100% Guaranteed Method to get an Internship at a Foreign Company

※This post is also available in Japanese. Please click 日本語 on the top right hand corner.

Firstly, a brief background on myself. My name is Jason Winder. I came to Japan in 2001 to study martial arts, and I have been running businesses in Japan since 2003.

In that time, I’ve interviewed several hundreds of people, and hired around 100 people in various capacities, ranging from internships, freelancers, part-timers, contractors, consultants, and full time employees.

We also receive daily job applications from a very wide range of candidates, so I’ve seen the full gamut of job applications, and job applicants.

I’ve written similar articles in the past for foreigners who are looking to get a job in Japan, such as: https://www.makeleaps.jp/blog//en/2011/07/how-to-get-a-job-in-japan-or-anywhere/

Before starting a business, I got 4 jobs in Japan myself. So I’ve been on both sides of the table, and I have some insight into the interviewing/hiring process.

At MakeLeaps, we’ve been interviewing a lot of interns recently. We are a Startup SaaS company with an online quoting/invoicing tool for businesses in Japan, and we’re in an exciting period of rapid expansion.

To assist us, we’re looking for some good interns we can train, and who in turn will get a valuable, once-in-a-lifetime inside view of a rapidly growing foreign-run startup, work in an interesting multicultural workplace full of great people, and improve their English.

So recently, I have interviewed many excellent people, who are very intelligent and capable, who speak great English, but would totally fail at any interview at a foreign company. It’s a real waste, and I want to fix it.

Humility is a very important aspect of Japanese culture. It helps allow harmonious relationships with a wide range of people, and it’s one of the many important things that’s made a big impact on me since I came to Japan.

But. As soon as you walk into an interview at a foreign company, you must completely kill any sense or feeling of humility. It will not endear you to a foreign interviewer, and nothing will sink your chances faster than humility in an interview.

Real-life Example
Foreign Interviewer: So, please tell me why you’d be a good candidate for this internship.
Polite Intern: Well, actually I do not have any experience, and I don’t have a high TOEIC score. But I will try my best.
Foreign Interviewer: I see.

Foreign Interviewer (Actually thinking): That’s it? This person has had no experiences that might be useful for this internship? They don’t have any traits in their personality that would help them? They haven’t done anything at school, or at a part-time job they’re proud of? Why are they talking about their TOEIC score? What does that have to do with anything? Argh!

Even if you don’t have any work experience, you have qualities in your personality you can talk about. You need to be proud of yourself, and your capabilities if you’re going to impress in an interview with a foreign company.

Better Answer
Foreign Interviewer: So, please tell me why you’d be a good candidate for this internship.
Successful Intern: I am very independent and resourceful in my work. If you assign a task to me, I will work on it until I figure it out, using every method I can find. I also learn very quickly, and I don’t make the same mistake twice. I’m also very passionate about the work your company is doing in IT, so I will have lots of energy and focus to do my best if I’m chosen.
Foreign Interviewer: Great!

Also note this answer is 100% about personality. If you’re looking for an internship, you probably don’t have much experience. This means your best option is to talk about who you are, instead of your experience.

WIIFM is a common concept in sales. It stands for “What’s in it for me?”

You need to have the same mindset when you’re talking to a potential employer, in both your email communication and face to face communication.

Very Common Real Life Email Example: “It’s my goal to achieve a career in IT, and doing an internship at your company will help me get good experience in a foreign company I can put on my resume.”
Foreign Interviewer: WIIFM!?

Note: It’s perfectly alright (and good!) to ask questions at the end of the interview when the interviewer says “Do you have any questions?”

A good example question is: “I’m really hoping for an internship where I can study and improve my English. What language is mostly spoken inside the company?”

This kind of question shows that you have drive, goals, and you can communicate effectively. All great things. Just make sure you ask these questions at the end of the interview.

Take Initiative!
I’ve met people at events, and I’ve told them about MakeLeaps, and our vision. I also mention we’re looking for interns right now.

Potential Intern: Really? I’m really interested! I really want an internship. Is there more information?
Me: Yes! Please do a google search for MakeLeaps and intern, and you’ll find more info.

In these situations, I have learned that I absolutely must give people a task to complete. Such as, please do a websearch for “MakeLeaps intern”.

The speed and capability at which they complete this task will always give me a lot of insight into how this person will react at work.

The response I’m really, really hoping for: This person finds a computer, and does a google search for “MakeLeaps intern”. They read about MakeLeaps, our customers, our partners, what we’re doing, and our background. Then they follow the steps to apply, that are written on our blog.

The actual response I get 80% of the time: Nothing.

What a waste!

Sometimes I might run into the same people again, and sometimes I ask, “I didn’t hear back from you, what happened?”

A common response: “Oh – well… honestly I didn’t think my English was good enough to pass the interview, so I gave up.”

The funny thing is that in at least two situations, I was waiting for them to apply, because I was planning to hire them immediately since they were excellent. Such a waste.

Naturally, this article does not describe all interviewers. However, at least all of my friends who run companies and hire staff vigorously agree with these points.

At the end of the day, you’ll need to adjust your answers and your interview style to match the interviewer, and the company. I would leave you with this advice though.

It’s better to fail by being too direct and passionate, than to fail quietly by being too timid and humble.

Good luck !

Please note: we are still actually looking for an intern at MakeLeaps. For more information, please search for “MakeLeaps intern” :)

Jay Winder

Jay Winder is the Australian Co-Founder of MakeLeaps. Jason came to Japan in 2001 to study martial arts, set up his first business called Webnet IT in 2003, and set up MakeLeaps in 2010 with the vision of unlocking the potential of freelancers and businesses in Japan with clean and powerful software. If you like, follow me on Twitter.

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