6 Tips to Be Prepared (and Avoid Embarrassment) in Your Next English Job Interview
This lesson has been updated. It was originally posted in September 2015. It was updated in May 2017.
Looking for a new job and preparing for an interview can be a very stressful process – especially if you are trying to do it in English (your second or third or fourth language).
Let’s fix that!
Imagine you have succeeded in scheduling an interview (in English!) with a new company for your dream job. First, if that is true, then congratulations! Getting an interview is a huge first step. That means your resume and cover letter were impressive! Or you had a great contact.
Now you have to sit and wait.
Most of us feel full of anxiety and stress as we wait for that BIG day. But you don’t have to. Instead, you can begin to prepare for that interview so you can be successful and confident on that day.
Consider today’s lesson like a preparation checklist. You don’t need to complete these tasks in any specific order, but do complete each task before your interview.
Get prepared and avoid potential embarrassment with these 6 tips!
Step 1: Learn Everything You Can
Learn about the company including the culture of the company, its mission, its products or services, its brand, and its employees. You can use a company’s website, Twitter feed, Facebook Page and more to get this information.
Most importantly, you need to be prepared to talk about the company in your interview. Most likely you will be asked, “Why do you want to work here?” or “What is it about [name of company] that makes you think you will be a good fit?” You must know something about the company, its culture, and mission to answer these questions successfully. Some companies also have phrases or expressions they use a lot in their promotionally materials or company culture – it is great to know these expressions and phrases so you can use them in the interview.
You must know something about the company, its culture, and mission to answer these questions successfully. Some companies also have phrases or expressions they use a lot in their promotional materials or marketing. Using the same language in your interview will show you know a lot about the company and you’re well-prepared.
Second, you might also be asked if you have ever tried the company’s product or service and, if so, what did you think. If you answer, “No, I’ve never tried [insert product or service]” that will not have a very good impression in the interview.
Knowing about the company, its culture and people can also make sure you will be a good fit for the company. Do you have the same values or work ethic of the company? Are the other employees happy or miserable in the company? This is helpful information for you.
Finally, know the job description!! Know it completely. You need to be certain that you can do the job, that you have the right expertise. Pay attention to keywords in the job description. Use these same words when you talk about your skills and previous work experience.
Knowing all of this information will make you look very knowledgeable about the company and job. This leaves a good impression because it shows you:
- Are interested in the position
- Took time to prepare carefully
Step 2: Prepare for Professional Contacts & Networking
Make sure your mobile phone voicemail and email are prepared for professional contacts. This is particularly true if you are interviewing for your first internship or job opportunity after university.
First impressions matter. Your first contact with your potential employer may be via telephone or email.
Make sure your voicemail is clear, easy to understand, and includes the best time to reach you by phone.
Your email should have a professional address, such as a first or last name. Then be sure to create an email signature. A signature is the block of text at the end of an email that includes information such as your full name, email address, job title, etc. A personal email address should include your name and email address.
Step 3: Have All Materials Ready
Have extra copies of your resume and cover letter available. It is often recommended to have 3-5 printed copies of these documents for your interview.
It is possible you will interview with more than one person or that the interviewer will ask for copies. Also, it is common practice to provide a copy of your resume to your interviewer at the start of the interview. Most likely he or she will already have a copy but it is always best to be prepared!
Have your reference list completed and printed. A reference list should include 3-5 people who have work-related relationships with and who can speak to your skills, abilities, expertise and job ethics. For each person, you should include:
Name, Title, Company, Department, Address, Telephone Number, Email Address and one sentence describing your relationship to that person. For example:
Ms. Joan Askonce
Director of Sales
Baker & Co.
1111 N. Broadway
New York, NY 00000
Ms. Askonce was my director supervisor during my tenure at Baker & Co.
Finally, if applicable, have printed copies of your portfolio or related work. For example, if you work in graphic design or photography, you should have your work ready to present to the interviewer.
Step 4: Anticipate and Practice
The more prepared you are for your job interview, the less nervous you will feel and the better your will perform. The best way to get prepared is to anticipate and practice the questions you may be asked.
You will likely have a mix of general interview questions and job or industry specific questions. (Remember – know your jargon in English for your industry!)
It is best to also prepare your answers to these possible questions and practice them before the interview.
The better you know the answers, the easier it will be to answer the questions when you are nervous. It will be easier for you to answer clearly and professionally to make a good impression.
Step 5: Social Media Check
Double check all your social media accounts.
Today it is very common for an employer to search for you on Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. before the interview. It gives them a quick idea of who you are but it also gives them the ability to judge you before they meet you. Make sure your social media pages are appropriate to be looked at by your potential future employer.
Is there anything embarrassing (a photo or a post) that you don’t want your future employer to see? Delete it.
Step 6: Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Fake it until you make it. Have you ever heard that expression?
- Fake it means to act or pretend
- Make it means to be successful in something.
In other words, if you don’t feel successful or confident then pretend you are. Practice and preparation before your interview will help you be more confident, but – if necessary – fake it ‘til you make it.
Confidence is essential in American culture and U.S. It is important to speak about your skills/accomplishments, your job history, and your expertise with confidence. If talking about these topics is new or uncomfortable for you, practice it! It really is important. You will be asked questions about your expertise, your unique skill sets, and much more during your interview.
Note: There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is great; arrogance is not.
- Confidence: belief in yourself and your abilities
- Arrogance: the belief that you are superior to others in an offensive way
Example sentence for each:
- Confidence (highlights your accomplishment):
- “While at Baker & Co. I successfully increased my team’s sales by 17% in my first year.”
- Arrogance (shows you think you are superior):
- “While at Baker & Co. I was the only team member who had the skills to increase sales.”
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear from you.
Think about your own experience with interviews for jobs. Then take some time to share your answers to these questions in the comments section:
1. What do you think was most successful about a previous interview you had?
2. What advice would you give to someone interviewing for the first time?
3. Have you ever interviewed in English? If so, what was the most challenging? And what did you do to help you succeed?
I look forward to hearing your answers! And – if you have any questions about the job interview or application process, be sure to share your question with me in the comments.
Have a great week,
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