Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Brussels vs. US Interview Process

So far my interview experiences have been relatively easy. Compared to the US I felt like these interviews were more informal and less stressful besides the confusing street signs (well the lack of visible street signs) and the cold rainy weather. At every interview I was offered some type of beverage which was great, especially since I can't recall ever being offered any refreshments in the US. This added to the relaxed conversational atmosphere that I felt at every interview. I think the best part about the interview a few of us had for MEP Rhoithova and Social Platform was that some of the questions where character and personality based which I think is important to note and often overlooked. A person may be able to perform the tasks and duties of a job proficiently but if their personality does not mesh well with others it can hinder the progress of an organization, especially these small offices.

The only real distinction I see between the Brussels and US business is culture is that showing up early to interviews does not necessarily mean that a person is responsible and prompt. Since the organizations or offices are so small there is not always an area to seat a guest and thus showing up early may put pressure on the host to either start the interview earlier than expected or go out of their way to find accomodations for you. Moreover, since the organizations are so small it seems very quiet at times which is not something I am accustomed to. NOrmally, there is a lot of chatter and livly interaction in the offices that I have worked for in the US but this assumption could be wrong once I actually start my internship next week.

My academic program is peace and conflict resolution which I think will work well with my internship with MEP Stastny who is focusing of trade negotiations with Canada at the moment. My Comparative Peace Processes class taught me much about the negotiation process and the intricacies of trying to come to an agreement about any issue. I believe this negotiation has been going on for 2 or 3 years now and the hopes of concluding this year are not high. This class also taught me that it is difficult to take an entity as large as the EU to come to an agreement in general due to the all of the actors who now have a stake in certain policies. Compromises will have to be made and many states either do not want to compromise or do not have the capacity to enforce a certain policy at the time so changes must constantly be made. It's difficult to get a group of friends to agree on a place to go for dinner; imagine that on an international level.


  1. It's interesting that you described the interview experience here in Brussels as easy. My initial reaction was the opposite. However, after reading what you wrote about the experience being more relaxed and informal, I found myself agreeing with you. As you pointed out, many of the people that interviewed us asked us character and personality based questions. I think because of this, the process seemed more informal and we were able to get a sense of what the office atmosphere would be like. Besides being small, I really don't know what to expect from my office environment. As we are both working for MEPs from two different countries, it would be interesting to see if there are any differences or similarities between our offices and then also compared to the offices/organizations that the others are working in.

  2. I agree with both Emily and Rachel and thought it was really refreshing to have many of the questions oriented around character and personality. It is oftentimes easy to look at a resume in a kind of impartial and almost empirical sense without getting a good idea of who the person actually is. In the U.S., I have had interviews where my resume has been gone through point by point without much elaboration.

    I also thought Rachel made a really good point about the importance of timing here vs. the U.S. In the U.S., showing up around 10-15 minutes early seems to be the norm and a sign that the candidate is well prepared and ready to go. This is apparently different in Brussels as we were told to arrive at each office only around 5 minutes beforehand. Although I wouldn't call my experiences here in Brussels as totally different from the U.S., there definitely are some nuances to take into consideration.

  3. It's interesting that everyone felt that questions were geared toward character and personality. I did not have that experience at all. In the three interviews that I would call "successful" I was mainly asked about my resume and informed about how my skills/interests could be put to work at that company. I personally, really appreciate this approach. Particularly considering how short this internship is, I really wanted the opportunity to both explain how my work could benefit the company and learn how the work I will do could benefit my academic/professional career. I like to think that my character/personality can be conveyed during the interview process without specifically discussing it.

  4. I thought all of my interviewers did a good job of both suggesting relevant projects and customizing what I may be doing for the to my professional interests. I thought that was particularly apparent with Social Platform (where we both interviewed). They almost gave us two completely different interviews, since the jobs they had in mind for each of us were so different.

    I definitely agree about the relaxed atmosphere the offered drinks gave. I accepted every single coffee offered at every interview, and I found I it gave me something to do with my hands while exuding a comfortable air (I hope). Someday when I grow up, I will offer my potential interns coffee, and judge their responses accordingly.

  5. Rachel,

    I'm glad to hear that you had a positive interview experience overall and that you're excited for your internship with MEP Stastny. The program participant who interviewed in MEP Stastny's office last year had a good experience, and it sounds like you'll be working on one of the central issues in the transatlantic relationship right now (free trade and non-tariff barriers). Although MEP Stastny may be working mostly with the relationship between the EU and Canada right now, the general topic of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is one of *the* hot issues right now: