Whether you’re planning to change jobs or considering a move to a post abroad, an interview in English is inevitable. Here are some tips to help you succeed at Job Interviews in English.
Start by familiarizing yourself with the specific vocabulary of your sector and the position you’re applying for. Make sure your CV is translated into English so that you can comfortably discuss your training and your previous posts, and why you’re interested in the job. We’d also encourage you to learn the language used by HR to avoid being thrown by any of their questions.
Normally, the questions fall into four categories: the company, your training and education, your experience and your skills.
Some of the most frequently asked questions about your training and education are: “Why did you choose to study …?” or “Tell me about your extracurricular activities during school”. For these types of questions, the best strategy is to try to relate your answers to the requirements of the position you are being interviewed for.
Typical questions about the company might be: “What do you know about our company?” or “Do you have a geographic preference?” Again, the best thing is to do your homework and make sure you can respond in a way that shows your interest in the position.
Questions about yourself and your personality are probably the ones you need to prepare most, although that may sound a little contradictory. HR staff often favour questions such as:
- “Tell me about yourself.” When they ask you this question, it is best to start by talking about some of your personal interests that have nothing to do with the job itself. Also, try not to give too detailed personal information.
- “What is your greatest strength / weakness?” When talking about your strengths, focus on those aspects that make you a good candidate for the job and that can differentiate you from your competitors. With respect to your weaknesses, try to mention one that wouldn’t be a problem for the position you want to get and that can be corrected relatively easily. For example: “I get nervous when I have to speak in front of large groups”, would be much better than “I am very shy and use to have trouble speaking up in meetings. There’s no need to go into details.
- “How would your friends / colleagues describe you?” To answer this question, follow the same advice that we have given in relation to your strengths and weaknesses.
- “Why are you leaving (or why have you left) your job? It is best to talk straightforwardly, focusing on the facts. Try to direct your response to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
With regard to your skills, they’ll usually be interested in questions like: “Why should we hire you?” In this case, what you have to do is sell yourself as concisely as you can. Prepare a short speech about why they should give you the job.
Another question that you may have to answer is: “Why do you want this job?” This is your chance to show the interviewer what you know about the position or the company. Be specific and mention the points that make you interested in this particular position in this company.
If asked, “How do you handle stress and pressure?” it’s best to answer with an example that shows how you have managed a stressful situation in the past. The same goes if they ask you to describe a complicated situation that you’ve come across in your career – “Describe a difficult work situation you’ve had to handle.”
If you feel a little insecure about your English, we recommend that you speak slowly and vocalize. Try not to make your answers too long, but don’t only speak in monosyllables. Listen carefully to the questions and if something isn’t clear, ask the interviewer to repeat the question or idea. Your interviewer will probably explain it again in more detail or by using different vocabulary.
Remember that it never hurts to practice with a bilingual friend. However, if you don’t think any of your friends has a good enough level of English, don’t worry! Fortunately, we live in the age of technology! Here you can find a free, interactive app that will help you practice for an interview. While on this page you’ll find a series of interview simulations so you can practice online.
Finally, don’t forget to follow up your interview with a thank-you note, sent by either email or post. This will remind the interviewer of your application and help to reinforce the idea that you’re really interested in the position. This step will differentiate you from the other candidates who almost always forget it.