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Interviewing Strategies for International Students

Interviewing Strategies for International Students

Excerpt  from The International Advantage Get Noticed. Get Hired! by Marcelo Barros


Before we continue to review Fang Wang’s interview experience and preparation, take a look at some interview strategies that are of particular importance to international students:


·       - Take a moment to think about your responses before you speak. You may need a bit more time to process a question and gather your thoughts. It’s okay to pause for two or three seconds before you answer. Just make sure that the length of the pause doesn’t make the interviewer uncomfortable. Practice with your advisor. Buying yourself a few seconds before answering a question can be very helpful. It’s also a sign that you think before you speak.

·       - Are you talking too fast? Probably. Practice speaking slowly. Some international students talk too fast, particularly in stressful situations like interviewing. Learn how to speak slowly—it’s a sign of control, and it often helps people more easily understand you.

·       - Practice informality. International students tend to be too formal during interviews. Many international students are used to a more formal professional environment. Much of this formality is rooted in culture and/or linguistics—or, sometimes, nervousness. Remember to relax. Try to enjoy the moment and create an environment where your conversation can be relaxed and enjoyable.

·      - Again, it’s a conversation. Remember that when interviewing. From a delivery standpoint, your words must flow like normal conversation. From a strategy standpoint, you must find a way to showcase your skills to employers in a manner that is natural to you.

·       If you’re confused by a question, it’s okay to say, “Could you please clarify your question? I didn’t quite understand what you said,” and hope the interviewer will ask the question in a different way. Seeking clarification for language reasons is not ideal, since it could raise red flags about your language ability, but it’s much better than providing an answer that doesn’t match the question. Ask for clarification more than once or twice, however, and you may be out of the contest. 

·       If you struggle with specific English words or sounds—as I do—avoid using them during an interview. Occasionally a word pops into my brain that my mouth and tongue are not ready to say correctly. What do I do? I discard it and look for a synonym. Choose words you can say with confidence. Your English tutor will help you recognize specific English sounds that trip you up. For example, the word “specificity” is difficult for me to pronounce correctly, but I can say “precision” with no problem. If you mispronounce a word, just move on. It will happen. It’s really not a big deal. You can even laugh at yourself. Remember that self-confidence is critical.

Y   You will receive specific questions about your skills and competency. Answer questions in a direct way. As we discussed earlier, remember how Americans are most comfortable communicating. Don’t leave the interviewer guessing what you’re good at. Demonstrate self-awareness and self-confidence. You can soften what you’re saying with phrases like “I believe I am good at…” or “I feel I excel in…” An appropriate statement might be: I feel I am quite strong with JavaScript. Programming comes easily to me. My peers tell me I am fast, and for the most part my code is bug-free. I’d be happy to show you some samples of my work.

·       When given the opportunity to ask questions, consider a few categories that are of particular interest for international students. Innovation is an elusive idea but one that international students can positively impact because of their unique background. Another interesting area to mine for thoughtful questions is growth. These days, growth is often tied to international investments and sometimes acquisitions, which are areas in which the background of international students can shine. You should be able to speak intelligently about these topics.

·       - Formulate a strategy. Choose ahead of time two or three key messages you want to convey to the interviewer. At a minimum, you know that you will have to show the connections between what you have done previously and the role you want, show evidence that you can successfully perform the duties of the role you are applying for, and show that you fit.

·       Partner with your career coach to generate interview strategies that account for variables like your command of English, your understanding of U.S. culture, the role you’re interviewing for, and what you’ll be graded on when interviewing. 

The International Advantage Get Noticed. Get Hired!

Interviewing Strategies, International Students