Handling job interviews in English

Now that the worst of the economic crisis is over and businesses are starting to employ people again, so there is some cause for optimism. Very few people are naïve enough to think that now the worst is over getting a job will be easy – the reality is still a very tough market that can pick and choose from a big talent pool. This is especially true for those early in their careers with less experience to offer. So how do you gain a competitive advantage over other candidates competing for the same job?  

One way is to demonstrate that you are adaptable enough to work in an international environment in English. Having good English language qualifications is important – or often essential - to get yourself onto the interview shortlist, but being able to evidence your abilities in an interview could well be a deciding factor.  

As with any interview, being prepared is critically important – even more so when you’re entire career path is at stake. So let’s think about some of the things that you might want to consider when preparing for that job interview in English.

 

  • Practice makes perfect
    Sit with someone who has good English language skills and talk through your work history in the same way you would in an interview in your own language. Do you have all the expressions and key vocabulary you will need to do this with confidence? It’s only by actually doing this that you will be alerted to potential gaps that you may not be aware of.

  • Know your facts
    As with any interview preparation, put yourself in the position of the interviewer. What would you ask someone if you were interviewing for the job? Do you know everything you should know about the company? Try and drop in a few key facts that demonstrate that you have done your homework. Sometimes dates and numbers – especially very large numbers – can be tricky to say in English, so don’t slip up on the basics!

  • Remember to listen
    It sounds obvious, but making notes will help you to structure your responses. You can also jot down key words and phrases the interviewer uses and pick up on them later.

  • Have a few key opening phrases ready
    Think about how you will begin some of your answers and questions. Having a few useful phrases ready will give you time to consider the actual point of the discussion, rather than worrying about how to phrase it. See the box below for a few examples.

 

 

If you genuinely think your English is not as strong as it should be, you could try a key phrase such as “My English is a little rusty at the moment, as I haven’t used it in a while” to reassure the interviewer that it’s not such a big issue. Just don’t overdo it, as they might think you lack confidence! And remember, the more you use, read and listen to English, the wider and more sophisticated your vocabulary will become. Search the net for articles, websites and videos that relate to the specific role or sector you are preparing to interview for. Good preparation always pays! Finally, do think about investing in a language course that meets your specific needs. Talk to professional providers such as Boa Lingua about specialist courses such as Young Business English or Business Communication which are 100% focused on improving the performance of experienced and aspiring professionals in an English language environment.

 

About the author
Hauke Tallon is the managing director of The London School of English (LSE). LSE is the longest-established officially accredited school in Britain. Founded in 1912, they have unrivalled experience. The school is of medium size: small enough to provide a personal service, but large enough to have excellent facilities and resources. LSE has two fine campuses close to the heart of London, each offering a variety of courses designed for serious adults. In Switzerland, LSE is represented by Boa Lingua Business Class. For more information visit www.businessclass.ch/lse.

Key phrases

Responding to a question…

  • What I’d say about that is…
  • Something I remember is…
  • What springs to mind is…
  • If I were … , I would…

 

... and giving your opinion

Tentative

  • Well, it seems to me that…
  • I would say that…
  • As far as I’m able to judge…
  • I think it would be fair to say that…

 

Neutral

  • I think that…
  • To my mind…
  • In my view…

 

Buying time to think about a question

  • That’s an interesting question…
  • Just give me a second to think that over…

 

Making a point

  • There are two points I would like to make. First, …

 

Commenting

  • I wonder if I could comment on that.
  • I’d like to add something, if I may.
  • I’ve noticed from your website that…

 

Coming back to an earlier question

  • As I was saying earlier…
  • Coming back to what I was saying earlier about...
  • This question leads me back to...
  • You mentioned that…

 

Clarifying

  • Basically what I’m trying to say is...
  • What I was trying to say was…
  • What I mean is…

 

Asking for clarification or confirmation

  • I’m afraid I’m not quite clear about what you mean by…
  • I’m sorry, I didn’t quite follow what you said about...
  • If I’ve understood you correctly, you’re asking…
  • When you say…, do you mean...?

 

Asking for repetition

  • I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Would you mind repeating the question.
  • I’m afraid I didn’t quite get your last question. Would you mind repeating it?

 

Correcting misunderstandings

  • Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear. Basically what I’m trying to say is...
  • Sorry, I’m probably not making myself clear. Let me put it another way.
  • That isn’t quite what I meant...

 

Introducing a question

  • Could I just ask…
  • Could you possibly tell me…
  • Would you mind describing…
  • I wonder if you’d mind explaining…
  • I was wondering in what way…
  • I’d be very interested to hear…
  • I’m keen to understand…
  • To what extent…

 

Thanking

  • Thanks for inviting me/giving me this opportunity etc
  • Thank you very much. I enjoyed our discussion.

 

 

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