If you ever had a job interview in a foreign language, you know how different it is than speaking the same language in an informal situation.
I remember the first time I had a job interview in Italian. I had spent six months in Italy the year before, and had an Italian roommate for a month. So I was used to speaking in Italian but I had no idea what to expect. And I was absolutely not ready to talk about my skills and career aspirations in Italian. And I did not do as good as I thought I could.
The thing is, speaking a language with your friends, or people in the street, is completely different than answering interview questions in an adequate and convincing way. I mean, job interviews are stressful enough when you have to speak your native language. That’s why having a successful interview in a foreign language often seems impossible.
However, preparation is key. You need to get ready for your interview – think of questions you may be asked and of possible answers. Maybe even play it out in your head. It is crucial that you do that before the interview when you have the time to think. During the interview you won’t have that time, and it will make you even more stressed.
Here are the 10 most common questions which are being asked at job interviews (and in case you wonder, they’re the same for all languages), and how to be ready to answer them in any foreign language:
1. Can you tell me a little about yourself? Describe yourself.
This one is easy. It is supposed to be easy, so you can relax and talk about your area of expertise: yourself. There are no right or wrong answers. You just need to tell briefly who you are, what you do and what an amazing person you are. This question will probably be the first one, so it’s a great chance for you to make a good first impression and start off well.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, make sure you know how to say:
- words such as graduated, bachelor, master;
- your university major;
- the field you are working in / want to work in;
- your current job title.
Think of positive qualities that you have, and how you would translate them in another language.
2. Why do you want this job? Why do you want to work for us?
This is your chance to show how motivated you are to get this job. You need to prove that you are genuinely interested in the job and the company. Also, you don’t just need money, or desperately want to escape from your current job that you hate. So you definitely need to do a research, and get to know as much as you can about the position.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, make sure you can talk about the position you are applying for and use all relevant terms. You can try to find online any information about the company, the field of work, and the job title in your target language. This way you can see which words are used most often and include them in your answer. For example, if you are applying for an HR specialist with Spanish, you can google recursos humanos and there you go, tons of HR-related information in Spanish. While reading, look for phrases you can use in your reply.
3. Why should we hire you?
Because you’re the best, of course. But the recruiters will probably expect a more thorough answer. Ideally, you should be talking about your contribution to their company. Convince them that you are the most motivated and most experienced candidate.
The lack of experience could be compensated by other valuable skill sets. In any case you really need to be convincing and self-confident when answering this question. Because if you are not convinced you are the best and they should hire you, they won’t be convinced either.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, make sure you can explain how awesome you are. Think of all your positive traits, what you are good at and what makes you a great fit for the job. Use words such as contribute, development, motivation, problem-solving, accomplish, goals, skills, etc.
4. What are your greatest (professional) strengths?
Self-promotion time. You should describe your best qualities, and be sure to include the ones which are most relevant for that specific position. For example, if you are applying for a management position, you need to say that you are a great leader. If the job requires good communication skills, don’t forget to say you are great at interacting with people.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, make a list of your positive characteristics before the interview and choose the ones which are important to point out. Don’t use just adjectives. Try to include some phrases with action verbs, such as solve problems, communicate effectively, improve processes.
5. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
This is my favorite tricky question. For a very long time I didn’t understand why everyone was asking it. I mean, nobody would ever want to admit that they are lazy, irresponsible or easily distracted. When asked this question, most people say they are perfectionists, or working too much, and this is their weakness. Yeah, right.
It would be much better if you just share something that you are working to improve. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as you are honest. Interviewers are used to hearing all kind of bullshit, so usually they can tell when you are honest. Be sure it will be greatly appreciated.
For example, I recently realized something about myself. Every time I have a huge task which requires a lot of manual work, I just sit down and do it. But maybe I could find a smart way to do it in less time. And this is a huge problem for me because I tend to waste a lot of time on such manual tasks. So this is something I am working on. If you share a similar story, it shows that you are aware of your weak points and you are consciously trying to improve them. Best of all, it’s not a fake answer.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, think of some part of your character that bothers you and that you are willing to work on (such as my example above). Then make sure you can explain this in a foreign language. Some words which could be useful are challenge, overcome, improve, progress, competencies.
6. Where do you see yourself in five / ten years?
Even if you don’t know what you will be doing in 6 months, you need to be prepared for this question. If you don’t have a very specific plan of what you want to achieve in that time, no worries. It’s always good to draw a picture related to the job position you are applying for. But try to be honest and share your dreams of things you really want to achieve. Unless you only dream of having cocktails all day long at the beach, then you’d better lie.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, imagine where you would really want to be and what you want to be doing in 5, or 10 years. Think of the words you would need to use, such as successful, achieve, accomplishment, etc.
7. Why are you leaving your current job? Why did you leave your last job?
Of course, you are quitting because you hate your job and you can’t stand this shit anymore. But how do you say this to your future employer? Try to be as positive as possible because anything you say about your past, or current situation would be automatically applied to your future one.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, think about the real reasons why you quit, assuming it was your choice, rather than end of a contract, downsizing, etc. Then, choose a reasonable one to share with your interviewers.
Hint: being sick of doing your job doesn’t sound as a good reason. Don’t forget to say how grateful you are about the opportunity you got working at your last job and everything your learned there. Words which might be useful to look up in advance are appreciate, opportunity, motivated, responsibilities, attitude, career development, encouraged.
8. What is your greatest (professional) achievement?
You could be asked about something you’re proud of in your professional, or personal life. In both cases, you need to have an answer ready. Even if you don’t think you’ve achieved anything that big, there must be something nice to share. Learning to do well something you never did before is also an achievement. If you have ever done anything exceptional outside of work, you absolutely must tell the story. It will certainly make you stand out from the other candidates because it will add an unique shade to the general impression you will leave with your interviewers.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, think of your biggest achievements and select the most impressive and relevant one (professional and personal). Make sure you know how to explain it in a foreign language. Words and phrases which might come in handy are exceptional, proud, accomplishment, exceed the expectations, win a contest, promotion at work, project completion, outstanding results.
9. Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work / difficult work situation, and how you dealt with it / what you did to overcome it.
It is quite likely that you will be asked to tell about a specific situation at work. This type of questions prove who you are better than you listing all of the great things about you. Usually it is hard to think of a time when you did this or that during the interview, so think about it in advance. Even if the question is slightly different but involves resolving a problem, you can adapt your story as long as you have it prepared and it shows you acting adequately.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, make sure you have an appropriate story to tell. You can use phrases such as challenging case, resolve the issue, complicated situation, find the best approach, reach an agreement, suggest a compromise.
10. Do you have any questions for us?
Even if you don’t, it’s better to ask at least one question. Asking the right questions will show that you are truly interested in the job. You may ask anything which was not mentioned during the interview regarding the working process, company policy or organizational structure. It is also ok to ask about the next steps in the application process in case this wasn’t discussed already.
To be ready to answer this question in your target language, think of possible questions in advance. Phrases such as distribution of tasks, career opportunities, team structure might come in handy.
Which is your favorite interview question? Do you have an interesting story with an interview in a foreign language? Let me know in the comments below.