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I Got the Job! Interview Tips for Graduate Students

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Susanne Force
July 24, 2015

Force julyYou have spent the last six or more years improving your professional knowledge, skills and abilities toward the goal of getting that “ideal” job. You are next in line to be interviewed. Crossing you mind is the thought, ‘There are so many people out there most likely saying exactly the same thing in their job interviews. How am I going to stand out?”

Yes, theory, research and practical experience are expected. You have spent endless hours reading thousands of pages of this stuff. However, a company wants to know if you possess the leadership qualities and characteristics needed for their 21st-century organization to be successful. This is what matters and what organizations and companies are desperately looking for both in the public and private sector.

Above all, companies are looking for people with interpersonal skills who can bring together an unexpected variety of people and personalities in the pursuit of a trade-based or financial goal. Individuals showing qualities of loyalty, personal conviction and the innate ability to utilize the common traits in all types of people to reach organizational goals are those who will be chosen for leadership positions.

Your resume landed you an interview, now it is time to seal the deal. Below are some tips or topics of conversation that professors and professionals in the field have shared with me in preparing for an interview. These tips have been very helpful and successful. I would like to pass them along to you.

First of all, share your perspective and insight concerning cultural issues and diversity. As a leader, you must possess the skills to observe cultural elements—which could be symbols, stories, values, artifacts, rituals or rules—and discern what those elements say about the underlying beliefs and expectations, how they manifest in the attitudes of an organization’s members and the impact of those beliefs and expectations on the success or failure of the organization. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, by 2050, the U.S. population is expected to increase by 50 percent and minority groups will make up nearly half the population. Immigration will account for almost two-thirds of the nation’s population growth. The population of older Americans is expected to more than double. One-quarter of all Americans will be of Hispanic origin. Almost one in 10 Americans will be of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. And more women and people with disabilities will be on the job.

Convey the importance of having a vision, mission and values. It is important for an organization to develop a vision, mission and values for strategic direction. Without the individual foundations of strong values illustrated by a vision to be undertaken by a mission, an organization cannot become successful. Without developing a mission, vision and values to assist in developing a strategy, an organization cannot identify, distinguish or explain itself to its employees and customers.

Present yourself as a flexible and adaptable leader. Flexible and adaptive leadership is becoming more important for most managers and administrators as the pace of change affecting organizations increases. The types of changes that increase the need for flexibility, adaptation and innovation by leaders include:

  • Increased globalization and international commerce.
  • Rapid technological changes.
  • Changing cultural values.
  • Diversified workforce.
  • Increased use of outsourcing.
  • New forms of social networking.
  • Increased use of virtual interaction.

Force july 2It’ all about people! Management is about human beings. Stress that a successful leader engages their employees by developing core values of integrity, trust, teamwork and action. These core values drive a shared culture and create a sense of belonging to a single unified organization. Fully engaging employees in the vision, mission, and values of an organization propagates sustainable growth and development strategies. Respect for diversity, equal opportunity, dialogue, health and safety, people development, knowledge sharing, recognition individual and collective employee contributions are at the heart of an organization’s priorities in creating a great working environment.

Lastly, remember that a good leader is a good listener. Listening is so important that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees. This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes and increase sharing of information, which in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work. Many successful leaders and entrepreneurs credit their success to effective listening skills. Demonstrate humility and empathy in your answers.  Humble leaders who have increased self-awareness and insight experience greater commitment and performance from their employees.


Author: D. Susanne Force is currently an HR specialist in employee and government relations for a public school district. She is a second year graduate student in the MHR program at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Central Florida in Behavioral/Social Science and Public Administration.  Email contact: [email protected].

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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