Monday, January 21, 2019

7 Effective Ways to Ace a Job Interview in a Foreign Language by Alice Berg

Hello! Hola! Bonjour! Whatever language you speak, making it through an interview in a foreign language is challenging. In addition to general nervousness, you might worry about your job interview speech.

How do I sound? Am I speaking correctly? What if I don’t understand their question or can't find the right word to answer it? 

You have to stay calm. Interviewers will understand that you're a non-native speaker, so they'll be ready for small misunderstandings. However, if you have an interview in a given language, you'll probably be expected to have a decent level in it. That’s why strong speaking and writing skills are required.

Let’s have a look at how to ace an interview in a foreign language.

Practice Makes Perfect


Don't ever think about going to the interview without a small rehearsal. Guess what the questions will be and how you'd answer them.

While no two interviews are the same, most will ask you to say something about yourself. Here are some extremely common interview questions:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why did you leave your last job? 
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is your biggest achievement/challenge in life? 


It's a good idea to take some time and answer those questions. Ask a friend or relative to be your interviewer if you want to make your answers feel more natural. Tell them briefly about yourself, your career goals, experience, expectations, and plans. This simple exercise will help you find the right words and learn them.

“I would advise candidates to prepare short and concise answers to the questions. Be focused, listen to the question carefully and provide the best answer you can. Don’t be afraid to clarify the question if you're not sure you got everything correct. You can always say “Would you like to hear more?" if you feel they're still waiting for a more detailed answer”- Brenda Sommers, an HR manager at Skillroads.

Keep in Mind That Your Interview is Cross-cultural


The more languages you speak, the more cultures you belong to. Find out more about the culture of the countries where your target language is spoken.

Did you know that language shapes the way people think?

For example, both light and dark blue have the same word to identify this color in English – blue. Russian speakers differentiate those two colors and have separate words for both. Research conducted on the brain activity of both Russian and English speakers revealed that English people noticed differences in shades of blue less while Russian speakers were quicker to tell them apart.

The difference in the way people think, communicate, interact with each other is much bigger. Make sure you know basic things about the mentality of your interviewers.

Don’t Be Afraid of Having an Accent


Even though you are not supposed to sound 100% natural, too strong an accent might be a problem. Work on your pronunciation as it's important for general understanding. If you speak well, both you and your listeners understand each other much better

Now let’s use English as an example. English speakers often reduce sounds (“em” would be a reduced form for “them”). Listen to the native speakers, repeat after them; watch movies and cartoons - try to imitate the accents you hear; write down basic pronunciation rules and practice. Keep practicing to improve your accent and pronunciation.

Be Ready to Exchange Common Pleasantries


Many candidates show up at interviews ready to answer any question. However, don't be silent when it comes to general things like expressing gratitude or demonstrating good manners. The first impression is very important; 33% of interviewers know whether they would hire someone in the first 90 seconds!

Make sure you know how to say “bless you” if somebody sneezes or “likewise” when the interviewers wish you a nice day. Prepare several different “difficult phrases” and idioms. In such a way, you’ll sound more impressive. However, make sure you have a clear understanding of the context and meaning of these phrases because if you don't, you'll just look silly. Saying a simple "Thanks for having/inviting me,” “Hope to hear back from you soon,” or “Have a good day” will always improve your chances.

Immerse Yourself in the Language before the Interview


Are you having an interview in Spanish?

Turn on Spanish TV and music, visit a Spanish restaurant in your city, or watch a movie. Talk to yourself aloud and even think in the target language.

If there are speaking clubs in your city, make sure you attend the next time they meet. People who practice the same language might help you out by asking some of the questions that we already mentioned earlier. The relaxed atmosphere in the club will help you calm down and speak with no pressure. Listen to the speeches even on your way to the interview. Choose only those topics that are interesting for you or related to the job.

There’s No Shame in Being Honest


Didn’t understand the question?

Don’t be afraid to say "Sorry, but I didn't get it. Can you repeat that, please?”. Nobody will judge you, laugh or think you’re not fluent. Even people speaking in their native languages have to occasionally ask for things to be repeated. Be yourself and stay positive and relaxed.

Robert Hellmann, the President of Hellmann Career Consulting, says telling a story is a good way to interest the interviewer: “Yes, you need to get other things right in an interview as well: ask the right questions, prep for handling issues with your candidacy, follow-up effectively and so forth. But telling a good story is the most powerful way to stand out from the competition since our brains are wired to remember the imagery, the drama, and the emotion that’s conveyed in a good story”.

Keep Calm!


Don’t let stress eat you up. The last and probably most important way to nail the interview is by being yourself. Languages are a tool to communicates your skills, abilities, and thoughts. The really important thing is not the way you speak, but the way you do your job and grow within the company.

Demonstrate to the recruiter your willingness to learn, your perseverance, and your confidence. Despite the cultural and linguistic differences, they're still recruiters looking for somebody to hire. You just have to make sure that it's you!

Finally, stop worrying about how to prepare for an interview, sit down and do it. Make a job interview checklist and work your way through every task. Good luck!

Alice Berg is a career advisor who helps people find their own way in life and prepare for their future careers. She likes backpacking and spends her free time learning Slavic languages. You can find her on Twitter and Medium

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