and the generation of new ideas, how to solve problems, being a change agent… when I hear those kind of words come out of an interview, backed up with real examples, then that helps us to understand the candidate.”

Can You Relate to Others?
According to research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center, 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills, as opposed to technical or hard skills.

Dinkins, who prefers the term “core organizational skills” instead of soft skills, says that successful hires who possess these skills are good listeners, avoid knee-jerk reactions, and look to the root cause of issues and problems through an objective lens. But just as important is an employee’s ability to relate to coworkers by appreciating and respecting differences.

“We always want to talk about diversity because we are interested in diverse perspectives and the value that they bring,” Dinkins said. “A question I will ask is, ‘How have you demonstrated your commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive work space?'”

Will You Make This a Better Place?
The successful job candidate is not the person who provides all the right answers during an interview. Many candidates think of interviews as a test to ace, but it is instead a conversation to determine if there is mutual interest and a good fit. That’s why the questions candidates ask are just as compelling as their responses.

“Our most successful employees are the ones who ask themselves, ‘How can I make Wake Forest a better place?'” Dinkins said. “If we’re going to be competitive as a top-30 national university, then we need to make sure we have talent that will ask questions that will provoke change.”

Job candidates’ qualifications mean nothing if they can’t explain how they will benefit the hiring institution and make it a better place. Additionally, hiring committees need to be convinced that candidates will not only ask themselves “How can I make the institution a better place?” to prepare for an interview, but each and every day after they are hired.

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