Eventually, all of those résumés you have been sending out will result in a call or email with supremely awesome news-- they want to speak to you about your qualifications for the job. As soon as you are done celebrating, reality will hit and you'll think, "now what?"
Don't panic. Do prepare. Here are some tips on what you can do to get interview-ready.
Don't wing it. Every interview requires preparation. The amount of preparation will depend on the format (phone/Skype/in-person) and the position.
Do your homework. You will need to allocate enough time to carefully review and reflect upon the following:
Don't waste preparation time trying to memorize each program in their program portfolio. This is not expected, nor possible. The interviewer(s) will care about your skill set, prior work experiences, and other soft skills. They will not care how well you spout off memorized facts about their Barcelona program.
Do review the organization website in detail. Things to research on the website:
Don't expect to be asked more than one question about your own study abroad experience. You may not even be asked at all.
Do be prepared to go beyond the standard "it changed my life" if they ask. They will want to hear more reflective accounts of your time overseas. What did you learn? How are you prepared to apply that learning to this job. Focus on that.
Don't forget to anticipate (and practice) potential interview questions. A great place to start is the job description. Review it again and highlight the key requirements. For each requirement, be prepared with a story of a time you took action or demonstrated the skill, and what tangible outcome came of it. Include at least one "I messed up and learned from it" story, in case they ask.
Do write it down. Create a Word document and prepare your stories. The writing activity will help you to internalize the stories so they come out natural when you are in the interview. Think of it as a dress rehearsal.
Don't worry if you struggle to come up with a work-related story for every job requirement. For example, maybe your prior job did not give you the chance to manage others, but the new job asks for management experience. Your lack of experience may have nothing to do with your preparation to take on the new challenge.
Do reflect on ways you can prove this to the employer. In the management example, identify the traits and skills necessary to be a strong manager, and provide a story of how you have demonstrated these in a non-work setting, like a club or organization. This is MUCH better than saying you don't have any experience. Give yourself credit where credit is due.
Don't limit your research to the company website.
Do use LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and other sites to supplement. On LinkedIn, search the job title and company/university name to see if you can locate individuals who held the job previously. (Tip: We advise you do this in private mode) How do they describe the job on their résumé? Sometimes there is a gap between the job description and the employee's description of the job. This can be very helpful in understanding the realities of the role. Glassdoor can provide salary information, employee reviews, and interview experiences for larger organizations. Just take it with a grain of salt, as people who devote the time to fill out a review are more likely to be disgruntled. If the position is at a public university, be sure to check out state salary databases. We talk more about this in our Salary Secrets post.
Don't forget to double-check the interview details before you begin.
Do confirm the time zone, technology functionality (log in to Skype for a test run), and ensure you provided an accurate phone number (and have theirs, in case). For phone interviews use a land line vs. mobile to avoid a bad connection or dropped call. If it is an in-person interview, make sure you have confirmed you know how to get there, anticipated traffic for the time of the day, and planned to arrive early. Better to sit in the parking lot giving yourself a pep talk in the rearview mirror than be unexpectedly late and arrive all sweaty, breathless, and apologetic.
After the interview, remember to formally thank the individual(s). If it was a phone or Skype interview, send an email soon after. If it was an in-person interview, send a nice thank you card as soon as you can. While most people know this, it is easy to forget to follow-up in the post-interview phase. Try to be sincere and personable in your thank you. Mention specifics from the interview vs. using a canned thank you note. Let them know why you enjoyed the experience or what you are most excited about in the role. Go the extra mile. You would be surprised how few people actually send a thank you these days.
All job seekers hit a wall of frustration at some point. It's okay. Maybe you had too many letters that "regret to inform you" that you aren't landing that dream job. Or perhaps you're just emotionally drained from the process of waiting. So what can you do to keep your chin up and avoid a job search rut? Here are a few things to try when the going gets tough:
Always have a pot on the fire
My tried and true technique was to always have an application out there so that when a ding letter came, there was still hope. I know that might sound desperate or like I was tricking myself (I was), but it works. Don't let your opportunities run dry. It makes it so much easier to move forward when you hear the word "no". I even recommend creating an Excel sheet to keep track of each application and the date of submission. Don't get hung up on how long it has been since you submitted your stuff. As long as you are still active in the process, keep it on your list and charge on.
Grab a partner
Like lots of things in life, tackling challenges with a friend can add dimension and remove the feelings of isolation. Find a friend who is also searching for a job. It doesn't have to be a job in the same job sector. Share updates, victories, and different approaches to your search process. Cheer each other on. Meet for wine and whining when you get a rejection letter. Laugh at your interviews gone wrong. Proofread each other's cover letters. Do whatever it takes to lift each other up.
Exchange coffee for a new connection
If you are feeling frustrated, use some of your time to research companies on LinkedIn or scour university staff directories for individuals who have a job you desire. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for 30 minutes of their time in exchange for a cup of coffee. This method is a great way to network and you might learn about a different pathway or approach for your search. For example, you could hear about positions before they hit the web as a formal job posting. Make sure to check out my tips for informational interviews first.
Maybe this means you bust out a journal and starting writing about your feelings as a job seeker--or you put on some music and bust a move to let thoughts jingle around in your head. It could also mean you simply step away from your web browser and think about things from a different angle. What could you try differently? Are you looking at the wrong type of organizations? The wrong type of positions? The wrong time of the year? Give yourself the mental space to ensure you are being strategic in your search.
These are my best tips. I'd love to hear yours in the comments below!
If you need leads on study abroad job postings, be sure to follow @SAbroadCareers on Twitter where we curate and tweet entry to mid-level job postings that catch our interest.