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Dos and Don’ts for Job Interviews in English

You are facing a job interview in English, but you haven't spoken English for a long time? Keep in mind: The preparation phase before the interview is the most essential one. If you follow some basic rules in advance, there is no reason to feel insecure.
  • Before the Interview

  • First and foremost, start your preparations early enough. If you feel your English needs improvement, keep in mind that it is unrealistic to make any sensible progress in half a day. Start work on your English at the beginning of the application process. Best – work on improving it constantly.

  • Have your CV proofread by a native speaker in order to avoid embarrassing translations of the sort ‘Gymnasium = gymnasium’.

  • Familiarize yourself with the CV after it has been translated and/or proofread. It is highly embarrassing when you don’t understand your own CV.

  • Anticipate the questions: look on the internet, if you have questions in German – translate them into English, ask colleagues and friends what questions they had in their interviews, and translate them into English.

  • Practice the interview with someone (best with an experienced trainer – it is a worthwhile investment).

  • If you do an English intensive course before the interview, concentrate on correcting mistakes and improving fluency. New grammar will just intimidate and inhibit you during the interview – new grammar needs to be practiced, and it takes time to settle in your head. The same applies to new vocabulary – if you learn 500 words in the three days before the interview, you will probably end up with chaos in your head. During the training concentrate on using the words you already know correctly.

  • Film yourself, if you have the equipment – it will help you get rid of annoying twitches and avoid repeating a word perpetually (e.g. saying ‘basically’ at the beginning of every sentence).

  • Practice formulating brief answers – it is harder to express yourself succinctly in a foreign language, and time is limited.

  • Think about the information you want to convey or emphasize. It is best to make a list of the points you definitely want to mention. And then, like a politician, make sure you get them across – even if the questions you were hoping to get asked don’t come.

  • Practice polite ways of saying ‘no’. ‘No’ is too direct in English. A good alternative is ‘actually’, e.g. ‘I see you worked for company X for 3 years.’ ‘Actually, it was only a year and a half. I then got an interesting offer from Y, where I am now.’

  • Prepare questions you would like to ask.

  • When prompted to ‘Tell us something about yourself’, do not recite your CV – the interviewer can read that, and if you learn everything by heart, your rendition will be monotonous, and too long. Pick out the important points that should stand out, and practice presenting them in a convincing manner.

  • Familiarize yourself with your work jargon in English – you don’t want to sound incompetent.

  • Familiarize yourself with the company’s activities – in English. See if their internet site is available in English and look for publications – do your homework!

  • Make sure you know how to address the interviewer in English. Ask a competent person in advance. Avoid dilettante mistakes of the sort Mr Dr Smith.

  • Learn about the national culture of your potential employer. There are plenty of publications on intercultural communication with lists of dos and don’ts for different cultures. For instance, if the company is Swedish, learn something about Sweden.
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