Ah ha! There it is in black-and-white in today’s New York Times. In an article about recruiting for an entry-level position at a national exercise company, hiring manager, Carl Diehl writes “In the ad for the position, I had stated that we were particularly open to graduates in the liberal arts” because the position would involve “a number of tasks and projects that called for some analytical thinking and creativity.” Yes!!
Mr. Diehl, who is also co-founder of the company (Bar Method), describes the entire selection process. He was looking for candidates who not only knew better than to say “I’m a wonderful person with terrific skills,” but who could demonstrate creative thinking and discuss problem-solving in a way that would prove they’d done so. He asked interviewees to prepare for the interview by reviewing the company’s web site, as well as those of their competition, and to attempt to discern what the brand stands for and how they’re different from other companies. Then in the interviews, he listened for answers that went beyond re-stating what the web sites said; he was listening for insightful responses, what did the brand say about the target audience, the experience a customer would have, the promise—in short, the company’s position in the market.
Candidates who didn’t pass the interview parroted facts about the company which appeared in the web content. Candidates who went on to be finalists shared “intelligent insights” about the company’s market position.
He asked the finalists to talk about how they’d apply something in their college experience to the job—in other words, how they “could connect their intellectual growth in school” to practical analysis, research and problem-solving. One of the finalists, talked about the “difficult process of gaining mastery of the idiom of a foreign language” and how that experience prepared him (or her) for some of the challenges that had been described as part of this position.
It’s a terrific question and a thoughtful answer. And it’s just what I keep saying: Find the ways to connect your experience and knowledge to specifics of the position. (For more specific suggestions on just how to do this, see https://liberalartsadvantage.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/your-elevator-pitch-liberal-arts-majors/
There were two finalists for Mr. Diehl’s position: a French major and a music major. He hired the latter, though he really wanted them both.
If you’re thinking, “Dang! How did I miss this job ad?? The position is filled!” then you’re missing the point. This isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime job search that may never come along again! Every hiring manager wants employees who can apply their intellectual growth in school to solving real-world problems. Every hiring manager wants a candidate who thinks through what the company is about. It may be the case that you, the candidate, will have to make the link for them (“Here’s how my years of experience conducting research can be useful in your organization”), but you can do that. You have the kind of creativity and insight to make the connection. You’re a liberal arts major.
You can read the full story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/jobs/25pre.html