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By virtue of having lived and/or studied abroad, you may have acquired many attributes that employers are looking for. 

In an Interview

An interviewer may provide you with an opportunity to tell a story based upon your international experience by asking the following questions:

  • What did you learn about yourself as a result of studying in ____________ (the U.S. or another country)?
  • Why did you choose to study in _______________ (the U.S. or another country)?
  • Why was it important to you?
  • How did you get engaged in the local culture outside of the classroom?
  • Can you describe a time when you had to change your behavior to accommodate or adjust to different cultural expectations?

It is recommended that that you practice answering these questions ahead of time and that you remain fairly brief yet to the point. A great way to organize your thoughts with any interview question is the STAR technique

If you are not from the U.S., it is also important to consider when to reveal your international status and how you will respond if someone asks you illegal questions during an interview, such as your visa type, nationality, or citizenship.

While an employer may ask about your international experience, it is important that you not wait for them to ask about it, but rather bring it up yourself. If relevant, be sure to emphasize your ability to speak another language and your comfort with working or living abroad.  In this globalized society, many organizations are looking for employees who are willing to travel or work in other parts of the world. There may be other qualities you have gained from your international experience which you could also highlight. To prepare yourself, practice by completing these sentences:

  • I can identity a change in myself, as a result of my international experience (values, outlook, attitude and/or abilities). It was...
  • One strategy that was really helpful in learning how to interact with people from another culture was...
  • I have clarified what is important to me through my international experience (who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to accomplish). For instance…
  • I had to learn how to adapt. One way that I was able to adapt in another country was...
  • I gained a greater perspective on global issues. One special issue (local or global) that I learned more about is...

Possible Outcomes of International Experience

Everyone’s study and living abroad experience varies based on the length of stay, the destination, familiarity with the language or culture, and the amount of engagement within the local community. Yet certain skills and qualities tend to correlate with international experiences overall, such as: 

Skills:

  • Establishing rapport quickly
  • Functioning with a high level of ambiguity
  • Achieving goals despite obstacles
  • Taking initiative and risks
  • Managing time and multiple tasks
  • Identifying and solving problems
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Ability to compromise
  • Learning quickly
  • Handling stress/difficult situations
  • Managing/organizing
  • Coping with rejection, criticism, and constructive feedback
  • Capacity to ask for and receive help
  • Adapting to new environments
  • Learning through listening and observing
  • Gaining foreign language skills

Qualities:

  • Self-reliance
  • Sense of humor
  • High energy/enthusiasm
  • Appreciation of diversity
  • Perseverance
  • Tolerance or open-mindedness
  • Assertiveness
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-awareness
  • Independence
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Flexibility

Highlighting your most relevant skills and qualities in your resume/CV, cover letter, and interview will help you market yourself as a strong candidate. 

STAR Technique

The STAR technique can be a helpful way to gather your thoughts when answering interview questions. STAR stands for Situation-Task-Action-Results.

Here are a few examples of how you could use the STAR technique in an interview, to describe your international experiences.

S – Describe the specific setting or situation for which the experience took place.

[Example: While studying abroad in Germany, I found that my coursework was extremely different from what I was accustomed to in the U.S. I was used to having assignments due throughout the semester, but for my German courses the entire grade was based on the final with no accountability beforehand.]

T – Describe the specific task or project related to the skill sought.

[Example: During that semester, I was taking a full load of coursework for my major, and I was really motivated to do well during my semester abroad. I had to figure out a way to stay on top of it all because it would be impossible to do well at the end of the semester if I left studying all to the end]

A – Describe the specific steps or actions you took to complete the task or project.

[Example: I had to act as a self-starter, and I set out a structured study plan for myself for the entire semester. I formed small study groups with a few classmates for each of my classes, and we’d meet once a week]

R – Describe the results or outcomes resulting from the actions taken.

[Example: I developed strong time management skills because of the new type of academic setting I experienced in Germany. Because I kept up with my study plan throughout the semester, I ended up earning A’s and B’s in my classes, and I was able to keep my stress level down before final exams] 

A typical STAR answer to “What’s your greatest skill?” would be, “I believe I can set goals and meet them,” and then give a story like the one above. Or, if the interviewer says, “Why should we hire you?” you can respond, “I am a good problem solver, for instance…” and give an example like the one above.

Can you see how having an example like this gives you more credibility than if you merely state “I can set goals and meet them,” or “I am a problem solver?” 

Remember that you can practice interviewing online with our InterviewStream platform, or with an employer in the Practice Interview Program.

For more resources related to international experience, check out our Work and Study Abroad page and our resources for International Students.

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