For Students: Preparing for a job interview in English
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Who really likes having an interview? Especially when that or part of that interview is in a foreign language. It can be daunting not knowing what kind of questions they might ask you, and will the pressure of the interview make your language not as fluent as it normally is? Most interviews nowadays will usually have some part where you have to speak English to show your skills and knowledge. We are going to take a look at possible things you might be asked at a job interview and some phrases you can take into that interview to help you feel a little more prepared.
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You: Talking about yourself
This should be the easiest topic they ask you to talk about because let’s face it, we talk about ourselves all the time, and nobody knows us better than ourselves. Expect them to ask you about your hobbies, likes, dislikes and what you did or are going to do at the weekend, but also expect the harder questions about yourself. A common question often asked is about your strengths and weaknesses or how you would describe yourself. Having 2 ready-to-go answers in your head will help you answer those harder to answer questions. These questions are usually just to warm you up before any more detailed questions that follow.
Language for this part.
I’m into/keen on/a fan of/interested in/enjoy... – synonyms for like
I’m planning/I hope to/I’m going to/I’m not sure, but it’s likely – to talk about your coming plans
I would say I am <adjective> because I tend to... / I am <adjective> but not everyone says it’s a bad thing.. / I <do something> but I am working on it / An area I am working on now is <doing something> - to talk about your weak points
I am capable of / I feel comfortable <doing> / I find it easy to / It’s not a problem for me to / - to talk about your strong points
5 Questions for this part
What do you like to do outside of work?
What would you say is one of your weaknesses/strengths?
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
What characteristics don’t you like in people?
What are you going to do this weekend?
Depending on how fresh out of your studies you are, it’s possible you could be asked questions about your education. If you have no work experience, then expect more detailed questioning about your education. Questions could be why you chose your chosen subject and what you found difficult or hard about the process of studying.
Language for this part
I was always interested in <subject> so it was inevitable I was going to choose <subject> at university / It was a difficult choice because.../ I decided on <subject> after.. – talking about why you choose your chosen subject
If I could go back, I would… / Looking back now, I …. / Back then I… / It was an interest period because - talking about your past education experience
5 Questions for this part
Why did you choose to study <subject>?
What did you find most challenging about your course at university?
Would you change anything about your course?
What did you learn from going to university?
Was there anything you didn't like about studying?
You will be asked about your work experience and what you did or do and what you are or were responsible for. These answers will require more detail. If the job you are applying for is completely different from the one you are doing now, don’t assume they will understand the fancy terminology and try to be clear in explanations. This is your chance to talk about what you have done, and your abilities.
Language in this part.
I am/was responsible for... / It is/was my duty to... / In my role I have/had to... / At times I am / was also asked to – talking about what you did or do
I was able to / I gained valuable experience / It allowed me to / I learned a lot about… / I increased my knowledge in / during that period I.. – talking about what you learned in a position.
By that I mean… / that basically means I... / To simplify it I … - to clarify something the interviewer might not know or need further explanation
Note: If you are talking about work experience that is finished, you are going to use PAST SIMPLE and the same tense when you use phrases like ‘in 2017’ ‘When I worked for…’ . It was my responsibility to contact customers by telephone if our server had a problem. If you are talking about a job you have now you are going to use PRESENT SIMPLE. It is my responsibility to contact customers by telephone if our server has a problem. If you mention something when the time is not mentioned or known by the interviewer you’re going to use PRESENT PERFECT I’ve had the responsibility of managing a team and I've also had experience in customer service.
5 questions connected
What is a typical day for you at work?
What is the hardest part about your job?
Why do you want to leave your current job? – don’t criticise a previous employer
How do/did you motivate yourself at work?
What is your notice period? – this question is asked if you already have a job. They want to know how much time you have to work before you are free from your contact
To hand in your notice - this is when you tell your current employer you are leaving - usually for another job
Notice period - this is the amount of time you have to give your employer before you leave
These question will be specific to the job you are applying for, so it’s best to make sure you read the job description in detail to get an idea of what kind of questions they might ask you. It's possible that they might send you some reading material to help you with this part. READ IT! There will definitely be questions related to it. It will also show them you prepared which will give off a good impression. I think it’s also worth researching the company before, and I personally like to know who is interviewing me, so if I know the name, I do my own background check before I arrived. While the questions will be job specific, there are also some very tricky questions in this part too.
The company is well-respected I’ve always admired I / If the truth be told, I’ve always wanted to work for / I aim to the best and I this company... / I have heard how this company… - explain why you want to work for someone
I believe I am the right person for this job / I think I have more to give / I think with my experience... / In my opinion I am more than capable... - explaining why you should be chosen for the job.
5 tricky questions
Why do you want to work for us?
Why should we choose you over the other candidates?
Why did you decide to apply for this job?
Why do you want to leave your current job?
Tell me a time when…
These kind of questions can be the hardest if you are not prepared for such questions. These questions ask you to give examples of certain situations you were in. It's always worth thinking about these questions before heading into an interview just in case they come up. Technically your answers don't really have to be true, but if you're going to tell a porky-pie (lie) then make sure you've well rehearsed your situation.
I had a situation.. / In my previous job I had to... / I've experienced many situations where / There was one when... / - referring to a previous situation
We managed to... / what we did was.. / By <doing something> it allowed us to... / - explaining how something was fixed
5 tricky questions
Tell us a time when you had to work in a team
Tell us a time you found a problem and had to fix it
Tell us a time you had to work under pressure
Tell us a time you had to motivate yourself because something was boring
Tell us a time when you learned from a mistake
Example Interview – limited on questions, but just to give you a basic idea.
Interviewer: Thanks for your application and thanks for coming today. We are going to start by asking you some general questions about yourself. What do you like to do in your free time?
You: When I’m not at work, I enjoy hiking. It’s a new hobby that I’ve only been doing for the last 3 years, but it’s nice to get outside in nature and breathe some fresh-air. I’m also keen on football both playing and watching and I’m into going to the cinema. I try to go at least once a week.
Interviewer. I’d like to ask you about your education. Why did you choose to study Graphic Design?
You: When I was a child I was always drawing and then at secondary school I took it at GCSE. I had a really good teacher who encouraged me to develop my drawing skills. It was also something I really enjoyed, so after secondary school, I took I took it as an A-level and after it was a natural progression for me to take further education into design
Interviewer: What did you gain from going to university?
You: Aside from the development and all the knowledge I got to experience what it was like to be independent because I lived on campus and made my own money without financial support from my parents.
Interviewer: I see you worked for Dixons when you at university what did you do?
You: I was responsible for the first draft information. By that I mean it was my job to test a product and then write some simple instructions on how to use it
Interviewer: Tell me a time when you had saw a problem at work and you had to fix it
You: When I worked for Dixon there was a system error which stopped all emails and orders from coming into our office. I noticed this because it was strange to go even 10 minutes without an email and I decided to test the server on my own to see if it was running normally and then found it wasn't working properly. I contacted IT support straight away, but they said they needed 2 hours before they could come and look into it. Luckily, I have experience in this area, so I got the right authorisation and managed to fix it myself which only took 5 minutes.
Interviewer: Why do you think we should choose you over other candidates?
You: My character is hard-working and I am only satisfied with the best, and not many people process the drive as I do and that's why I would be beneficial for the company.
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