Interview Preparation for International Students

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U.S. vs. International Interviews

Interviewing for a job or internship in a different country can be nerve-wracking and quite a culture shock. Here are some tips to help get you started:

Research the company to help answer possible interview questions. Compare what the employer is seeking to your qualifications. Practice responses to interview questions you might be asked.

Dress in conservative business attire, such as a neutral-colored suit (black, navy, grey) and professional shoes.

Bring extra copies of your resume on quality paper, a notepad or professional binder and pen, a list of references, information you might need to complete an application and a portfolio with samples of your work if relevant to your field of study.

Project confidence in and before the interview. Smile, establish eye contact and use a firm handshake. Be attentive. Don't stare, but maintain good eye contact while addressing all aspects of an interviewer's questions. Emphasize your experience speaking slowly and clearly. Bring a list of questions to ask at the end of the interview. Thank the interviewer(s) for their time/consideration. Ask for business card(s) from interviewer(s) and send thank you letters or email within 24 hours to each person.

For more detailed interviewing information with sample questions and responses, click on FPU Career Development Interview Resources.

Cultural Differences between US and International Companies

US CompaniesInternational Company
Punctuality is key. Be 5-15 minutes early.
Eye contact is expected; shows confidence.
May or may not start with small talk.
Interviewer may or may not talk for most of the interview.
Questions regarding age, race, sex and marital status are illegal.
Direct questions regarding competency and experience.
Discuss accomplishments and skills—shows confidence.
Show clear self-knowledge, career plans, long-term plans.
May expect immediate competency and look at each new employee as a two-five-year commitment.
Researching the organization and demonstrating that knowledge is expected.
It’s acceptable to ask at the close where they are in the interview process and when you can expect to hear back from them.
Inquiring about the status of an application after the interview is acceptable—demonstrates interest.
Being late may not be as important.
Eye contact may be disrespectful.
Interviewer will start with small talk.
Interview may talk the majority of interview.
You may be asked about age, race, sex or marital status.
Indirect questions regarding competency and experience.
Don’t discuss accomplishments and skills—may be viewed as boastful/self-serving.
Jobs are assigned and people are expected to accept what’s available.
May not expect immediate competence and look at each new employee as a long-term commitment.
Researching an organization in advance may show too much initiative and independence.
Asking the employer where they are in the interview process and when you can expect to hear from them may be viewed as too forward
Inquiring about the status of an application after the interview may be viewed as rude.

Commonly held cultural norms in American society

Honesty – Employers want to hear what you really think so they can decide if you will be a good fit.
Directness and Efficiency – When answering a question, stick to the point and don’t digress.
Confidence – Talk yourself up, but try not to come across as arrogant. Being humble and modest can be viewed as a weakness.
Punctuality – Arrive at the interview 10 minutes before it is meant to begin.
Politeness and friendliness – Try to be likeable, but do not overly share.

Management culture in the United States

Strongly results-oriented and driven by short-term gains.
Employees are motivated by their employers.
Employees and employers rarely criticize one another.
Before a meeting, agendas are usually distributed to stay on task.
“Closing the deal” is the goal of most negotiations, and the long-term relationship is not as important.
On a first-name basis right away—except in formal situations.

For more specific interviewing details, go to the Career Development Interview Preparation page.