A question for the international student

My recent experience of job hunting at a Malaysian career fair held in London taught me that, as a Malaysian studying abroad, there is one question I will almost inevitably get asked at job interviews. Some employers will be direct and ask “Why should we hire you instead of students who studied locally (in Malaysia)?” Some will phrase it differently as perhaps “What is the best thing about studying here?” Whatever way they put it, they are trying to figure out the same thing; what makes the overseas student different from the local student. Never mind the fact that the companies’ coming to London with the express intention of searching you out is implication that they do think there is a difference, one that warrants them spending a hefty amount on the trip here. This is time for you to show them your worth!

Luckily, I was forewarned and had some time to think it over. My initial answer would have been independence. That living in a foreign country has made me learn to be wholly self-reliant in house hunting, paying energy bills, cooking, planning weekend getaways etc. But I was quickly shot down with “That’s clichéd. Everyone says that. It doesn’t mean anything.” Their argument was that it was a given for you to become independent. You had no choice but to do so. So I tried to think about it in another way and asked myself what would my degree experience have been if I had taken it in Malaysia? How would this hypothetical me differ from the current me? I arrived at the answer that the challenges I faced here has, in no doubt, changed me in ways that would not have been otherwise possible. Which is kind of the same thing as saying, it’s made me different because it has, but I assure you I worded it much better than that in the interview.

This is definitely one of those questions where there is no right or wrong answer. Only good answers that get you hired and less good answers that may not get you hired. In the end, it’s about setting yourself apart, as it is with all interview questions.  So now it’s your turn. What do you think sets you apart?

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