Let's set the stage: You have received an e-mail/phone call inviting you to interview with the international education organization of your dreams. While an accomplishment, the most important part is yet to come. You're feeling understandably nervous; you want to prepare for the interview and put your best foot forward. While not a comprehensive list by any means, I hope the advice below will inspire you to be your best self and ace your interview. Good luck!
Ask Good Questions During Your Interview
Asking good questions is one of the best ways to make a lasting impression. The right questions demonstrate that you understand the business and reflect an ability to think critically. What, you may be asking, qualifies as a good question? That's a good question in and of itself! I'd place interview questions into two broad categories. First, questions you can prepare for. Second, questions that arise from the interview itself. In the first category, ask questions that show you understand the position you're applying for and that provide insight into long-term business goals.
For example: "What do you hope the person in this position will achieve over the next two years?" The best thing you can do is research the organization in a genuine, interested way. As you research, ask yourself what it would take to do amazingly well at the job you're applying for. Excellent questions will naturally emerge from that type of introspection.
Asking meaningful questions in the second category show you have the ability to think critically in the moment. Pay attention to your interviewer when he/she describes the details of the position. Try to ask questions that show a deep level of understanding and curiosity about the actual specifics of the role.
Realize the People Hiring You May Be as Nervous as You Are
This point will surprise you, but it's often very true. It's more true for the world of international education than others fields. Why? Because we're almost all small businesses/organizations. When you're running a small business, every hire you make is incredibly important since hiring the right person can make the next several years of your life enjoyable... or extremely difficult.
It's normal to feel anxious before an interview, but it's worth using some techniques to try and relax yourself. There is nothing wrong with being nervous unless it affects your ability to put your best foot forward. Try to focus your energy in a positive way. If all else fails, try admitting your nervousness. Saying, "I have to admit I'm feeling nervous. I'm excited about the opportunity to interview with you and potentially working for this organization" makes a positive impression. This Forbes article provides 14 great tips for staying calm during a job interview.
Send a Thank You Note and Follow Up on Any Requests
This is a great opportunity to show your ability to follow through. Write an e-mail thanking your interviewers for their time. If it makes sense, reference something specific from the interview. This will show a higher level of engagement and reflect well on you. Be sure to let your personality shine through!
If the employer asks for references, follow up as quickly as you can. If they are on a hiring timeline, this could greatly affect their ability to give you an offer. Follow up on any requests immediately and update the appropriate person at the organization. They will greatly appreciate your being so proactive. It's another opportunity to show how you will follow up on items when you're working there full time!
Leave Your Current Job on Good Terms
The world of international education is a small field where there is nothing more important than your good name and network. If you've worked at an organization I'm familiar with, the first thing I'll do is call your old boss/coworkers. Their feedback will have a significant impact on whether we offer you an interview or job. Likewise, I often receive e-mails and phone calls from friends at other organizations saying, "We're thinking of hiring Jane Doe. What's your opinion of him/her?"
The lesson here? Make sure you leave every job on good terms. It's also important to remember that any reputable company will care about you leaving your current job on good terms before starting with them. If someone says, "I just have to give my two weeks notice and then I'm ready to start," that leaves a bad impression. It makes a great impression when a candidate says, "I want to give my current company as much notice as possible and make sure the transition goes smoothly." Why is this important? If you don't care about giving your current company proper notice, you're likely to do the same to a prospective employer at some point. It's one of the most important questions I ask during an interview, because it's a true reflection of your character as a human being.
Rejected? Don't Take it Personally
Let's say you've followed all of the above advice. You've gone above and beyond in every possible way. Yet you open your e-mail and there's that nicely worded (if you're lucky) rejection letter. It's easy to take it personally. It's easy to be offended. It's easy to wonder, "What could I have done better? Where did I go wrong?"
Try and quiet those voices in your head. Self reflection is important, but don't overdo it. You may have been a fantastic candidate, but for whatever unknown reason it wasn't a good fit.
Keep doing everything right, maintain a positive attitude, and things have a way of working out. Taking a rejection personally can also hurt you in the long run. We've hired people who we originally didn't make an offer to the first time they applied. Having a positive attitude, even when it's not in your short-term best interests, reflects very well on you. It shows that you're actually living the values you expressed in that idealistic cover letter, not just saying what you need to say to get a job.
Bringing it All Together
Remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint. You've made a great choice by focusing your professional life on international education. Hired or not, you have an exciting, rewarding career ahead of you. Remember, your journey doesn't end when you land a job. It's only the beginning. No matter where in international education you work, keep this in mind: At the end of the day, we're all here for the students and program participants. They deserve the best out of you.
Keep one very important thing in mind: These are just my opinions. Although I'm confident most organizations will agree with the spirit of this article, there will certainly be differences. The culture of every company is slightly different. The best thing you can do is be yourself. Have confidence in yourself, always keep learning, and good things are bound to happen for you. Happy job hunting!
Mitch Gordon is currently the CEO & cofounder of Go Overseas and the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of California-Berkeley. Previously, he founded Reach to Teach and lived in Taipei, Taiwan, for five years. He currently resides in San Francisco, CA. When he’s not working you can find Mitch on a run, hiking, traveling (of course!) or with a good book in his hand. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @MitchGordonGo