So, you have to prepare for a job interview in English and you’re panicking. I know how nerve-wracking it can be, especially if you’re a non-native speaker.
Awkward silences might happen while you’re searching for the right words during the interview. Or you might hesitate a lot and use more ums or ahs than usual.
We even tend to make more mistakes when we’re under pressure.
It’s no picnic, that’s for sure!
But I don’t want you to feel bad about that! It’s absolutely normal to feel more uncomfortable and nervous while having a job interview in a different language.
I also want to reassure you that it’s 100% possible for you to do well. Yes and yes! Even if English is not your first language.
5 key steps to prepare for a job interview in English as a non-native speaker
I. Analyze the job ad
Read the job ad carefully and make sure you understand every single sentence and word in it. No guessing here.
I’ve often noticed during my job interview preparation courses that my students had no idea about certain tasks and responsibilities, simply because they hadn’t checked their meaning in a good dictionary.
Please don’t skip this part.
You can use some excellent online dictionaries for free, such as Macmillan or Cambridge. If the term in the job ad is specific to a particular field, type the term and the field (e.g., pharmaceutical, HR, marketing, etc.) into Google and read some key definitions or related articles. Be careful: the meaning of some terms will vary based on your specialization.
Now let’s practice! Have a look at the tasks below:
- Coordinating workarounds
- Scouting for new KOLs
- Participating in planned on-call service shifts
- Handing over to O&M
I took these words from various job advertisements of some of the candidates I’ve worked with recently.
Are you 100% sure you understand all these words? If not, do some research using the resources I mentioned above and check your understanding.
II. Research the company before your job interview in English
One of the most common interview questions is:
What do you know about our company?
Many recruiters complain that candidates have not even checked the company website and don’t know exactly what they do.
Now it’s easier than ever to research accurate information online about your future employer.
Make sure you check out the following:
- Company website and blog
- Social media accounts
- LinkedIn profile
- Recent press releases.
It’s also a good idea to look at the Press section of their website and read through the links there. You might find some recent news on Google, too. (By the way, Google has its own “News” tab for this kind of search and it shows any recent news articles.)
Learn as much as you can about the company culture, mission statements, values, products and services, and their general organization as well. Again, if you don’t understand any of the words they use, don’t just skip them. Use a dictionary and do your research.
Step-by-step, you’ll get familiar with the kind of language the company is using and you’ll also be better prepared in terms of vocabulary for the interview.
You may find it useful to draw out a mind-map. Create important categories in circles, then fill them with the most appropriate words you’ve found during your research.
Don’t just take notes! Memorize the most common words when it comes to describing the company and its products or services.
III. Come up with your own questions
Prediction is key here.
I believe that the success of your job interview will depend on how well you predict the interview questions.
Go through the job ad and come up with interview questions for each line. And don’t stop there!
Think about your possible answers and write everything down in a Google Doc or any other text editor. At this point, I don’t recommend writing things by hand as you might need to add different answers and questions to your document later.
How can you come up with questions?
For example, if you’re reading the lines below in a job ad:
Design sales and marketing campaigns that bring to life to the proposition and achieve growth strategy.
Then the possible questions could be:
- What kind of marketing campaigns have you run?How did the campaign perform?
- Did the campaign contribute to the company’s overall growth strategy?
- What kind of tools did you use to run that campaign?
- Considering the results, what would you do differently next time?
- Can you tell me what was the most successful marketing campaign you’ve ever run? What worked particularly well?
As you can see, starting from the first line of a job ad, which is actually for a Marketing Manager position in England, you can come up with various questions.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just give generic answers. The more specific you are, the more you will increase your chances of doing well at the interview.
Always describe specific situations. Give them numbers and concrete results.
Questions about your working experience
Then, go through your CV and think of some questions about your working experience and education. Add those questions and answers as well to your document.
- Do you have a long enough list now?
- Are your answers specific enough?
- Do they contain numbers, percentages, or other data? If so, you’ve done a great job.
At this point, you can grab some post-it notes and write down some of the most important questions. You can stick them onto your wall or door or above your desk. Have a look at your notes at different times of the day and try to say your answers out loud.
Don’t memorize entire sentences, though. You won’t sound natural during the interview. Just try to always remember what your main points are.
This is an excellent exercise for various reasons:
- You will interiorize the questions by writing them out by hand.
- By practicing a lot out loud, you’ll feel more confident and you’ll notice that your answers will improve each time.
- Believe me, you’ll also feel more prepared even if you’re asked slightly or completely different questions during your interview.
IV. Time yourself
Ideally, you should be able to answer a question in less than 3 minutes. Time yourself with your phone!
At the early stages of the recruiting process, you might have to record your answers on a specific platform, and sometimes 2 or 3 minutes is exactly the amount of time you have (and no more). So keep practicing! It’ll help you become more concise and you’ll learn how to give more relevant answers.
V. Record your answers
Once you can keep your answers under 3 minutes, record yourself! Again, you can just use your smartphone’s voice recorder.
Why is this step so important?
Because you’ll hear your voice, how you pronounce words, your hesitations, and all the ums and ahs. Then you can make some adjustments based on these recordings:
- Rearrange your sentences or word order.
- Check the pronunciation of key terms if you’re unsure.
- Pay attention not to use too many ums and ahs during your job interview.
How long does it take to prepare for a job interview in English?
As you can see, the preparation for a job interview in a foreign language requires more time.
I would suggest spending at least 10 hours, or even more, preparing for the big day. If you think that’s too much, try to be more selective and devote your time to applying for those positions where you’d be a really good fit.
Follow the quality over quantity rule! It’s better to prepare well for a few jobs than preparing badly or not getting ready at all for lots of different positions.
I’m always so surprised to hear that many candidates spend months getting ready for their exams when they were at university, but now that they’re trying to find a job, they devote only a couple of hours to job interview prep. That’s not enough!
Remember: when you do all the exercises and tasks I’ve mentioned above, you’ll also learn lifelong skills. You’ll become a better public speaker in English! That way, you’ll find it less difficult to prepare for important meetings or presentations later on in your life.
Preparing for a job interview is a learning process and an amazing opportunity to grow. If you think about it that way, regardless of the results, you’ll always find the motivation to carry on.
“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.”B.B. King
Who is behind this article?
My name is Alexandra Kapinya and I’m a Business English Teacher. I help non-English speaking job seekers and career-changers improve their language skills so they can land a job they love. There’s nothing more fulfilling for me than helping people find a job, especially during these tough times.