Essential interview tips for non-native English speakers

Most people feel nervous before an interview. It’s totally normal and interviewing in a second language can be even more nerve-racking! But, don’t worry. There are a lot of things you can do to make it easier, as I will explain below.

How can I give a good interview?

The most important thing to pay attention to is your body language. Try to present yourself with confidence in the way you speak and move, even if you feel nervous. In America, we have a saying for this: “Fake it until you make it.” This means you should try to act confident even when you feel nervous. Taking deep breaths before the interview will help you relax.

When you enter the room for your interview, take an open posture when you sit down. Try not to cross your arms and legs, unless you are wearing a skirt or dress. Smile often, and if it’s an in-person interview, practice your handshake. It should also be firm and confident. All these things will create a good first impression before the interview begins.

When you speak, pay attention to your speed and volume. Often people speak too quickly or quietly when they feel nervous. Instead, take your time and pause for a moment if you need to think. Being clear is better than being fast.

Also, try to use good intonation. This means that the stressed words and syllables are higher and longer than the unstressed ones. Native speakers listen for these stressed words, so using good intonation will help them to understand you even if you make other small mistakes. Usually, the nouns and verbs are the stressed words.

Americans are usually very direct, so try to make your answers short and give the point first. You should share important details that you want them to know, but don’t tell a long story.  Explain things like the importance of your experience or achievements. For example, “I graduated from Name of School University, which is the top school in my country.” If you give a short answer and aren’t sure if you should give more details, it’s ok to ask: “Would you like me to give you more details about that?”

Americans are also very positive, so focus on your strengths. It’s not a good idea to be self-deprecating, which means to talk about the things you don’t do well. Instead, try to describe yourself in the best way possible. We call this “talking yourself up.” Try not to complain about past employers or bosses, and don’t apologize for your English! Just do your best and focus on the diverse perspective you can bring as a multilingual, international employee.

Also, remember that it’s ok to ask for clarification. If you don’t hear the question the first time, ask the speaker politely to slow down or repeat it. If you don’t understand what they mean, ask them if they could say it another way.

What mistakes should I avoid in an interview?

It’s very common for people to use filler words when they are speaking. Examples of filler words are: um, like, ah, so, etc. We call them filler words because they “fill in” the silence when we need to stop and think. It’s ok if you use these a little, but it’s better to avoid them if you can. Using too many filler words can make you sound nervous or confused.

It’s also very common for people to use uptalk or vocal fry when they are nervous, especially younger people. Uptalk means that your voice goes up at the end of a sentence, like a question. Some people speak every sentence like this and it makes them sound like they are uncertain about everything they say. Vocal fry is a way of speaking that makes your voice sound low and creaky. Many people have negative feelings about it, so you should avoid it if you can.

Of course, you also want to avoid grammar and pronunciation mistakes, but the most important thing is to be natural. Do not try to memorize your answers, because they will sound unnatural. Instead, practice talking about your work and your industry so much that it comes naturally and easily to you.

How can I prepare for an interview?

One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to do your research. Look at the website of the company you are applying at and be sure you understand what makes it unique. Also be sure you completely understand the job description and can talk about why you are the best-qualified person for it.

Another good idea is to be sure you know the vocabulary used in your industry. This includes knowing the correct pronunciation and common phrases. Some industries use a lot of special vocabulary, also called jargon, and it will take some time to learn it. Be sure you also know the best vocabulary to describe your work and your process.

You can also research common interview questions – both general questions and questions specific to your industry. I’ve listed a few links with these types of questions below to give you an idea of what to look for.

http://www.esltutornyc.com/tips-for-non-native-speakers-to-prepare-for-job-interviews-in-english/

https://vitamintalent.com/blog/14-best-interview-questions-for-creatives

https://resources.workable.com/art-director-interview-questions

Finally, practice makes perfect. The best thing you can possibly do to prepare for an interview is to practice many, many times. You want to be so comfortable talking about yourself, your background, and your work that you can do it without thinking. I strongly suggest recording yourself on video when you practice, then watch the recording and use my checklist to see if you’ve made any mistakes. Do this again and again until you master it. Once you feel comfortable, it’s a good idea to have a friend give you a practice interview, so you don’t know what questions are coming.

I need more help!

Now that I’ve shared some tips for giving a good interview, I’d like to hear from you! Do you still have questions? Ask me in the comments or send me an email!

You can also download my free checklistHow to give a great interview (A checklist for non-native English speakers). You can use it to be sure you’ve covered all the things I described above.

If you want to get feedback from a coach, you can also schedule a free trial lesson so we can talk about what you need and how I can help!

Published by

Jessica

I help artists and designers with their English so they can focus on being creative and changing the world.

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