When you interview for a job with a degree in industrial-organizational psychology, there can be a lot riding on this interview. Jobs in this field are lucrative and, especially at the beginning of your career, offer the potential to move into management roles. Even job candidates who major in the application of psychological principles and practices to the workplace can feel nervous about an upcoming interview. If you focus on the path you want for your career, the quantitative skills you can bring to employers and the answers you want to give to the questions you are most likely to be asked, you can succeed in even a difficult interview.
Know Where You Want to Take Your Career
Although the field of industrial-organizational psychology focuses on workplace and organizational applications of psychological theories, it is a diverse field of employment. The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology recognizes four distinct career paths within this field:
Each of these career paths contains multiple tracks and numerous potential job titles for industrial-organizational psychologists to consider. In consulting, industry and government paths for industrial-organizational psychologists, job functions fit into either the management track or the non-management track. If you don’t take the time to reflect on what you want to do with your industrial-organizational career, you won’t be able to determine which jobs really fit your long-term goals and which ones could lead you away from your preferred career path.
Job titles in industrial-organizational psychology range from modest to impressive. An industrial-organizational psychologist can work as a project assistant or associate consultant but can also be director, senior vice president or CEO.
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Highlight Your Quantitative Skills
Industrial-organizational psychologists are seeing the slowest rate of job growth among all types of psychologists, and the competition for these sought-after positions is strong. The industrial-organizational psychologists who have the best job prospects are those with more training in quantitative research methods, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Every industrial-organizational psychologist will study quantitative research and analysis during their graduate education, but what sets you apart is how you show your quantitative skills and experience during the interview. Where relevant, include in your answers to interview questions the steps you take in choosing research methods and analyzing data or the importance of basing decisions, policies and procedures on sound data.
Graduate-level coursework in industrial-organizational psychology often includes studies in quantitative reason and analysis as well as research theory, design and methods.
Practice Your Answers to Interview Questions
One interesting aspect of interviewing for a job with an industrial-organizational psychology degree is that, in most situations, you are on the other side of the interview. Your work as an industrial-organizational psychologist may include writing job descriptions, determining how to find candidates that meet the requirements and recruiting, training and evaluating the performance of workers as well as the dynamics of manager-employee relationships and how they affect the workplace. Because you are involved in this process through your work, a prospective employer might expect you to be more confident and more experienced with the interview process.
This reality may sound like even more pressure, but it’s also an opportunity. As you prepare for your interview, think of what you, as an industrial-organizational psychologist, would look for in a job candidate, and make sure you meet those benchmarks in your own interview performance.
One strategy that helps job candidates prepare for interviews regardless of their career field is rehearsing their answers to common interview questions. If possible, it’s best to practice your answers out loud, so that you can get used to saying them, focus on keeping your speech on an even pace and notice if your answer tends to ramble on or miss the real point of the question.
As an industrial-organizational psychologist, you know that different kinds of interview techniques and questions serve different functions. While you should be prepared to answer the generic questions and prompts like, “Tell me about yourself,” you should also focus on developing strong answers to technical and behavioral questions. Technical questions may test your quantitative skills and your technical knowledge of the field. Behavioral questions that ask what you would do in certain scenarios assess your soft skills, your personality and whether you would fit into the culture of the company.
Some interviewees practice speaking in front of a mirror, so that they can notice body language and work to stop distracting movements. Others practice with another person to get comfortable responding to questions in the back-and-forth dialogue of an interview.