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Job Interviews in the United States

by Fiona Christie on March 22, 2011

This is a guest post from Brian Jenkins a careers writer from BrainTrack in the United States. If we trust Brian, it seems to me we aren’t that different from the US after all.

There seems to be a stereotype among some Brits that Americans are more expressive and extroverted than they are. Perhaps, on the average, there is a bit of truth to this generalization. However, in my view this does NOT mean that Americans are more confident. Brits just have a more understated (and perhaps dignified) air of confidence than folks in the U.S. Sorry, I know we speak the same language but I think there are cultural differences in communication as we cross the pond.

What does this have to do with Brits who are interviewing for jobs in the United States? Most employment experts in America advise people to “sell themselves” in the job interview. Confidence and enthusiasm are major parts of the game plan. You shouldn’t be understated in a U.S. job interview; however, you also don’t want to come off as arrogant!

Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best selling job hunting book What Color is Your Parachute? stated in an interview, “The key is enthusiasm. Employers want to see energy. That comes from being fascinated by what you’re doing. You can hardly wait to get to work and have at it.”  Many job seekers in the U.S. have been inspired by this book and other job hunting books. Brits who intend to interview for jobs in the U.S. should listen to Bolles’ advice. They can also participate in “American style” interview practice sessions with friends before an interview. Work on showing some enthusiasm and confidence. Many shy Americans could also benefit from these practice interviews.

The process of interviews in both countries has a lot of similarities.  So let’s take a look at some basic job interview tips for the United States job market. Many will be familiar to British readers.

  • Accepted business attire is pretty much the same in both countries. Men generally wear suits to interviews and women wear professional looking clothing. At some companies run by young professionals, the dress code is more casual; however, make sure to look professional for the interview.
  • Business etiquette may vary a little bit from state to state, but politeness is very important.
  • Punctuality, as you might imagine, is crucial.
  • Hand shakes are typical at job interviews.
  • Don’t sit down until you’re invited to do so. Stand while being introduced.
  • It’s important to ask a few questions, especially if the interviewer asks you if you have any questions. Asking questions indicates to the interviewer you’re interested in working for the company. One strategy to make you stand out from the crowd is to refer to a recent article about the company’s industry and ask the interviewer his opinion of it and how it might affect his company.
  • Employers often ask applicants about their past successes in the workplace. Be well prepared to respond.
  • Employers often ask applicants about their strengths, and many employers will also ask for a weakness. You don’t need to brag, but don’t be shy about discussing some of your strengths. Answering the weakness question can be difficult. Identify a weakness and talk about how your working towards overcoming it.
  • Research the company and its industry before the interview. Showing your knowledge of the company and the industry indicates you’ve done your homework and it makes you stand out from your competition. Address issues and challenges the company is facing to show the depth of your knowledge.
  • Don’t ask about salary or benefits; let the employer bring this up.
  • Demonstrate to the interviewer what you can offer company. Provide real examples that show you’re well suited for the job.
  • You may want to incorporate some of the keywords in your resume into the conversation.
  • A short letter or a telephone call after the interview shows the prospective employer you really want the job.

You may have multiple interviews with different people at a company. In the United States, panel interviews with a few people at once are common. Some companies may require applicants to take a psychological/psychometric test as part of the selection process. Also, drug tests are required for some positions.

Things to bring to a U.S. job interview

  • Bring several copies of your resume (or CV). They’ll come in handy if you have a panel interview with three or four people. Also, bring one for yourself, because you might need to refer to it.
  • Bring a list of several references with full names, telephone numbers, and their relationships to you. Again, bring a few copies in case you have more than one interviewer.
  • Bringing a pen shows that you’re prepared.
  • Bring a notepad because you may need to write down names of people, telephone numbers, or information for a required drug test.
  • Bring your papers in a folder or a briefcase.

Brian Jenkins writes about college degrees in business management, among other education topics, for BrainTrack.com.

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