Like many others, I wanted to pursue a career in international affairs after graduating, but quickly realized how tough it would be to find a job in this field. So I decided to volunteer as an assistant recruiter at an NGO for a few months, in order to gain experience and to improve my understanding of what it would take. Based on this knowledge, here are my tips on how to prepare for a job interview. (Featured Image © Tim Gouw)
At the Human Resources Department, I read many CV’s and motivation letters, and attended some job interviews. By doing so, I learned about common made mistakes and tips for job applications. I already wrote an article with CV advice, and one on Cover Letter advice. If these tips will get you an invitation for an interview, the following advice on the interview itself might come in handy. Hopefully, these three articles together will help you succeed in your next job application!
As I mentioned in my previous articles, personal preferences, as well as organizational and cultural norms, might differ. Always make a personal assessment of what suits you best and what corresponds with the organization you are applying to.
Your Essential Homework
If your CV and cover letter got you invited for an interview, there still is some homework for you to do, in order to prepare yourself for the conversation in the best possible way.
You have probably already done so while preparing your cover letter, but re-reading the organisation’s annual report, the vacancy text, your CV, and cover letter will actually help you to better understand the organization you are going to visit. Be sure to also study their website. Just print these documents and bring them with you, accompanied with a note pad. It shows that you are well prepared.
Be mindful of the organizational culture while simultaneously staying authentic.
Are you in doubt about what to wear? It really is not necessary to, for instance, wear formal attire when visiting an NGO that is known for its dynamic and progressive character. Nevertheless, if a formal attire is your everyday outfit and you feel comfortable in it, go with it. Show up as yourself. In other words, be mindful of the organizational culture while simultaneously staying authentic.
Prepare for a Good Talk
Most job application procedures have at least two interview rounds, starting with about four to six applicants during the first round. A colleague, who will hopefully be your future manager, often accompanies the recruiter.
If the interviewers are any good, they will most probably not start interrogating you about your knowledge during this first interview round, as they will rather be interested in you as a person and your competences. “Hire for attitude, train for skills”, is a well-known outlook, meaning that you will learn the job details by doing if you have the brains and (social) skills.
Your first impression is important, as it will set the tone for the rest of the talk.
Every interview will start with an introduction round, so prepare a short introduction of who you are. We human beings tend to make a judgement about others within the first few seconds we meet someone new. Thus, your first impression is important, as it will set the tone for the rest of the talk. Use storytelling, anecdotes and your relevant life experiences to give a glance of who you are. Be sure to focus on conveying your enthusiasm for the organization and the position.
If you are an introverted person who does not like to talk about him or herself, just briefly mention this in the beginning of the interview. Every organization has room for introverted people too, as every personality type brings a different set of qualities to the table. The recruiters will completely understand it if you are a bit nervous and talking about it may actually reduce the heat.
The second part of the interview will be based on questions the interviewers have for you. For questions which are commonly asked during job interviews in the field of international affairs, visit this website. Try to always embed your knowledge about the organization in your answers. If you do not know the answer to a question, just be honest about this. Honesty and authenticity are well-respected qualities.
When preparing your answers to these questions, think of your relevant competences and relate them to practical examples. Instead of just dragging on about yourself, you should be able to prove through a certain experience that you possess the requested competencies. This shows that you truly comprehend what the job entails, and thus, that you know what will be expected from you, and that you got what it takes.
If you are capable of reflecting on your own development goals, your cooperation style, and your skill-related weaknesses, you show the recruiters your ability to deal with feedback.
The interviewers are not only interested in hearing about your qualities, but would like to learn about the things that challenged you too. Be prepared to answers questions relating to your personal pitfalls, cooperation preferences, and job related challenges. If you are capable of reflecting on your own development goals, your cooperation style, and your skill-related weaknesses, you show the recruiters your ability to deal with feedback.
The final part of the interview is not always well prepared by the applicant, but is equally important as all previous parts. The interviewers not only want to meet you, but you also want to learn about the organization, its culture, and the work conditions and agreements. What can they offer you in terms of development, cooperation and communication? What are current developments within the team? What are weaknesses of the organization? Learn as much as you can, while emphasizing your core values and expectations.
The interview can be closed by thanking each other for the time and effort, and by agreeing on when you will be informed about their first decision.
After the Interview
Some stressful days are awaiting you but once you are invited for that second interview, you can at least celebrate your initial success already. This next interview will probably be held with other interviewers, to gain new perspective. The overall objective of this second round is getting to know the applicants even better. You can prepare this interview by focussing some more on practical skills requested for this position, the amount of hours you are ready to work on a weekly base, and compensation or income details.
Sometimes an assessment can be part of the application procedure. This assessment can either study your personality, or can be based upon technical, job related knowledge and skills such as a foreign language. For information on assessment, you can browse the internet or take a look at this website.
In the unfortunate event you are not invited for a second talk, you can always ask feedback in order to improve for your next application.
Enjoy & Keep Your Head Up
Even when you apply the advice from these three articles, it can still take some time to get hired. Instead of becoming frustrated, try to enjoy the process and learn from it. International affairs is a difficult sector when searching for a job, so do not beat yourself up when you are rejected for the fifth time in a row.
Instead of becoming frustrated, try to enjoy the process and learn from it.
Especially when you do not have a lot of experience to show for on your CV yet, it can be a frustrating effort. In that case, I would advise to first invest in your CV and the content of it. Taking a closer look at this website can help you invest in your CV and in becoming a starting professional in international affairs.
Good luck and hopefully my tips will help you land your dream job!