5 tips to ace a job interview in a foreign language

Career June 26, 2018

Time to live that best life! So, you’ve made the decision to follow your dreams and spend some time living abroad, but what about the practicalities? Finding a job is one of the very first things you should do, and in fact, it’s probably a good idea to improve your CV and start your job search well in motion before you move abroad. While just the idea of going through a job interview in a foreign language may be anxiety-inducing, don’t panic! There are some tried and true tips that will help you ace your job interview and start living the dream.

Tip #1: Be honest about your language level


In job interviews, as in life, honesty is the best policy! This all starts with your CV or résumé. So, if you got your First Certificate five years ago but haven’t spoken a word of English since, it’s best not to put “near-native level of English” on your CV. That way, your interviewer has the potential to be impressed rather than disappointed with your skills. If your situation is the other way around, and you have excellent conversation skills but no official certificate to back it up, you can always specify by stating you have an advanced level of speaking and an intermediate level of writing.

Tip #2: Practise, practise, practise

As they say, practice makes perfect, and it’s especially true when it comes to nailing a job interview in a foreign language! There’s a series of questions that are likely to be asked in a job interview in any language, so nix your nerves by preparing for these ultra-common questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Tell me how you overcame a challenge or resolved a conflict at work.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Do you have any questions?

A word of warning, however – preparing for these questions does NOT mean memorising a list of rote responses and jazzing them up with fancy words you found in the thesaurus. Be genuine and conversational in your responses, and the words will flow if you’ve already put time into practising!

Tip #3: Make sure you understand the local etiquette


Depending on the language, country and culture of where you’re interviewing, you should do a little background research on etiquette. For example, should you address your interviewer formally or informally, which topics are considered appropriate (i.e. asking about your relationship or family status in most English-speaking countries is prohibited) and what the dress code is (business casual or a full suit and tie or a dress). By looking into all this beforehand, you’ll be much more confident going into your interview.

Tip #4: Relax and don’t be afraid to ask questions

Is your heart hammering inside your chest and your palms sweating as you go into your interview? Take a few deep breaths and fight that urge to speak at a mile a minute. Speak slowly and deliberately, and don’t ever be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat a question you didn’t understand. If you still don’t fully understand, you can use questions like, “You’re asking about what I did at my last job, right?” Don’t plunge into answering a question without first making sure you’ve understood it!

Tip #5: Be prepared for a Skype or phone interview


This last one may seem like a given, but since you might still be in your home country while applying for jobs abroad, your initial interview could be done on Skype or over the phone. In either case, make sure that the time of the call will be uninterrupted (put your electronic devices on silent, take the dog out beforehand so it isn’t barking, tell your flatmates not to wander into your room, etc.). If it’s a Skype interview, make sure that the area visible by your webcam is neat and tidy. For phone or Skype interviews, keep some notes handy, and for Skype, try sticking them on the wall behind your camera so you’re not always looking down. Finally, don’t be shy about asking your interviewer to repeat him or herself if you didn’t hear something due to a bad connection. It could happen to anyone!

So, are you ready to ace that interview?

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By Leah Ganse

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