The interviewer wants to know four things.
What does the candidate want?
The interviewer wants to know what you are interested in doing and if the company has those opportunities. Or he/she might want to know what part of the organization you would like to work. "I am willing to do anything" is not a good answer. It either sounds desperate or displays a lack of thought on your part. Instead you might have a list of things in priority you would be interested in relevant to the company.
Example: A PhD in Chemistry might be interested in working in areas as exploratory research aligned specifically with your training.
This requires research on the company to know the opportunities and areas. Note: Employers put a lot of time into hiring, so they want someone who will accept the job.
Can the person do the job?
The interviewer wants to know that you know how to apply your education in real world situations. For those in science/engineering, the interviewer tries to gather information on your technical expertise and capabilities in the interview. You will want to have examples of your technical performance. Some companies will test you by giving you a technical question or writing test.
How to talk about your research
- Why: What were the goals of the research?
- How: How did you approach the problem? What tools did you use and why?
- Results? This is the bottom line. Be specific and brief.
Communicating your research in this way lets the interviewer know you understand what you have done and can effectively describe your research.
If you are interviewing for an industry job in research and development, know what the company is currently doing. Think about how they could be doing it differently. Have ideas on what you would like to start doing for research and tie it into how that would fit with what the company is doing.
Will the person do the job?
Ninety percent of the candidates could do the job, but an employer is looking for someone to excel on the job. The interviewer is looking for leadership and performance in the past to see how you might perform in the future. Think about and have examples from your experience that illustrate leadership and performance.
Will the person be compatible with the existing team?
In today's workplace, it is important that people work well together. The interviewer might be thinking, "Could I last 3 hours on a plane with this person?" Have examples of good team and people skills. In addition, you should demonstrate good interpersonal skills. Listen to the interviewer. Be enthusiastic about the position and show some curiosity. Have questions for the interviewer.