There are a few things you need to know when you walk into an interview. Once you know what to expect in a Western interview, it is very easy to prepare an appropriate response, one that is precise and natural. There are three distinct phases that appear during the meeting: Introductions, The Primary Skills Evaluation, and The Final Opportunity. Once you prepare for each of these, it will take away most of the stress you may have before the interview.
The introduction is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when they meet you, and want to learn about you as a person. This is when they will frequently ask you, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” Depending on how you answer, they can decide right there whether or not they feel that you can handle this sort of situation. The trick is, since this question is almost always asked, you can come up with a solid answer for it. I have determined a solid structure that will allow you to answer that question effectively and efficiently. Simply put, the hierarchy is: education, job experience, relevant skills, and a personal anecdote that puts the previous pieces together. A sample of this would be, to use myself as a template:
“My name is Julian, I have a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in English, with minors in Women’s and Judaic studies. I have worked for online publications and have taught English as a second language for years. My skills include high-caliber writing, exceptional editing, and high patience for working with my students. While I was getting my Master’s degree, I was teaching English to some of my international friends. As they progressed I would formulate lessons that allowed them to use what they had learned, and expand to the next goal.”
This is only the first question, but it will set the tone for the rest of the interview.
The Primary Skills Evaluation
After they have gotten an idea of who you are, they’ll want to know that you have the skills required for this position. If it is a technical position, they want to know what programs you’re familiar with, and how you have best utilized them in the past. If it is a liberal arts position of some kind, they may ask for portfolio, your process, and your inspirations.
The point is, you need to know exactly what the job description requires. Once you study the job description, you can structure your responses to most effectively get across your competency for this position. Also, upon studying the job requirements, if you see something on there that relate to something you are also skilled in, this would be the time to bring it up. It could be anything from another computer program to academic papers. You just need to pay attention to what they want from you. Remember, the biggest part of the interview is impressing them, not just showing up in a suit and expecting them to hand you the job. If they connect with you, your chances will skyrocket.
The Final Opportunity
I call this part The Final Opportunity because it is your last chance to leave a good impression. By this time, the interviewer has mostly decided whether or not they wish to hire you. The trick with this part is, unless you leave with an offer right away, you need to leave a lasting and positive impression that remains after the interview. The best way to do this is to pay attention throughout the interview and prepare questions for the end. They will always ask if you’ve questions. There is nothing worse than ending the interview without anything to say. It makes them feel like you weren’t paying any attention to what they were saying, which makes them less inclined to think of you favorably. Ask a question and greatly improve your chances..
Last but not least, get the interviewer’s business card on your way out. If you send them a thank you note, it reaffirms the good impression that you hopefully left them with. Always send the email within 48 hours, and hopefully you hear back from them soon.