What skills are employers looking for when they interview psychology majors? To answer this question, a questionnaire was sent to 39 employers who indicated they were willing to interview psychology majors. The employers who returned the questionnaire rated the importance of the following skills in their hiring decisions on a 5-point scale (5 = extremely important, 1 = unimportant). The results are displayed below with the skills organized according to categories. The number to the right of each category reflects the average rating of the skills in that category, and the number to the left of each skill represents its average rating.
Social Skills (4.65)
4.8 -- Deals effectively with a wide variety of people
4.8 -- Displays appropriate interpersonal skills
4.6 -- Handles conflict successfully
4.4 -- Works productively as a member of a team
Personal Skills (4.35)
4.7 -- Shows initiative and persistence
4.6 -- Exhibits effective time management
4.6 -- Holds high ethical standards and expects the same of others
4.2 -- Remains open-minded during controversies
4.2 -- Identifies and actualizes personal potential
3.8 -- Adapts easily to organizational rules and procedures
Communication Skills (4.28)
4.8 -- Listens carefully and accurately
4.5 -- Speaks articulately and persuasively
4.1 -- Writes clearly and precisely
3.7 -- Comprehends and retains key points from written material
Processing Skills (3.97)
4.3 -- Plans and carries out projects successfully
4.2 -- Thinks logically and creatively
3.4 -- Gathers and organizes information from multiple sources
Psychometric Skills (2.17)
2.9 -- Displays computer literacy
2.1 -- Performs and interprets descriptive and inferential statistics
1.5 -- Selects, administers, and interprets psychological tests
These data indicate that employers do not rate all categories of skills as equally important (e.g., they appear much more interested in the social, personal, and communication skills of potential employees than in their ability to perform numerical, computer, or psychometric operations). Psychology majors should use this information in two ways. First, they should take every opportunity to develop and strengthen these crucial skills while they are in college. Second, they should do all they can to ensure they can demonstrate or prove the existence of these skills during an interview. Many frequently asked interview questions are designed to uncover the presence or absence of these skills (e.g., Tell me about yourself, expand on your resume. What was your greatest accomplishment? Tell me about your extracurricular activities and what you learned from them. What was your most stressful experience and how did you handle it? How have you worked successfully with people who are different from you?). Be prepared to give impressive answers to these questions!
Although the majority of these employers indicated satisfaction with the performance of the recent college graduates they had hired, several also provided the following negative characteristics of their recent hires:
poor work ethic (e.g., lacking motivation or complaining about having to work hard to obtain what they want)
too dependent on "book" knowledge
believe they are overqualified for their jobs
appear to be looking to their next job rather than attempting to master their current one
Psychology majors who are seeking employment should remember these undesirable qualities so that they can be sure to avoid communicating even a hint of them, either during an interview or after they are employed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drew Appleby, PhD, received his BA in psychology from Simpson College in 1969 and his PhD in experimental psychology from Iowa State University in 1972. Until recently a professor of psychology and chair of the Psychology Department at Marian College, he now serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He is the author of The Psychology Handbook, has numerous publications in professional journals, and has made over 200 presentations before a variety of both professional and nonprofessional audiences. He was elected to Fellow status of the Teaching Division of APA in 1992, received both APA's Outstanding Psychology Teacher Award in a Four-Year College or University and Marian College's Award for Teaching Excellence in 1993, and was chosen by APA to present its G. Stanley Hall Teaching Lecture in 1998. He was recognized for his advising skills by the National Academic Advising Association when he received the Outstanding Adviser Award of its Great Lakes Region in 1988 and for his mentoring skills by being the charter recipient of Marian's Mentor of the Year Award in 1996. He is a consulting editor for Teaching of Psychology, serves as the director of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology's Mentoring Service, and has been a consultant to other psychology departments.
Spring 2000 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 4, No. 3, p. 17), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2000, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.