By Megan Oliver

27 July 2017 - 17:47

Determine 'the travel time needed to promptly arrive at your interview location.' Photo ©, used under licence and adapted from the original.

How should you prepare for an interview, if English is not your first language? The British Council's Megan Oliver shares a few tips, while job seekers can also join the English for the Workplace MOOC (massive open online course) running now.

Preparation is key

Prepare for your English language job interview just as you would for any other interview. This may include researching the organisation's history and mission, determining the travel time needed to promptly arrive at your interview location, organising your materials and choosing an outfit.

Some companies may require you to take an English skills test during your interview, such as the British Council's Aptis. To help you prepare at little or no cost, several websites offer free online English skills tests.

Anticipate potential questions

Most interviewers have a set list of questions to determine whether you would fit the position and organisation as a whole. Sample questions might include:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work here?

Take some time to determine how you would answer these and other interview questions in English, and be prepared to provide real-life examples that reference your job history. Refer to the job advert itself for keywords and ideal candidate qualities that you can highlight. Avoid memorising your answers in order to sound as natural as possible during the interview.

If you find yourself struggling to answer a question, do not be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat or reword their question. This is completely normal, and happens in many interviews between fluent English speakers.

Role-play the interview

One way to practise your language skills is to role-play the interview. Find an English-speaking friend who can act as the interviewer by reciting sample interview questions in English, and providing feedback on your answers. Alternatively, record yourself (on your mobile phone, computer or other recording device) asking and answering the questions in English. Play back the recording to see how you can improve your responses.

During your role play, pay attention to the speed and clarity of your speech to ensure that your answers are properly delivered and comprehensible. Individuals tend to speak faster when nervous, so by practising speaking slowly and clearly during the role play, you will feel more relaxed and confident during the actual interview.

Don’t underestimate the importance of body language

Psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian suggests that only 7 per cent of communication involves spoken word. According to Dr. Mehrabian, 55 per cent of communication is based on non-verbal behaviours (like posture and eye contact), and 38 per cent is based on tone of voice.

It’s unlikely that your interviewer will penalise you for pronouncing a word incorrectly. By ensuring that you speak with confidence during the interview, you can make a positive impression.

Being multilingual is a major asset

In today’s global job market, the ability to speak multiple languages in the workplace is a major asset. According to a report by New American Economy, the number of online job postings targeting bilingual workers has more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. Job recruiters are actively seeking individuals who understand more than one language, so you can rest assured that your language skills will be valued.

Learning a new language takes patience and dedication, two traits that can set you apart from other job applicants right from the start. You can even consider sharing your language-learning story as an example of the skills and personal qualities you can bring to the organisation.

Pick up more tips and learn how to improve your English skills for job applications, interviews and office life in the British Council’s English for the Workplace MOOC. 

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