You’ve cleared the first international job hunting hurdle and wrangled an interview for your dream job overseas. Now, you’re jogging toward the next hurdle, which is the interview itself. You know the employers were impressed by your resume, now you need to wow them with your presence as you handle interview questions and answers for working abroad. Answering international job interview questions is your chance to show that you have the right capabilities, attitude, and motivation to take on this role and make it your own.
Preparation is the key to success in your interview. To help you respond to questions with confidence, here are some of the most common interview questions for overseas jobs and how to answer (and NOT answer) them.
The BIG kahuna: The “Why do you want to work abroad?” interview question
A huge part of how to prepare for answering international job interview questions is examining your own motivation. The most important international interview question you will have to answer is your reason for wanting to work abroad. Not having a ‘why’ will make the ‘what’ a lot harder to secure.
The “Why do you want to work abroad” interview question cuts to the chase. Your motivation for working overseas is important to your employer. For example, if you just want to live somewhere sunny to enjoy the beach and sip cocktails, it’s not as compelling as if you respond that you want to gain international experience to help you develop cultural sensitivity that will come in handy in increasingly globalised workplaces.
Think deeply about why you want to work abroad. Clarifying this for yourself will make it a lot easier to express to potential employers. Once you’ve hashed out your goals for working abroad, you’ll be ready to take on an interview—and impress potential employers with your suave answers!
10 international job interview questions & how to answer them
Question #1: Tell us about yourself
Right answer: Sum up your key experiences, strengths, and broader interests in a few succinct sentences.
Wrong answer: Don’t segue into specific hobbies, mention weaknesses, or stutter. You’re talking about yourself—a subject you should know well, so be clear and confident.
This is a classic opener when it comes to international job interview questions. You have one-two minutes to cram all of your experiences and interests into a nutshell, in a way that makes you sound appealing and demonstrates that you would be a good fit for the job. How you speak is as important as what you say. You want to come across as articulate, confident, and focused. You don’t have to write out a script beforehand, but it’s useful to run through a few practice takes before your interview.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: Even if you don’t have a polished elevator pitch for yourself, you can cover basics such as your educational, work, and international experience relevant to the job you’re applying for. Pull up your resume in your head and do a quick run through of the main points.
Question #2: What interests you about this particular job?
Right answer: “I admire and identity with your company objectives, and I think this position would allow me to apply my existing skills while developing new ones.”
Wrong answer: “I really want to work overseas so I can spend more time at the beach.”
Your motivation can be the key factor in convincing someone to hire you. If your vision of certain goals and how this role can help you reach them is clear, employers may be more confident in trusting you to do an awesome job.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: You might not have the perfect spiel as to why this job will help you reach career goals, but you can still talk about the company itself, what you admire and why you would like to have their name on your resume.
Question #3 Tell us about your international experience.
Right answer: “I studied Spanish at a language school and in a homestay in the Dominican Republic.”
Wrong answer: “I went on holiday to a resort in the Dominican Republic once.”
When discussing your international experience, highlight the ways in which you explored a different culture, or immersed yourself in the local way of life. A killer tan you got from hours sitting on the beach won’t convince international employers that you have what it takes to work for them.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: You might not have any international experience yet. In this case, stress what motivates you to want to work abroad, and make it clear that you have put thought into challenges such as language barriers and culture shock.
Question #4: Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Right answer: “I would like to be working toward leading a team and gaining a qualification in my field.”
Wrong answer: “I don’t really have any idea of where I’m headed”.
Answering this classic international job interview question is a chance for you to demonstrate how this position would fit in with your career goals, expressing your motivation (see Question #2 for more on why this is important). Even if you don’t have a clear idea of where you are going to be in five years (because let’s face it, how many of us do!), you should make the general direction clear. For example, you could mention you want to be in a management position, working in international education, or running your own business.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: Say that you’re keen to develop your career by expanding your skillset, even if you don’t have a specific vision for five years’ time. It could help to mention you’re particularly interested in learning more about the area the company works in.
Question #5: What key skills or experience can you bring to this job?
Right answer: “As well as speaking three languages, I have two years of experience in this field and a breadth of international travel experience.”.
Wrong answer: “Well I don’t have any work experience yet…”
This is where you need to convince the employer that you can bring a unique skill set that a local person may not be able to provide. This could be language skills, a depth of intercultural understanding, or work experience specific to the job. Only talk in positives—avoid saying what you DON’T have.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: If you don’t have the qualifications or experience to match the role, mention your personality traits or soft skills that could hold you in good stead in an international environment. For example, determination and being a quick learner are crucial for international positions. If you’re quick to respond with your soft skills, you’re bound to crush international interview questions like these.
Question #6: What makes you stand out from other applicants?
