5.2.2. Interviews

Having gotten the interview you wanted, and having thoroughly prepared for it, you are ready to succeed. Keep the following tips in mind:

– Follow the experts: Review and follow closely the guidelines given by your Placement Office – they know the students and the recruiters at your school better than anybody else does. Complement their advice with any publication or book about the subject; a few dozens should be available at the library. Be very careful regarding your physical appearance, arrival time, posture, eye contact, language, and other aspects (see Appendix C for what recruiters expect).

– Sell yourself: In most countries, a job interview is a brief conversation for the recruiter to learn or confirm the candidate’s skills and experience. In the US, the interview is a marketing experience, your only opportunity to sell yourself and demonstrate you are the right person for the job. Make sure you understand and internalize this idea, and practice being aggressive, assertive and self-confident.

– Answer most questions with a good story: Have a few good stories ready to illustrate your achievements, experiences and skills. A good story should:

— Be not longer than 3 minutes

— Explain: 1) Situation or Task, 2) Action taken by you, and 3) The Result of your action

— Include 2-3 key skills and/or personality traits. If the skills you mention are suitable for the needs of the company (let’s say, leadership) it will be better.

Include MBA stories, like group projects. Don’t forget to advertise your ability to work with Americans and people from other cultures.

– Be a good listener: Many interviewers like to spend a lot of the time talking – about the weather, the company, their job, or experience. It is important to listen carefully and with empathy.

– Do not mention legal status: Avoid the issue of legal status or nationality. If asked (asking about legal status is OK, about nationality it is not legal), try to avoid politely by saying you can work legally (which is partially right, as you can probably work for a year). If the recruiter insists on the point, you will have no choice but to tell your status (never lie). Always try to minimize the legal issue, and have the recruiter focus on your strengths and abilities.

– Ask a few good questions: Almost all interviewers will allow some time to answer your questions about the company, the position, or even his or her personal work experience. Have a few good questions that show you have done your research. Try to avoid extremely delicate issues, but it is OK to ask tough questions.

– Ask them what is next: To reduce your “post-interview” anxiety, it is a good practice to ask the interviewer to describe the process, and when to expect a decision.

– Do not worry: Some of your classmates may get job offers even before the first week of the interview season. As time progresses, more and more people will be talking about their offers. If you are working hard interviewing, and have not heard or have been rejected by a few companies, it can get very frustrating listening about other people’s success. Try to stay calm and ignore their comments: many of the great jobs are offered late in the season, and sometimes even after.

– If something goes wrong: You will probably find yourself in a situation where a recruiter, as soon as she/he finds you are not a US citizen, will immediately let you know they cannot hire you. It is a very tense and frustrating situation, as you probably spent some time getting prepared, and you may have even missed a class to make it to the interview. Try to control your reaction. Then try to get something out of the meeting: ask why that is so, ask tough questions about the company, ask about their globalization plans (and how do they reconcile with their international student recruiting). But most importantly, ask for referrals – very often the parent company, a subsidiary, a partner, or just anybody else, may have different recruitment policies.

After your first interview with the company, the interviewer will get together with other interviewers in your school (and possibly from other schools), and together will choose a few outstanding candidates to continue the process. This decision can take anything from a few hours (you will know the results when you get home that evening) to several weeks. Most companies will not contact you if rejected (the term is “dinged”) or may simply send a rejection letter.

If selected, you will be invited for a second-round interview. This interview usually takes place in the corporate office (you will get there at the company’s expense) and can range from a simple interview with your potential boss to a full day of interviews with all sorts of executives. Shortly after the second-round interview, you will be contacted either with a job offer, or a polite rejection. If the case is rejection, ask why. The answer may help you to improve for the next opportunity.

The process can take several variants – some companies organize the second round on-campus the day after the first-round, others have added a third round or more. There are no rules.