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Interview tips

Job interviews are nerve-wracking even when they are conducted in your first language but interviews in English can be particularly daunting. There is always the worry that your mind will go blank at the vital moment, plunging you into awkward silence or causing you to stumble. However if you prepare properly and manage to remain calm then this is unlikely to happen.

The key to success is keeping a clear head, remaining focussed and knowing what questions to expect.

Here is the 5-step guide to acing a job interview in English.

  • First Impressions

Research conducted by Harvard University suggests that interviewers can often make up their minds about the suitability of candidates within two seconds of meeting them. It is therefore important to make a positive first impression. Remember to use the correct level of formality when greeting the interviewer. Employers conduct interviews because they want to find workers who are not only suitably skilled but also have a strong knowledge of the conventions of the workplace. Using overly familiar greetings such as ‘hi’ or ‘how’s it going?’ simply won’t cut it. Opt instead for ‘hello, pleased to meet you’ or ‘good morning / afternoon’.

  • The Handshake

After you have made your initial greeting, your interviewer might say, ‘Pleased to meet you.’ The standard response to this is ‘Pleased to meet you too.’ This is usually accompanied by a handshake. Some interviewers judge candidates based upon the firmness of their handshakes so try to make sure that it is not too weak but not so strong as to crush the other person’s hand. Remember that English body language is likely to be different to the body language of your home country and adapt your behaviour accordingly.  Maintain eye contact whilst the handshake is in progress and remember to smile. It is possible to impress an interviewer with your body language alone even if there are a few flaws in your English.

  • The Interview

Once you have got the handshake out of the way then it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty of the interview. English lecturer at Rajarata University of Sri Lanka Lincoln Chin advises that standard questions that employers usually ask include ‘Can you tell me about your work history?’ ‘Why are you interested in working for us?’ and ‘What are strengths do you think you will be able to bring to the role?’ Prepare answers to these questions in advance, making sure that your English is perfect, and practice going through what you are going to say until you are positive that you are pronouncing everything clearly and correctly.

There are certain positively connoted adjectives that can be used when answering questions about your qualities. They include ‘assertive’, ‘competent’, ‘communicative’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘flexible’, ‘self-motivated’, ‘resourceful’ and ‘calm under pressure’. You might also want to mention that you are ‘people-orientated’ and that you ‘work well as part of a team’. These are standard responses that are given when candidates are asked to describe what they bring to a position.

  • Clarification

If the interviewer says something that you did not understand then a polite way of requesting clarification is to say, ‘Sorry, I didn’t quite follow you. What exactly did you mean?’ Alternatively you could say, ‘If I understand your question correctly then you are asking me …’. In the event that you have failed to accurately comprehend what you have been asked, the interviewer will put you straight and you can then proceed with your answer. Remember not to panic if you are unable to grasp something, as native English speakers might also struggle to understand some questions.

  • End of the Ordeal

At the end of your interview, it is customary to say ‘Thank you for your time’ before leaving the room. Leave as confidently as you came in and try not to be too hard on yourself if you made a couple of slip-ups. The interviewer will no doubt recognise that English is not your first language and allow you a small amount of leeway. Even people who have been speaking English since birth make a few errors in their speech every now and again so this will not result in automatic rejection. Now it is just a matter of sitting tight until you find out whether or not you get the job.

About the Author: In addition to our regular posts, written by members of our team at English Trackers, we also encourage those who have something to say about language and are interested in penning a guest post for our blog to get in touch with us. Today’s post comes from freelance writer Evelyn Clarke who writes for the recruitment sector.

Photo credit: wenzday01 via photopin cc

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