9 Ways to Guarantee Interview Success as an Expat

9 Ways to Guarantee Interview Success as an Expat

Congratulations! You’ve just been called to schedule for an interview for your dream job. You are now at the final hurdle before the job is offered. However, if you haven’t conducted an interview in sometime, you can find yourself in unfamiliar territory. Here is a guide to refresh your memory for interview success as an expat.


Oftentimes one of the most costly mistakes an expat can make during an interview, being late never leaves a good impression. Particularly in a foreign country you may be unfamiliar with the route or traffic idiosyncrasies. Aim to leave your house with adequate time to allow for any transport delays. If you arrive an hour early, use that time to prepare your answers or take some time off. Try to arrive to the office approximately 30-15mins prior to the interview.

Research and prepare

Employers are looking for people who can provide solutions and save money for their organizations.  Prepare for the interview by carefully reading the company’s website and reviewing the job description; this will aid you in gaining insight into how your skills and experience will benefit the employer. Then think about ways you can communicate your value during the interview.

If you know who is conducting the interview, look up their profile on LinkedIn. Do some research into their background and see if there are similarities between yourself and them so you can bring it up during small talk. Try to ensure your profile settings are turned to public so they know you have looked at their profile also. This proves to them you have done your homework.

Bring hard copies of your CV, references, work samples, and transcripts to the interview. These additional documents may not be needed but having them available makes you look professional and thorough. If the interview is being conducted via web conference or phone call, ensure you have those resources available electronically.

Dress for success

Hiring managers and recruiters, like everyone, make snap judgments based on personal appearance. So make sure that you are appropriately dressed for an interview. Poor grooming and unprofessional clothing speak volumes and may cost you a job opportunity.

Even if you are interviewing with a seemingly laid-back company that has a casual dress code, remember that you are not yet a member of the team. Always err on the side of formality and wear business attire to an interview. In the Middle East this can be an uncertain aspect of the interview process. Aim to speak to some senior professionals or friends who know what would be appropriate clothing and even facial hair for males for interviews with particular companies in certain countries.

Remember, a well-groomed professional appearance says that you mean business. This allows interviewers to focus solely on your merits for the job.

Who will be interviewing you?

Be polite and professional

Remember that your interview begins the minute you set foot in the employer’s offices. 

How you behave in the interview gives a prospective employer a clue as to how you will interact with co-workers and supervisors if you are offered the position. Be polite, professional and courteous to everyone you encounter, beginning with the receptionist. 

Turn off your cell phone

Recruiters and hiring managers often comment that an interview has been interrupted by the ringing of a candidate’s cell phone. Take a moment to ensure that all electronic devices are turned off, or left in the car/at home, to avoid interruptions and the possible loss of an opportunity.

Focus on qualifications and requirements

This is an interview, not a social calling. Keep your conversation with the interviewer focused on your skills and abilities and the requirements of the position. Don’t get side-tracked into discussions about your personal life, political leanings or religious affiliations, particularly in the Middle East. 

Let the interviewer direct the conversation; be careful not to interrupt. Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions and be thoughtful in your responses. If you don’t understand a question, be sure to ask for clarification.

Respect the interviewer’s time. Answer questions thoroughly, but get to the point and avoid prolonged, rambling, responses.

Everything you say in an interview is potentially verifiable. Therefore, it is important to be truthful. All candidates have strengths and weaknesses and interviewers know that.  Being honest about your shortcomings with an added comment about your willingness to learn goes a long way in an interview.

Body language is important.

Ask questions

Even if you have done your research about the employer and have a strong understanding of the job requirements, it is important to ask questions. Ideally, you will be weaving questions into the interview as it progresses and those questions should focus on the employer’s expectations and how your success on the job will be measured.

It is perfectly acceptable to bring a list of prepared questions to the interview and to reference it before the meeting concludes to make sure that you have all of the information you need.

Concluding the interview

If you are still truly interested in the position, let the interviewer know that. Then, ask about the next steps in the hiring process. If you have not been provided with a business card, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for one.  You will need that contact information for your follow up correspondence. Be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and be sure to thank the receptionist on your way out the door.

Follow up

We are now in an electronic age and many candidates prefer to send an email to thank the employer for their time. Although there is no substitute for the personal touch that an old-fashioned handwritten note on nice cardstock provides, in terms of timeliness, emails are much more efficient. Ensure you have readable handwriting and no spelling mistakes if you decide to write a note.

Remember these tips for your next interview and you will succeed. Good luck!

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