• Kwan Segal

Create Compelling Stories as an International Student

Updated: May 16, 2019



I've provided TWO quick tips on how to handle negative questions in my previous blog: Nailing Job Interviews 101: Turning Your Failure Stories into Winning Stories, Episode I

Let's continue with some sample answers for those negative questions and what interviewers will think about you when they hear those answers!

There's no perfect world, and you cannot be great at everything- you live and learn. Instead of trying to be flawless, you can present your story like this to make you sound authentic and professional:

Situation A – a new graduate applying for a Financial Analyst role

Question: Describe a failure in your life and why you think it happened.

"I'm not sure if I should call this a failure but it was a recent disappointment in my last semester at school when I worked very hard and expected an excellent grade from my financial modeling class. However, the exam results didn't come out as I expected. I needed to make sure I understood what I did wrong so I asked for direct feedback from my professor. I found out that he expected more from my “point of view” section in the key recommendations. From the feedback session, I'd learned some great tips on how to improve. After our conversation, I did a lot of research and continued studying sample analyses that helped me understand what a great point of view in the key recommendation should look like. Too bad I couldn't go back and change my grade, but I feel that I now have a better understanding of producing an effective recommendation based on predictive analyses and I'm happy about my current modeling capabilities. "

In the interviewer's mind:

  • She has good financial modeling knowledge and skills – BANG!

  • She knows how to communicate well – BANG!!

  • She can handle criticism and turns it into opportunities to grow – BANG!!!

  • She is a high-achiever -BANG!!!!

However, after that conversation, the interviewer might be interested to hear some examples of key recommendations with a strong point of view… so you should prepare a sample case for that.

For international candidates in the U.S., if English is not your first language like me, I bet you get nervous when answering questions like: What were some communication challenges on your last project?

There must be a lot of things going on in your mind as you feel that the interviewer is pointing to your English proficiency.

The fact is- it's not about your English!

Firstly, you need to enable a mindset that you're the same as other candidates in America. This is about the job, it's not about where you come from.

Some good answers could be:

Situation B – an experienced hire with 4 years of work experience from her home country and applying for a project manager role

Question: What were some communication challenges on your last project?

"I've learned a lot from working at Company A. It was my first job and I was a project analyst supporting 2 managers whose schedules were extremely busy and it made it difficult to get ahold of them. One of the projects was to launch a new product to the market. We had a tight timeline - missing the deadline would cost a fortune to the company. I was responsible for tracking statuses from each workstream and reporting these to both managers on regular basis. I also needed to make sure that key decisions were made by them on time. It sounds pretty chaotic, right? (look into the interview's eyes) It definitely was! I had seen the challenges, so what I did was set up a communications process with the team and these 2 managers. I set up routine meetings with the broader team and involved my managers once a week to these team meeting. I also set up 5 minute daily calls with them to summarize the challenges and provide them with key status updates. The team was very happy because we were able to involve the managers and all the risks and issues were tackled on time. At the end, we managed to launch this new product on time. I remember that both of my managers said to me that they truly appreciated how I managed their time efficiently and made their lives much easier.

In the interviewer's mind:

  • She has experience in reporting to senior managers and working with people across cross-functional teams – BANG!

  • She can work with tight project timelines with high ambiguity – BANG!!

  • She knows how to create a good process and has good communication skills – BANG!!!

  • She seems to be a reliable resource -BANG!!!!

I hope this example help you feel more confident in answering negative questions.

As I always say "Nothing great ever comes that easy", it requires an effective game plan + practice.

Good luck with your career search!

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#jobinterview #failurestories #confidence

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