How to Love your International Education Job Interview

I love job interviews.

Yes, you heard me correctly, I LOVE them.  Especially those in international education!

Most people dread interviewing.  They see it as something to fear, a space of judgment, a firing squad.

As a coach, I encourage people to reframe the interviewing experience.  Once you embrace new perspectives on what an interview in international education can be, you will begin to look forward to interviewing as more than a possible job, but a sacred and positive space for growth and reflection.

So you want to reframe the interviewing process?  Here are some thoughts to consider:

1)       Interviewing is an opportunity to have a great conversation with people who care about the field of international education.

When you are called for an interview, you are going to be seen (either virtually or in person) by people who intimately know the work of their international education organization.  Granted, they will ask you questions and you will have to respond in a manner that gives them a reason to move your forward to the next round or to make an offer, but ultimately, when you really think about it – you’re being asked questions about the work that you do and how you can be an asset to their organization.  And who asks these question?  People who care about the work of international education!

Intimidating? Perhaps. But if you bumped into these people at a meet up and talked about educational travel, you’d enjoy conversing with them!

Instead of imaging a group of judgmental people who are ranking you against other candidates, reframe the interview to imagine a joyful and informative conversation with other international educators.  After all, if these same people walked into a networking reception, you’d be excited to know something about them – what they enjoy about their work, how they’re solving problems, where they are engaging in innovation.  They’d be excited to learn about you too – what your goals are, where you have immersed abroad, what you read in your spare time.

I tell participants in the C4 Cohort that I lead that the interview, ultimately, is simply a conversation between people who care about the state of this world and how international education can improve it.  When you position it this way, it is something to enjoy and even look forward to without sweaty palms or sleepless nights!

2)      Interviewing is a skill that you practice, so regardless of whether you “get” the job or not, you’re learning a lot about yourself and your field.

When you first learned to ride a bike, did you jump on it and zoom down the street without a care in the world?  Maybe you had training wheels on your bike at first to help you learn the art of balancing?  Once they came off, did you jump on the bike only to swivel and fall a few times?  Then, after some practice, you got on that bike and ZOOM – you took off and even eventually learned to ride without your hands on the handlebars!  It took practice, as any new skill does.

The reality is that interviewing is a SKILL – it is communication, listening, improve, reflection, humor, connection, organizational behavior, human resources, negotiation, ethics, and more all rolled into one.  With that in mind, is it realistic to expect someone who hasn’t spent hours upon hours practicing the art of a great international education interview to excel at it out of the gate?  No, of course not.  It takes practice.

As a coach, I mock interview with people several times a month.  One of the most common pieces of advice that I offer is to film oneself mock interviewing. Why?  Because you’ll start to see patterns  – whether they are quirks (e.g. saying “um” and “ah” a lot,  looking away from the camera, playing with your hair, rocking in your chair, rambling, etc.) and without knowing what those blind spots are, you will not be able to improve them.

This self-observation is one of the best things about interviews. We walk away from every single interview experience thinking “I learned something about myself today.”  We also have the gift of subtly educating ourselves about the field of international education and the nuances of different organizations such as:  How do they handle routine processes in a busy office?  What skill priorities do they focuse on in the line of questioning? Who do they invite to the interview and what does it say about their inclusivity? Interviews are crash courses in the world of international education.  Reflect upon them to assess where you can notice new found skill gaps and where the hiring organization has unexpected strengths and weaknesses too.

3)      Interviewing is way to assess if the organization is a good fit for YOU.

When we’re desperately eager to have a job in international education, we consider taking ANY job offer.  Any interview is a good interview.  Whatever it takes to pay down that school loan or to get out of your current job, right?


Interviewing is about being authentic and strategic in your approach to your answers. Yet it is also about learning about whether the organization is a great fit for you, too.

When you interview, you want to ensure that you are focused on the hiring organization’s needs, but you also want to be quietly observant.  Is there tension in the room?  How did the office “feel” when you entered?  Did the environment appear to match the web site’s mission statement and values?  Were you warmly welcomed?  Were you provided with marketing brochures or other information about the organization? What would the commute and parking situation be like? Do they appear to be organized?

Let me share the tale of two interviews:

–          I once had a Vice President ask me, in a final interview, if I would actually take the job if offered it.  He asked with a tone of disbelief (they were going through some serious political issues with their campus President and the state’s central office).  That should have been a red flag for me, but I said YES.  After all, that is why I was interviewing – to get a job.  Although this position was working primarily with students from other campuses and a consortium, I could not get around the dysfunction of the campus politics – people mistrusted each other, they were gossipy, even fearful.  I eventually left this role, despite loving the work I did.

–          In a final in person interview for an international student advising role, the Director and Associate Director were naturally kind and open hearted.  Their office was clearly busy, yet efficient.  They asked me all the right questions – from acronymns related to the F1 visa – to my counseling style.  I immediately liked the office leadership and felt at ease – and had a great conversation!  The location of the office,  in a part of NYC that I adored , was an easy subway commute.  They even had every other Friday off during the summers.  However, I turned down the position because the pay was not competitive.  That was the only factor – but a major one – that kept me away. I would have loved to have worked on the team, especially because when i asked the Director of the office about professional development opportunities, she indicated that she would send her staff to all major conferences instead of herself.  She was a leader who believed that growth meant everyone, not just her.

Each of these interviews allowed me to learn something about the hiring organization and its culture.  In one case, I ignored the obvious red flag and later deeply regretted it. In the other case, I listened to my gut and honored the limitations of the offer.  I learned about my needs in each situation and became better at assessing the landscape of the hiring organization in each case.  After each of these situations, I fine-tuned my intuition to sense if the fit was right for me, beyond the obvious clues.

I’m excited when those I coach make this shift and embrace the interviewing journey.  They challenge themselves in the mock interviewing process with a deeper understanding of self, recognition of how they can be perceived, increased knowledge of how to strategically answer questions from a search committee, and understand the value of making natural connections with members of the committee, as well as how to ask and ponder intelligent questions with those considering them for a role.  When we learn to let go of the mindset that interviewing is scary and difficult, we begin to see the true gifts of an interview – connection, information, and self-awareness!

Interviewing is one of the many topics that we cover in the Melibee Global C4 Cohort.  Job seekers join our group to build confidence in the interviewing process, but also to learn to be strategic specific to international education job searching around 4 key areas: Resume Writing, Cover Letter Writing, Interviews, and Compensation Negotiation.  With dozens of people landing jobs in the field using our methodologies, we are confident in our ability to propel folks forward in their search for the RIGHT cross cultural career.  Our next cohort begins in early April 2017 – learn more here.