6 Steps to English Interview Survival


​​You're searching for jobs online and see ​the perfect job advertised. It's in an industry you love and you know you've got the skills they need. ​And it's at an international company in your home city! ​Just as you're about to click the 'apply' button, you notice that they also need ​language skills and the interview ​will be in English.

In this article, we consider ​six steps you can take to make it through your next English interview without hurting yourself.


Prepare your mind
Prepare your mind

1. ​Remind yourself that you're not alone

​You're probably not the only interviewee who isn't a native-born English speaker. Each one of them is going through the same emotions and feelings as you. The challenge is to try your best to concentrate on what matters most - ​showing the interviewer who you are and ​what makes you special.

2. ​Ask yourself 'what's the worst that could happen?'

​Try imagining the ​worst​ possible interview you could possibly do. Perhaps you forget to set your alarm the night before and arrive at your interview late. ​As you ​walk up to shake the interviewer's hand, you realise you're wearing clown ​makeup​. ​You don't understand a word the interviewer says and just guess with your responses. You go home embarrassed and disappointed, then receive a phone call saying you didn't get the job.

A clown wearing a suit

Alternatively, think about what you ​will get from the experience, even if you don't ​manage to get the job:

  • ​​an understanding of what happens at an English interview
  • ​practise asking and answering questions in English (which will help you improve​ for next time)
  • a​ better idea of the ​language you need to prepare before your next English interview
  • a better idea of the industry, the ​environment or people at this company, or the responsibilities of the job

​3. ​Showcase your strengths

​It's not all about your English.

The​ interviewer has been given the task of finding someone whose experience, qualifications and skills are most suited to the position. There will be many things that they are looking for and it's unlikely any candidate will have everything.

So, while the interviewer is trying to understand whether you're a good fit for the role, your main concern should be trying to confidently give examples of ​your strengths in showing how they make you suitable for the job.

Prepare your ​English
Prepare your English

​4. ​​Consider what vocabulary you'll need

​Before the interview, consider what skills, qualifications and experiences you will need to describe at the interview.

This will, of course, depend on the industry and job you're applying for. You don't need to know everything, just the things that are most common.

You could:

  • ​research online if you're unsure what is ​required for the job you are applying for
  • write a list of skills, qualifications and experiences that you already know in English
  • look up any important ones you don't know in a two-language dictionary

​5. Consider ​how​ you'll use the vocabulary​​​

​You need to get used to using the vocabulary in full sentences to describe yourself or ask questions to the interviewer.

For example:

  • Well, I guess that my strongest skill is [customer service]
  • I graduated from [Peking University] in [2012]
  • ​Are there many ​development opportunities at the company?

​This may be a little harder to become good at on your own, but here are a few ways you could improve:

  1. ​​For each new word or phrase, look it up in a dictionary or online search engine and write down several examples of sentences it is used in. Use these sentences to try to understand how to use the language
  2. ​Find a language exchange partner or English teacher and ask them how to use some of the ​vocabulary you've researched
  3. ​​Take a​ course ​designed to help you develop your interview English skills (​​see The Language Professional's ecourses for examples).

​6. ​​Practise like you really mean it

​Don't just imagine saying these things.

Practise speaking about your qualifications, skills and experiences ​by speaking out loud in sentences as this will help your mouth get used to the sounds, help you remember the language and build your speaking confidence.

You could:

  • speak in front of a mirror
  • ask an English-speaking relative or friend to pretend to have an interview with you or just listen to you speak
  • record videos of yourself speaking and watch them for ideas on how to improve
Take a video of yourself practising and watch it for ideas on how to improve

​If you're ​interested in developing your English skills further, you may want to consider taking a course. In our next article, 'What Kind of Course is Right for Me?', we ​help you understand all of ​the different options available for you.