5 Cultural Insights for a Successful Interview in the United States

Are you an expatriate in the United States looking for a job, internship or volunteer work? English language ability is not the only skill that you need for a successful interview in the US. How do you think that cultural norms and assumptions will affect your interview? If you have recently moved to the United States and you are preparing for an interview, there are some things about US culture that you should consider when you prepare. Here are 5 tips for your preparation:

Prepare answers to commonly asked questions: Like anything in life, preparation is your key to success. product-evaluation In the US, interviewers want to hire applicants who display authenticity and a good work ethic. In addition to preparing with common questions in your industry, you might want to work with a native speaker and practice your answers to these common interview questions:

“Tell me about yourself.”
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
“Why do you want to work for us?”
“What is your strength/weakness?”
“Describe a challenging situation in your last job. How did you handle it?”
Maintain eye contact and offer a firm handshake: Nonverbal communication is important in a job interview. In the United States, unlike some other cultures, making direct eye contact shows that you are trustworthy, confident and a good communicator. In addition, a firm handshake is an important way to make a good first impression when you meet your interviewer. A weak handshake might give the impression that you are unsure of yourself and your abilities.

Highlight your accomplishments in your previous job: Interviewers in the United States often want to know exactly what you accomplished in your previous jobs. It is not enough to say that you worked at a well-known organization. How did you contribute to that organization? Did you lead a team through an important project? Did you win any awards? When you name your accomplishments, use action verbs like “facilitate”, “carry out”, “collaborate” or “develop”. In this task-oriented culture, focus on concrete things that you did and show how the organization is different because you worked there.

Ask great questions: At the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. This is crucial! You should prepare questions before the interview. The questions should show that you already have a sophisticated understanding of the company and the industry. In some cultures with more significant power distance between employers and applicants, it is considered rude and disrespectful to ask questions. That is not the case in the United States. The interviewer will assess your competence based on the quality of your questions so make them great and show your enthusiasm for the position as well as your knowledge of the company.

Follow up after the interview: You should always send a thank you note to the interviewer. You can send it by email or by regular mail. Thank the person for their time and let them know that you would be happy to provide any additional information that they might need about your qualifications or work history. In addition, be sure to provide answers to any questions that were left open during the interview. This shows that you know the importance of following through. That’s a quality that employers look for in the United States.
As you start the job hunting and interviewing process in the United States, don’t expect it to be the same as it is in your home country. Learn about your own cultural norms and assumptions and how those might be different from the norms in the United States. Approach the job search as an adventure, with an open mind and you will find a place for your talents and skills. Good luck!

Lindsay McMahon is the founder of English and Culture. Her company provides customized English language training and cultural competence training. for international professionals and graduate students in Boston and New York. Please visit online for more information and resources for expatriates.


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