A Few Tips for Your Job Interview in a Foreign Language

Tip nº1: Be prepared for a Skype, Zoom, or phone interview

Nowadays it’s quite likely that your job interview could be via videoconference. Ensure that the hour of the call will be continuous (put your electronic gadgets on silent mode, take the dog out in advance so it isn’t barking or jumping on your lap, tell your flatmates not to meander into your room, and so forth.). Assuming it’s a webcam interview, ensure that the background is spick and span; or you can use one of the many virtual backgrounds provided by Skype, Zoom, Teams or Google Meets. There’s also the possibility of blurring the background. Test your videoconferencing software before the actual interview with a friend, to make sure you know how all the functionalities work. Another good piece of simple advice is to turn off your internet connection for a couple of minutes and restart your computer, that will give you a fresh connection and a device that runs smoothly, highly reducing the risk of your call being glitchy.


Tip nº2: Practice, practice, practice — and more practice

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and it sure applies to mastering a foreign language for job interviews! Many questions can be asked during a job interview in any language, so don’t worry, but regardless of how much experience you have, be prepared for these extremely common questions:

Tell me about yourself.

How much do you know about our company?

Why do you want to work here?

Why did you quit your last job?

Tell me how you faced challenges or resolved conflicts at work.

Where will you see yourself five years from now?

Do you have any questions?

A word of caution though – preparing for these questions doesn’t mean memorizing a series of generic answers and then populating them with fancy words you’ve found in the thesaurus. Be sincere and chatty in your answers, and if you’ve taken the time to practice, it’ll be smooth!

To prepare for the interview and reduce nervousness, prepare the following questions:

“Introduce yourself to us.”

This is usually asked at the very beginning of the interview. When speaking, try to make as few mistakes as possible and keep it as short as possible. Emphasize your work experience, education, and hobbies. Speak confidently and show interest in the conversation as if you were talking to a friend.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

When recruiters ask about your plans for the next few years, try to talk about your ambitions. Of course, you need to consider the goals of the employer. For example, if there is potential to be a future marketing director, a good answer would be “I would like to be a marketing director for one of your future affiliates”.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Here you can omit details about your ability to dribble 2 basketballs at once or your fear of planes. Emphasize the strengths that you will attract employers, such as being trustworthy and punctual. For weaknesses, you can focus on neutral things, such as altruism, perfectionism, or the need to be better than others—and explain why this can be a strength as well, but, we all have real weaknesses and being able and willing to share them will show honesty. Of course, you can mention that you’re working on self-improvement.

“Can you give me an example of how you deal with problems?”

This question is being asked more and more frequently. You will be asked how you deal with stress and how you deal with difficult situations. Think about when your business runs into problems, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

“What is your expected salary?”

You never know how a potential employer will react to a certain amount. So instead of answering directly, mention your salary from your previous job and possibly ask the potential employer to make a formal offer if they decide to hire you.

Tip nº3: Be Honest!

In a job interview, as in life, honesty is the best strategy! It all starts with your resume or CV. So if you got your TOEIC certificate five years ago and haven’t spoken a word of English since then, it’s best not to put that you’re bilingual on your resume, which basically means that you speak like someone with a native English level if you’re actually upper-intermediate; you’ll get found out, but surprisingly enough many people commit that cardinal sin. By avoiding this pitfall, the person you’re talking to has the potential to be impressed rather than disappointed by your skills. Set the interviewer up to be pleasantly surprised, not the other way around.

Tip nº4: Make sure you understand the local etiquette

Depending on the language, country, and culture you’re interviewing for, you may want to do some background checks on etiquette. For example, should you address the interviewer formally or informally, which topics are considered appropriate (for example, asking about your marriage or marital status is shunned in most English-speaking countries), and the dress code (business casual or suit and tie or dress). If you handle all of this beforehand, you’ll go into the interview with more confidence.

Tip nº5: Relax and don’t be afraid to ask questions

When you walk into a job interview with your heart pounding in your chest and sweaty palms? Take a few deep breaths and resist the urge to speak at a mile a minute. Speak slowly and carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask the other person to repeat a question you don’t understand. If you still don’t understand, you can use questions like “You asked me what I did at my last job, right?”. Don’t dive head first into a question without first making sure you’ve understood it!

Always keep in mind that a  job interview in a foreign language shouldn’t be seen as a daunting undertaking but rather as an awesome opportunity that can widen your horizons and take you places, both literally and figuratively. Good luck!

Article was written by Steven Bruce, professional English trainer and teacher coordinator at Break Into English.

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