5 Proven Tips to Nail a Foreign Language Interview
Interviewing for a job is no easy task, but how about interviewing in a foreign language?
If you are reading this article, you are probably panicking about an incoming interview.
The good news is that I have been there - many times - so I can give you a few tips on how to nail a job interview in a foreign language.
Tip #1: Set the right expectations
Now if you are having an interview in a foreign language, it means that you have applied for a job which requires you to speak more than one language.
Depending on the job description, you should apply for a job that you are confident you can perform.
So obviously, you cannot apply for a job that requires fluent Chinese if you don’t speak a word of it!
Now that we have set this (important) point, I assume that you are somehow capable of communicating in the language required - even if not fluent.
Just make sure to be completely honest with the interviewer about your fluency level before the interview starts.
The most important thing is to provide a solution to the problem.
Show that you are motivated to improve and ultimately become fluent in that language. Tell the employer that you are currently taking language lessons and your goal is to get better asap.
So at the beginning of the interview, you could say something like this:
“I would define my fluency level in Spanish as intermediate - however - I am taking lessons everyday with a mother-tongue tutor, and I am confident that by the end of the month I will be able to communicate at a professional level”
“My proficiency level in German is at the beginner stage, however I am extremely motivated to become fluent in this beautiful language. I have started taking lessons weekly and one of the reasons why I would love to work for you is to improve my level of German. I am a very fast learner, therefore I believe that with hard work and constant practice I can achieve an intermediate level by the start date of the job”.
If you already are quite confident, you could also say this directly in the foreign language, this will show the recruiter that you are really serious about the role!
Tip #2: Prepare for the interview: write down Q&A
This helped me so much in the past.
If you are interviewing in another language, chances are that the employer will ask you questions with the purpose of establishing your fluency level, not so much to hear the actual answer - especially if it’s for an entry level job.
Most probably, they will ask you all the hard questions in English (or your mother tongue) and then have some routine questions in the foreign language, just to check your level.
These questions are - most probably - gonna be some of the below:
Tell me about yourself
Why do you wanna work for us?
Why should we hire you?
Describe your weaknesses
What is your biggest strength?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Describe your greatest achievement
How would your best friend describe you?
Describe a past challenge at work and how you solved it
Why are you leaving your current job?
If you are really serious about getting the job - write down an answer for ALL of the above questions (in the foreign language) and read it out loud as many times as you can.
If the interview is held online - or better yet, by phone - keep the questions close to you, as a security.
If your meeting is in person, bring these papers with you to read just before the interview starts.
Tip #3: Dive into the language
You need to start doing this at least a few days before the interview.
When I say “dive into the language” I mean do all kinds of activities that involve you listening or talking in the foreign language.
Watch Netflix shows, read articles, youtube videos, talk to a mother-tongue, take lessons, read out loud, try to think in that language… anything really!
This works especially well if you used to be fluent in the language, but with time you’ve lost it. Just a few days of “full immersion” and I guarantee you that it will all come back to you.
What I found to be particularly helpful, was checking out youtube videos of actual interviews in the foreign language.
In this way you will get accustomed to the job jargon and all those particular phrases unique to the industry.
Tip #4: Ask for help
If you know anyone who is fluent or mother-tongue in the foreign language that you need, take advantage of this.
Try to make conversation with them or rehearse the most common interview questions (see tip n.2).
The opinion of a mother-tongue is very important to correct (embarrassing) mistakes or flaws in your pronunciation.
If you don’t know anyone fluent in the language, you can use online tools to check the correct pronunciations, such as Google Translate, or language apps: my favorite ever is Duolingo.
Tip #5: Prepare questions to ask
Same as Tip n. 2, is it also important to prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview.
Asking questions will show the recruiter that you are interested in their company: it’s a simple way to convey your enthusiasm for the role and the organization that you're looking to join.
Also, doing so will give you a better understanding of whether the position is the right fit for you.
On top of this, if you ask questions in the target language, you will surely WOW the employer.
Check out this guide for a list of great questions to ask the employer.
Prepare some of these questions in the foreign language and practice asking them before the interview.
In order to nail an interview in another language, the best thing to do is to set up the expectations with the employer: be honest about your level of proficiency.
Before the interview, practice the language by watching videos, movies, talking to a friend etc…
Prepare a list of questions and answers the employer can ask you, and practice, practice, practice. The same goes for a list of questions to ask the employer at the end of the chat.
If you are struggling, seek help online or better yet with a mother-tongue friend.
If you follow these steps, I am sure you will nail your next interview!!
And hey, if it doesn’t go well, don’t worry - it’s good practice!
I know how hard the job hunting process can be - and it's not easy to cope with employer's rejections.
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