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Get the best tips for getting interviews, landing jobs, and thriving in America! 

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The Secret 🤫 to Preparing for a Job Interview

america american work culture behavioral differences interview interview prep networking qualifications relationships secret technical working in america Mar 18, 2023
How to get a job in America

You’ve finally got an interview scheduled! Congrats!

You may be wondering…

  • How should I prepare?
  • What class notes should I study?
  • How can I cram everything that I learned so that I don’t get any questions wrong?

Before you start that process and before you spend a lot of time cramming for questions that they won’t ask you, you need to understand that interviews in America are very different than what you’re used to. In India, an interviewer's role is to try to get you to mess up. It’s a high-pressure situation where you attempt to prove that you are worthy to be hired.

Like most things in America, it’s different. In America, employers use an interview for more than just a test of your knowledge and skill. They want to know who you are, what makes you unique, and if you are going to be a good fit for their company culture, office, and values. It’s not primarily about how smart you are, how skilled you are, and which university you went to. While those things do play a role, a person who is personable and easy to get along with will most often get chosen over someone with higher grades yet fails to gel with others.

Before you step into an interview, there are 3 shifts that you need to make in your mind as you prepare for your interview.

1. Behavioral > Technical

Employers want to know how you’ll approach problem-solving, how you work under stress, and what you’ll do when things don’t as planned. While technical skills are important, they are not enough to show an employer how you’ll perform on a team and your ability to communicate with others to secure a job. At this point in the game, there’s not much point in cramming more knowledge. Instead, focus on being personable - be yourself.

2. Relationships > Qualifications

During the interview process, you may be taken out for a meal or invited to a social function. These portions of the interview aren’t meant to test your skills or knowledge, but to see how you’ll fit. This is where relationships in America really matter. Coming from an Eastern culture, you already know how to develop relationships, the trick is to adapt this skill to the workplace. In your home country, there is a high power distance, meaning that you and your boss are on a different level. Professionalism and distance are expected. In America, these relationships are much more level and casual.

3. Subjective > Objective

You don’t need to have all the right answers to get hired. You don’t need to have the highest GPA or the top test scores. You don’t need to go to the best school in the country. So, what do you need? The answer to that question is subjective. It depends on the company and the person conducting the interview. Focus on getting to know the person you’re being interviewed by asking thoughtful questions with a posture of openness.

So, what’s the secret?

If all the basic technical skills are met, the recruiter and hiring manager will ultimately make a decision based on likability. American employers want to know things like, “At the end of a busy week, will I enjoy getting a drink with them after work?” You don’t need to spend days brushing up on technical skills, but simply learning to be a more likable person.

So how do you learn to be more personable?

Better at relationships?

Be more likable?

The good news is that being a more likable person doesn’t require a higher GPA, you don’t need to take another course, or go to a fancier school. It’s not something you’ll learn in the classroom and be tested on.

Growing in your likability, soft skills, and personality will happen when you step out of your bubble and step into American culture. You need to hang out with other American professionals. In my experience, the more an international student spends time with Americans, the higher the likelihood that they will get a job.

It was the same for me when I worked in India. Life didn’t make sense until I began making real friends and relationships with local people.

During your time with your local friends, you’ll learn how Americans view important things like…

  • Workplace hierarchy
  • Work-life balance
  • Individualism vs. collectivism
  • Communication style
  • Time management
  • Gender roles
  • Dress code
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Decision-making
  • How to give feedback
  • And so much more

You won’t experience these things in the classroom, and yet will be vital for you to understand if you want to get hired in America.

I hope the interview goes well!

Cheers ☕