Interview jitters? Show your skills and value to employers

If you’re majoring in philosophy, take heart. And if you’re studying economics, don’t be so confident you’ve got a bright future just because of your major.

What’s printed on your diploma isn’t as important as having real skills you can apply on the job.

Veteran business strategist David Lorenzo said he’s sure of it.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal arts or science major. It’s really about focusing on building a body of experiences, skills and knowledge that will let the employer light up like a pinball machine when you’re in an interview,” Lorenzo said.

The former corporate consultant who now works with the Gallup Organization recently talked about what workplace skills students should be honing during their college years.

Q. What do employers look for from recent graduates?

The kind of thing recruiters or employers go absolutely nuts for is when they hear a new graduate or recent graduate talk about adding value.

Q. Can you give an example?

Think of times you’ve helped someone else or other people fulfill their potential. Maybe you tutored others in college. Teaching is leading.

It’s about using a specific example of that type of role during your interview. Stories about creating value are phenomenal. I’ve worked with kids who leveraged that into great jobs.

Q. What other skills are valued?

Be able to show that you can fix things that are broken. Not the leg of a table, but a system or process that can be fixed forever. Very few people can do that, and even fewer can demonstrate it in a job interview.

I was working with a kid on this. We talked a lot and it turned out that the mail delivery system in his college dorm was horrible. He rolled up his sleeves and went down to the mailroom, and within weeks it was fixed.

That’s something that doesn’t go on your resume, but that you have to talk about because it gets employers fired up and makes them remember you.

Q. What else should applicants try to get across during an interview?

Employers value people who can get things started. Show initiative. Maybe you started your own business while in college or worked in an entrepreneurial environment. Talk about that.

All you have to do is show that you took some initiative and were able to keep your grades going at the same time.

I worked with a guy from the Midwest who grew up on a cattle farm, and what plagued folks there was being able to identify their cows. Nowadays they use all kinds of tags, like in the retail environment, to ID them. But the problem is you would have to be really close to the cow for the tag reader to work. He fooled around in a lab with a buddy trying to come up with ways to read the tags from a distance. He wrote a paper on it and presented it to a company. At the age of 22 he got hired by them to work with a project team on finding a solution.

It can be as simple as demonstrating an ability to think about ways to tackle problems.