If you want to get a job in the U.S., you need to understand the features that define job interviews here. Understanding what to expect from job interviews in America – and how interviews here differ from interviews in other parts of the world – could help you find the perfect job faster.
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That said, the following information can also be helpful for lifelong American citizens who are having trouble acing their interviews.
1. Skills and Qualifications Matter, But So Does Character
In some parts of the world, skills and work experience are the core focus of the job interview. Interviewers in the U.S. will certainly ask about your qualifications, but interviews here tend to be more about assessing your character. Expect to be asked questions about things like your weaknesses, challenges you've faced, your ability to be a team player, and your leadership philosophy.
2. Expect a Background Check
When you apply for a job, the application may include questions about your criminal history, though these queries are becoming less common due to a movement called "ban the box." However, if you become one of the finalists for the job or receive a job offer, you should expect a background check. Companies in America run these checks as due diligence to protect their customers, their existing employees, and their reputations. In most cases, refusal to submit to a background check will result in disqualification from consideration.
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3. You Have Rights When It Comes to Background Checks
If you do consent to a background check, know that you have rights. In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers must obtain your written permission to run a check. If the employer decides not to hire you due to background check findings, the FCRA requires that they notify you in writing, provide you with a free copy of the background check report, give you the information for the company responsible for the report, and notify you that you may dispute its accuracy with the entity that ran the background check.
4. Interviewers Will Pay Attention to Your Body Language
How you carry yourself throughout the interview is often as important as what you say. Hiring managers look to body language to assess your level of respect, your engagement, your interest in the position at hand, and how you might fit into the company culture. As such, it's important to follow standard rules of U.S. interview etiquette, such as giving a firm handshake at the beginning of the interview, maintaining eye contact with your interviewer throughout the conversation, not slouching or folding your arms, and not glancing at the clock or looking at your phone. To American interviewers, eye contact shows that you are confident and respectful, while good posture indicates that you are engaged and interested in the conversation. Checking your phone or glancing at the clock, on the other hand, sends the message that you would rather be somewhere else.
5. Asking Questions Is Important
While the main point of an interview is for the employer to learn more about you, most hiring managers in the U.S. expect interviews to be two-way conversations, not QA sessions. As such, you should have a few questions prepared to ask your prospective employer during the interview. Ask about the work the company does, what the company culture is like, what the role demands, and other information that interests you. You can ask about things such as salary and benefits, but save those questions for last. You want to show your interviewer that your interest in the job goes beyond money.
6. Dishonesty Won't Get You Anywhere
If you have never held a job before – or haven't worked in the U.S. before – you might feel a bit self-conscious about your qualifications. This feeling is perfectly normal, and it's important to remember that everyone starts somewhere. Be honest about your strengths and shortcomings; have faith that someone will see potential in you.
What you absolutely shouldn't do is be dishonest on your resume or in the interview. In the U.S., background checks often go beyond criminal history to include education and work history verifications, reference checks, and more. If you lie, your interviewer will find out about it. Such a discovery will hurt your chances, if not destroy them entirely.
7. Keep Things Positive
Remember what I said earlier about character? Interviewers in the United States look for it not only in the content of your answers, but also in the tone of your answers. To make the right impression, you should try to keep things as positive as possible.
Avoid criticizing former bosses or coworkers. If asked about your weaknesses, look for ways to spin the answers so that you highlight strengths while also acknowledging shortcomings. When talking about past failures or challenges, own up to mistakes while explaining how they helped you grow. If you can keep your conversation positive even when discussing negative topics, your interviewer will remember you as someone who focuses on solutions rather than dwelling on problems.
No two job interviews are quite the same, no matter where you are in the world. However, in most U.S. job interviews, all seven of the things mentioned above will come into play. Remembering these characteristics and expectations will help you prepare yourself for the interview and make a better first impression on your prospective employers.
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.