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Our 7 top tips to help you prepare for your American job interview
by Adriana Stein
November 03, 2020

Congratulations on landing your interview! Now it’s time to get ready for the big day. Here are 7 ways to stay prepared in order to knock their socks off!

7 ways to prepare for your job interview in America

1. Study the lingo

Every job comes with specific “lingo”, meaning words that are particular to that industry and area of expertise. If you’re coming to America from another country, it could be the case that those words are different, especially because a lot of the world studies British English in school. You’ll want to make sure that you have the American terminology in mind so there is no confusion. To get an idea, check out the company’s website and any video interviews that leadership and managers have done. These are good indicators for how they might phrase things.

2. Start with small talk

Small talk is absolutely crucial in American business culture, largely because straightforwardness is often perceived as disrespectful. The weather is always a safe topic to start with, and you can branch off from there based on the interviewer’s comments to topics like food and travel plans. Avoid topics like religion and politics, because those could easily be taken wrongly, especially with the complex political situation the US faces now. Furthermore, let them change the topic to the interview when it’s time to get serious.  

3. Stay polite

Small talk and politeness go hand in hand. In American culture, if you get straight to the point, it’s a bit like saying you are in a rush to speak to someone, because you need to be somewhere else. And of course that’s the exact opposite impression you’d want to give to a potential employer. 

Aside from small talk, make sure to give a firm handshake to anyone you meet, smile, and keep eye contact, which are also seen as signs of respect. While we tend to use first names, you may also consider using last names during the first interview (if you haven’t spoken before and used first names). They will make it clear about how to refer to each other by the way they speak to you.

4. Dress smartly

Yes, Americans do love to go grocery shopping in pajamas, but job interviews are one particular place where it’s important to dress your best. This means wearing slacks, dress shoes, blouses (for women), button up long-sleeved shirts (for men), and a tie. Generally speaking, keep it somewhere between a fancy business dinner and a day at the office. Here are a few interview outfit ideas for men and women to help you get the idea.

5. Emphasise skills over titles

Here is one important point that differs from other cultures. In American culture, your actual skills weigh more heavily than what job titles or degrees you’ve had. It’s even become increasingly common to have no degree and begin working directly after high school (especially considering the insane costs for college). For the work culture in the US, a person who has worked but not studied is considered as having more experience than a person who has studied but not worked. 

6. Prepare follow up questions

Unless you’ve had multiple interviews with the same company previously, it’s highly likely that there are still some blank spots. What I recommend doing is preparing a long list of questions before the interview and taking it with you. This could be about benefits received (vacation days, leave, bonuses), daily job tasks, company goals, or another subject. 

Then, take notes during the interview that answer your questions. Whatever’s left from your list you can still ask at the end. It’s always a good idea to ask at least one question, because it shows you’re interested and have done your research.

One other important tip: take copies of your resume to the interview. It’s another way to show you’ve prepared well.

7. Maintain confidence

Last but not least, stay confident! Confidence is everything in America and I can’t stress this enough for job interviews. While researching the company beforehand is a great way to speak about them with confidence, you also need to speak confidently about your own experience in a manner that emphasizes your specific skills. Do this by giving a concrete scenario: explain what happened, how you reacted, and what the results were. You might also want to have multiple scenarios in mind depending on what types of questions the interviewer asks.

Before the interview, make a list of bullet points per each scenario and practice explaining them on a daily basis. Speak out loud, preferably to a friend or someone who can give you feedback, so you can see where you might make improvements.

Prep for your interview

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