Interview Tips for Immigrants

Last Updated on February 12, 2022 by Estrella

How can immigrant professionals perform better in interviews?

You are a successful immigrant professional who had just moved to the U.S.   You are invited to interview after interview, but not getting an offer.   You are feeling frustrated because you know you are qualified or over-qualified for those positions.   What can you do?   Here are some interview tips for immigrants.

How do you feel about interviews?

I was helping someone who’s been a nurse for 20 years in her country.   She wants to get back into the medical field, and was not getting second interviews.   When we worked together, I discovered that she felt very anxious about interviews, and saw them as exams.   She felt great anxiety about exams, even though she was an excellent student in college.  That gave me a clue about the next step.

I gave her examples of my experience with interviews.   I actually enjoy them.   How often do you get the opportunity to talk about your experience and accomplishment to total strangers who are interested in listening to you?   The interviewers are eager to find someone to fill a position that needs my skills.   I am going to help them decide if I am that perfect candidate.   And I am going to determine through the conversation if this position is a good choice for me, and if these are co-workers I want to see everyday.

After hearing examples of my personal interview experience, my client felt more relaxed about the process.   I encouraged her to go to the interview with the intent of finding out if this is a job she likes, if these are people she wants to see regularly.   I asked her to temporarily put aside the idea of “I have to get a job.”   Within 2 weeks, she called to say she got 2 job offers.

Rehearsing interview questions

Rehearsing interview questions can be helpful, as long as you do not memorize it, which was what this client did before.   She was worried about giving the right answers correctly in English that she made herself quite anxious.   A memorized answer sounds memorized.   Would you hire someone who recites her answers at an interview?

Do practice possible answers with someone until they sound natural.   And have them ask you the questions in different ways, from different angles, so you have to be on your feet.   That’s what happens in interviews.   Yes, there is a list of questions, but there are also follow up questions when the interviewer wants to know more about specific areas.

If you feel relaxed, it’s more likely you’ll do better in an interview.   Just have a conversation.    Isn’t that what productive meetings are?   You have an engaging dialogue on a topic you are both interested in.    And don’t worry about how you are doing during the interview.   Pretend the interviewers are really interested in you.

Pay attention to body language in interviews

I help immigrant professionals with mock interviews to give them helpful feedback.  A common observation is that they sit rather erect, like a good student, or an attentive employee.   Is this a good idea?

I think a more relaxed posture will bring better results.   If you are interviewing for a position that requires some leadership skills, sitting like a good student could be counter-productive.   Go ahead and sit comfortably.   Cross your leg if it feels good.   These postures do not convey disrespect in the U.S.

How comfortable are you with eye contact?   Does your culture encourage it when talking with someone to whom you want to show respect?  Some cultures do not encourage it.   If you come from a culture where this is not encouraged, then practice maintaining eye contact with someone you feel comfortable with.   Then by the time you have the interview, you would feel more comfortable doing so.

Handshake and eye contact

When you shake hands at the beginning of the meeting, do these 3 things at the same time:   eye contact, smile, and a firm comfortable handshake.    Practice the handshake with an American who is accustomed to business handshake.   The web between your thumb and index finger will meet the web of the interviewer.   Wrap your fingers comfortably around the other’s hand and squeeze gently.

I’ve seen many avert their eyes during a handshake.   Practice with someone until you can maintain eye contact during the handshake.   This is important.   Americans have interpretations around eye contact that may differ from your culture’s interpretation.   You may think you are being respectful while an American may think something less flattering about the same behavior.

Smile.   This is not a test.   You are meeting someone new, someone who could become your co-worker.   Relax and enjoy the meeting.

So, the next time you prepare for an interview, rehearse the possible answers with someone until they sound natural, check to see if your posture is relaxed, and pay attention to your eye contact and handshake.

If there’s a topic you would like me to address, please email estrellachan@gmail.com

Here is another article  you might find helpful on How to benefit your business from understanding other cultures.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email estrellachan@gmail.com

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