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Preparing for Your Job Interview
What happens if your written application at a US company is successful? You will obviously be very excited about getting an invitation to a job interview. Now it’s time to prepare for it carefully.
Do Your Homework
Read up on the company in as many different sources as you can find: the official website, company brochures, press releases, news items, annual business reports, trade journals, etc.
You can also do your research by contacting chambers of commerce and professional associations for more information. Or you simply talk to current employees if you happen to know any.
Prepare for Questions & Answers
Draw up a list of questions you would like to ask during the interview. For obvious reasons, work-related details (e.g. future projects or expected goals) should have the highest priority. Enquiries concerning your salary, bonuses, leave, and other benefits should be left to the very end.
Prepare your answers to standard questions like the 50 common examples cited by Forbes Magazine. If you have any details in your work history that could be a "tough sell", expect to be asked about them, and reply honestly, though not too negatively.
Also work on your "elevator pitch" that sums up why you are the perfect applicant and why the business would benefit from hiring you. Always remember to tailor a pitch, just like a resume and cover letter, to the specific company.
Not All Interviews Are Equal
If possible, find out who is going to conduct the interview and what kind of job interview it will be. Is it in a format other than the normal talk with one or two company representatives?
Possible alternatives include, among other options, a telephone screening, a presentation of your portfolio, a business lunch, a video conference, or an assessment center. Get advice from a professional career coach to avoid common pitfalls in such situations!
And Not All Questions Are Legal
Be aware that even seemingly innocuous interview questions may be illegal in the United States. This applies to everything referring to age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, health, disability, marital status, family situation, pregnancy and childbirth, unless immediately relevant to the job in question.
For instance, if you apply at a science laboratory where you’ll be handling radioactive material, your interviewer is allowed to ask if you are pregnant. This is a direct matter of health and safety. If you apply for a job as an office manager, the same topic is completely off limits.
What do you do if such a "forbidden" question turns up regardless? You can choose to answer it if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable. From a legal perspective, you can refuse to acknowledge it, but this may come across as rude and leave a negative impression.
If you really want the job, there’s a third option: Don’t reply to the question, but to the intent behind it. "What’s your childcare arrangement?" would then get the response: "I can balance work and family to meet the frequent travel requirements you have mentioned." "Where are you from, and what’s your US visa and immigration status?" might lead to the following reply: "I’m authorized to work in the US, and I can send you my permit if you need it."
After the interview, write the company a brief thank-you note via email and ask when you may expect to hear from them, if they haven’t told you about their internal deadlines yet.
Last but not least, expats might want to brush up their business English and read more about US business etiquette.
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