By Jordan Friedman
World Education Services
Interviewing for an internship or job might be a bit different in the United States than it is in your home country.
For example, in some countries, arriving late to an interview may not be much of an issue. But in the U.S., being punctual – even a little early – can make a big difference to an employer, according to Cornell University Career Services. Furthermore, many overseas interviewers value personal relations and character over expertise and performance, whereas those in the U.S. often pay closer attention to the latter.
Also keep in mind that while eye contact may be seen as disrespectful in some cultures, it exudes confidence n the U.S. The University of Texas at Austin provides more key differences on its website.
Your interview may be held in one of several different formats, whether it’s phone or Skype, on campus or in the office. Regardless of the format, prepping beforehand is important in order to impress your potential employer.
Here are some tips to guide you through the process:
- Research the company. It’s vital that you know a bit about the company you’re interviewing for prior to the interview, so spend at least an hour preparing. You should be able to explain why you're interested in a position and have some knowledge about the products or services the company provides. It's also a good idea to keep yourself updated on any recent news regarding the company. This kind of online research can go a long way and enable you to discuss topics beyond your own achievements and the job description.
- Have some work-related stories and achievements prepared. On top of knowing about the company, you will want to prove that you're a good fit for the organization. In some countries, citing specific accomplishments in an interview might be seen as boastful, but is considered a sign of competence in the U.S. Have a list of strengths (and even weaknesses) prepared in your head along with some stories highlighting experiences that may help explain why you’re a good fit for the job. Think about what makes you unique compared to other applicants.
- Conduct interview research. Don’t show up for your interview without conducting some basic research first. Who will you be speaking with? What’s the dress code? Where is the office located? What time are you expected to show up? These may seem like obvious questions to ask, but it’s important to know all of this in order for your interview to go smoothly and successfully.
- Understand your work authorization options. In the U.S., it’s illegal for a potential employer to ask you about your immigration status, but they are permitted to ask whether you are authorized to work in the United States and whether you will need visa sponsorship. Make sure that you understand and are able to articulate your work authorization status to the interviewer in case they ask.
- Emphasize the advantages of being from overseas. The fact that you might speak more than one language and your courage in pursuing a degree far away from home are pieces of information that may benefit you as you speak about your experience.
- Ask questions. Remember that you aren’t only there to answer questions, but also to learn more about the position and see if it’s a good fit for you. Prepare a few questions about the responsibilities of the position. Asking questions also shows U.S. employers that you have conducted some research and are truly interested in working for them.
- Think about your non-verbal communications. A firm (but not painful!) handshake, professional attire, and consistent eye contact are important parts of your interview.
- Practice. Whether you sit down with a friend to go over sample questions or have a mock interview at your career center, practicing is key! In general, the more you practice your English-speaking skills, the more confident you'll appear during an interview. Get started as soon as possible.