Right answer: “I am a very independent individual with a strong focus on my goals and the skills and determination to make this role my own.”
Wrong answer: “I want this more than anyone”.
Use this international job interview question as your opportunity to highlight your key skills and experience in more niche areas. Give specific examples—all applicants want this role, you have to show why you deserve it.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: If you aren’t prepared and can’t think of any specific skills that you have, stress soft skills instead. Soft skills are very important for international roles. Things like independence, open-mindedness, and good communication skills will all help you succeed in an international position, so make sure to make clear that you possess these.
Question #7: Tell us about a time when you worked with people from different cultural backgrounds
Right answer: “In my last job different cultural perspectives came into play, so our team was able to approach tasks differently. The workplace environment was also made more diverse and we were able to celebrate different cultural festivals.
Wrong answer: “I’ve never worked overseas so I have never worked in an intercultural environment.”
This question gives your employer a chance to assess your intercultural fluency. Cultural awareness is an important part of how you’ll adapt to an international working environment.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: You might not have worked with people from different cultures, but you may have studied or be friends with people from diverse backgrounds. Reference your personal life if you have to, and emphasise your curiosity and open mindedness toward other cultures.
Question #8: Explain a time you have handled a conflict with a colleague.
Right answer: This is a behavioral question, so you will need to give some background in your answer, describe how you handled the conflict, and the eventual outcome. Be specific and use a real example from your past experience.
Wrong answer: “Once I had an argument with a colleague and I reported them to the boss.”
This is an important interview question for overseas jobs as you’ll be working with people who may have different values, customs, and working behaviors to you. For example, in come countries time is not as strictly adhered to as in Europe or North America. This can be frustrating and cause conflict, so your employer is probably trying to gauge how you will handle these differences and cope if they cause friction.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: You may never have been in this situation before. If that’s the case, you can speak hypothetically. For example, “If this situation were to arise, I would….”
Question #9: How would you describe your working style?
Right answer: “I enjoy working in a team and building strong working relationships to make the most of collaboration. I also prioritise time management and organization.
Wrong answer: “I am a perfectionist and a hard worker.”
Interview questions and answers for working abroad are often geared toward trying to assess how you would slot into the team. Knowing how you work, or how flexible you are in your approach to work, is an important part of that. For example, do you work well in a team, are you rigid in your approach to time management, can you manage working independently? It’s highly likely that in an international workplace you’ll need to adapt to different working styles, so traits such as flexibility, open-mindedness, and an autonomous approach to tasks are key. Steer clear of cliches in your answer and try to be as specific as possible.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: You might struggle to define your working style. In that case, describe your ideal manager or workplace environment to paint a picture of how you work.
Question #10 What skills do you have that would help you adapt to working abroad?
Right answer: Discuss any soft skills you have that are relevant to the role when answering international job interview questions like these. Where possible, use examples from previous situations. This is essentially another chance for you to cover your main strengths.
Wrong answer: Try not to mention irrelevant information, such as strong computer skills. You might be going to work in a place without internet or round-the-clock electricity, so bear that in mind when answering!
This international interview question is more about interpersonal skills than technical skills. An employer doesn’t want to invest in hiring and on boarding you if you decide to leave after two months because living overseas wasn’t for you after all.
What to do if you still don’t have a good answer: You can flip this question back on the interviewer. Ask them what specific challenges someone would face in the role you’re applying for, then consider how your skills might help you overcome those issues.
A few more international job interview tips
Before you go into the pit of snakes, er, the video call, consider these final tips to prepare for International interview questions:
- If you are interviewing in another language, this is a key opportunity to show off your proficiency. Brush up on key phrases if you are out of practice, or run through a trial interview with a friend.
- Your interview will probably take place over Skype or something similar, so make sure you have a good internet connection, a quiet place to chat, and be online on time! You don’t want to ruin your chances with something as simple as getting the time differences wrong.
- An interview is a dialogue. After the employer has done a deep dive into your experience and qualifications, they will usually open up the floor for you to ask them questions. You can use this opportunity to find out more about the company and projects you’ll be working on, but also to show your interest and enthusiasm for the role.
- After your interview, it’s a good idea to follow up with a quick email to the employer. Thank them for their time, reiterate key factors that would make you successful in the role, and make your interest clear without being overbearing.
You’re ready to land that job abroad!
Now you know how to prepare for an international interview (and what questions to expect)! When crunch time rolls around, remember to relax, smile, and go easy on yourself if you don’t have the perfect answer for all of the questions thrown at you. As long as you make it clear that you have prepared, are confident, motivated, and goal-focused, you’re bound to make a great impression. All the work you put into preparing will be worth it when you get notified that you’re the one!