Tips for a Foreign Language Job Interview

In today’s world, many employers expect their workers to be able to speak at least two languages. Being proficient in several languages is also one of the surest ways you can enhance your career and what better way to demonstrate you’re comfortable in more than language than to demonstrate it during the job interview. These days, just listing your B-level French on the CV when you took it in high school 20 years ago and haven’t practiced since won’t get you far. You should definitely be able to prove the language level you claim during the hiring process. Although it can be a frightening prospect to switch between languages, especially during job interviews which can already be nerve-racking, there are a few things you can try to let your confidence shine and land the job.

Be Realistic

Not being realistic about their language abilities is quite common among language learners but both under- and overestimating their skills can lead to unpleasantness. If you underestimate your skills, you might not be going for jobs that you’re fully qualified for and overestimation can lead to uncomfortable situations if you do land the job.

If you know that your second (or third) language is needed in the day-to-day of the office life, don’t lie about it on your CV and be sure you can actually master the language at the level you claim. Before the interview, do a language level test to see if you need to brush up on something. You can choose a less-accurate online test or even sign up to do a language exam to be fully certain. Of course, another great way to be certain about your language level is to ask your private teacher – they usually have the most intimate knowledge of your capabilities.

Be Prepared

To really impress the interviewer, you can do research on the company looking to hire you and definitely pepper your sentences with a little bit of industry jargon. But be sure to use words, phrases, and acronyms whose meaning you’re 100% certain about. Additionally, be sure that you’re speaking the local dialect. Many languages have pretty serious differences depending on where on the globe it’s spoken. Even native Spanish-speakers can have trouble understanding Cubans the same way the language spoken in Northern Scotland is vastly different to that spoken in Southern US. So, make sure you’re not surprised by a confusing accent by getting familiar with the language beforehand.

Naturally, you should prepare for any job interview but this is doubly true for a job interview in a foreign language. Memorise field-specific vocabulary you’ll most likely need in your interview (and later at the job), think about what questions are going to pop up and how you’re going to answer them. This will help you calm your nerves and feel more at ease. If you still don’t feel prepared, ask your teacher to do a few mock interviews where they can play the role of the interviewer.

Be Calm

Another common issue for people interviewing in a foreign language is to conflate fluency with speed. In nervous situations, such as a job interview, people tend to pick up their speaking pace anyhow, so the mix of natural nervousness and thinking you’ll sound more proficient the quicker you speak has a big chance of ending in a high-speed word salad. This is definitely not going to impress your interviewer.

So, instead make a deliberate effort to calm yourself and slow down your speech. Your conversation partner would prefer you being slow and articulate, as opposed to fast and unintelligible. Additionally, don’t jump into answering a question before you’ve given yourself a second to come up with all the vocabulary needed for the answer. Becoming comfortable with a short pause after the question can give you that vital second you need to come up with a coherent answer.

Ask for Repetition or Clarification

One of the biggest fears people have before a foreign language job interview is that they might not be able to understand a question being asked. Of course, such a situation can be very uncomfortable so just take a moment to imagine that happening and be ready to tackle the issue should it arise. The best way to deal with such a problem would simply be to smile and ask the interviewer to repeat themselves. You could also try paraphrasing the question in your own words: You were asking about my previous experience in wholesale, correct? That shows that you’re really paying attention and are confident enough to intervene to get the answers right. Additionally, don’t be hesitant to ask the interviewer to slow down – it’s much better for everyone if you understood everything the first time around.

Although you can really extrapolate much of what is being said or asked of you from the context, don’t try to blindly guess what is being asked of you. It’s much better to stop, ask the interviewer to slow down, repeat, or paraphrase the question than to try to give an answer to what you thought was being asked. If you get it wrong, you’ll create the impression of trying to cheat your way through the interview.

Get Familiar With the Culture

Business cultures in different countries can vary quite a bit. So, make sure you’re familiar with the usual etiquette. Knowing how to dress, what questions could be asked, and whether you’re expected to make chit-chat or just jump in the game can really make a difference.

So, before your interview, find out what the dress code is, how to address your interviewer, whether it’s customary to ask many questions, exchange business cards, shake hands or bow, if you should act formal or friendly. All of these little things can demonstrate how you would manage in your future company.

Conclusion – Be Prepared, Confident, and Calm to Succeed in Your Foreign Language Job Interview

During the job interview, you not only have to demonstrate that you have the necessary language skills but also that you would fit well into the company culture. So, really prepare with the entire goal in mind – brush up on your language skills, prepare with a private teacher, learn about the country and the company, and simply do what it takes for your confidence to shine through into your language skills.