Do you want to write a good CV and come across well in interviews?Posted: November 5, 2015
Do you want to write a good CV and come across well in interviews?
Even when you’ve done plenty of preparation, arrived early, practised some good answers to the questions you think you’ll be asked, and done your research about the company, interviews can be daunting. You might wonder whether there will be unexpected or difficult questions, whether the interviewers will like you and whether you are the person that they are looking for. If you have to do an interview in another language, there are other things to think about in terms of language skills, whether you’ll be able to understand the questions and whether the interviewers will think your English is good enough.
Although interviews in English are likely to be more stressful than interviews in your native language, there are things that you can do to prepare yourself so that you can come across well and do your best. I talk about a couple of the tips here but you can also get the factsheet with all 20 tips if you sign up at the bottom of this page.
In the past, employers have sometimes just asked whether candidates speak English. However this later caused them problems because sometimes candidates had been really confident about their language skills so that they would get the job, but then run for cover when the telephone rang because they didn’t want to have to speak English. To prevent this, many employers now have part or all of the interview in English, so that they can test the candidates’ speaking or writing skills. (By the way, if you are that person who runs for cover when the telephone rings, I also have language and communication training that can help you. Send me a message via the contact form if you would like more details).
You can listen to my podcast on this topic here.
Here are some tips that will help you through the interview process
Do your research
For best results, make sure that you are comfortable about speaking on relevant subjects in English. You can’t know exactly what the interviewer will ask, but you can practise speaking in English about yourself, your past experience, why you’re interested in the job, why you would be a good candidate for the job etc. This will enable you to feel more confident and it will also highlight any vocabulary gaps and give you time to look up the relevant words or work out how you’re going to get a particular idea across in English before you actually have to do it.
Be yourself and don’t just think about your language
The interviewer will be interested in both your content and your language skills. Therefore it’s good to find a balance by using language with which you’re comfortable but also not keeping things so simple that you don’t stand out from the other candidates.
Make sure that the words flow
If you’re giving an example and using a past experience, make sure that you can tell it as a story. Using joining words will give your sentences continuity so they won’t sound like a string of unrelated sentences. Also make sure that you highlight the outcome and you don’t just tell the interviewer what you did. What difference did your actions make to the company/the sales figures/the working environment/the customer/your colleagues?
Get your brain into English mode!
It’s ok to be nervous and the interviewer will probably expect that. Your job is to prove what you can do and you don’t want to do yourself a disservice by letting your nerves get the better of you.
In the days before the interview, try to spend some time listening to and speaking English. It doesn’t have to be work-related, although if you can get someone to do a mock interview with you in English, that will give you an extra chance to practise. However, even if you’re watching your favourite English tv series or chatting to a language exchange partner, you are still being exposed to the language and having to think in English.
You are also interviewing them
This is one thing that always helped me with my nerves when I attended interviews in the past. It’s not just about the employer deciding whether they want you to work for them. It’s also your chance to find out more about the company, the role, how things work there and whether it’s somewhere that you would want to work. Thinking about it in this way can take some of the pressure off because it’s then not just about you giving a performance.
Applying for jobs in English companies
Before you even get to the interview stage, there are other things that you need to think about if you are applying to work in an English company. If the company or the recruitment manager is based in England, their expectations are likely to be different in terms of how you present your information. If it’s a German company where the company language is English, it may be enough just to translate your application into English. However in England, some of the practises are different.
For example, I remember being in an HR office where a CV was being passed around because someone had attached a photo. One person asked “Does he think that his good looks will get him the job?” Ok, this is not professional behaviour but the point is that this application stood out in a way that wasn’t helpful to the applicant because it was different from what the recruitment staff expected. I think it’s more likely that the applicant attached his photo because it’s normal practice in the country where he grew up. However it’s not common practice in England unless you are applying for a job where your appearance is important (for example if you’re applying to be a model or an actor/actress).
Finding out the general practices in the country where you want to work is also good because it can save you time. Some government departments require copies of your annual appraisals and what your manager has said about you but in many cases, a CV and a covering letter are all you need to send for the initial selection process.
You can get the “20 tips on writing a good CV and cover letter by filling in the details at the bottom of this page.
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