Interview Strategies for Liberal Arts Majors

Written by on May 30, 2012 in Career - No comments | Print this page


Now that you've graduated, it's time to emphasis your new skills.

When I was in college, I switched majors several times. I went from biology to political science. Then, I was undeclared for a long time. Eventually, I decided to major in history. This seemed like a great decision – I had finally found a major that I liked and that I was good at. Everything was fine until it was time to start deciding on a career for after graduation.

At my first employment seminar, I met with an executive from a local company to go over my resume and do a mock interview. The woman asked me what type of job I wanted and almost laughed when I answered “I want to do something in business.” She smiled at me like I was slow and said “Honey, why don’t you just teach?”

At the time, that statement took me by surprise. It was the first time anyone asked me that. Unfortunately, it would not be the last.

New graduates with liberal arts degrees will often encounter questions like this. It’s important to be ready for these questions, especially in an interview.

The strategy that worked for me was, in an interview, I stressed the marketable skills a history major develops, not the actual historical knowledge I had. When job hunting, it is important for liberal arts majors to stress these types of skills.

Organization & Time Management

Every employer in every industry is looking for applicants with strong organization and time management skills. In my case, I explained to interviewers how, in my last semester, I took five different, upper level history classes that each had a large amount of reading each week, often from multiple textbooks and novels. Keeping track of my assignments and finding time to read hundreds of pages a week took organization and time management skills.

Professional Literacy

If you have an English literature degree, this is definitely something that you can stress. Everyone wants to hire someone who is literate and is able to quickly and accurately comprehend all of the written documents that a typical office generates.  Since the majority of Americans read at a middle school level, having an unusually high reading level is a highly desirable trait. Any major that requires a vast amount of reading will be able to mention this skill.

Writing Ability

Being able to express yourself through clear, concise writing is an important skill. Liberal arts majors tend to have to write a lot of essays, research papers, reviews, etc. for each of their classes. The ability to successfully complete these assignments directly translates to the ability to write good business letters, emails, and memos.

A Global Perspective

Liberal arts majors often have to read literature and historical accounts from other countries. This leads to insight into why people do the things they do. During my college days, I had to read books such as Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China and Things Fall Apart. As a result, I became more knowledgeable of cultural practices outside of the United States. This is an important skill for a person to have in our diverse workforce. It is especially important to mention this when applying for a position where you deal with a large variety of people or in a company that does business abroad.

Not all of these skills are unique to liberal arts majors. Other majors, such as engineering and business, may also possess these skills. However, it is important for those with liberal arts majors to highlight these skills so they too don’t get asked “Honey, why don’t you just teach?”


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About the Author

Jen Small

Jen is a writer who is originally from South Florida. A former recruiter for a Fortune 500 company, she has also worked in several different industries - real estate, insurance, construction, and education. Jen has now taken this experience to help others as a resume writer and designer. She currently lives and works in South Korea. View all posts with career advice.