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What to Say in a Job Interview

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Job interviews can be very stressful. Realising that your palms are sweaty when the interviewer shakes your hand, stumbling over how to introduce yourself, getting a “mind blank” when you are asked a difficult question… these are things that we all worry about, even when the interview is in our native tongue. If the interview is in your second language, that means you have even more pressure to deal with.

The best way to handle the situation is this: prepare, prepare, prepare!

That doesn’t mean that you should learn all your answers off by heart. In fact, this is usually a bad idea, because it sounds unnatural to your interviewer and means you’re trying to remember your lines instead of concentrating on the interviewer’s questions.

First, do some research about the company. Take a look at the “About Us” or “Culture” page on the website to get a feeling for the kind of company they are and the things that they believe are important. Think of examples of your achievements and experiences that show them you’re the right kind of person for their team.

Next, write down a list of questions that they are likely to ask, with notes on how you will answer them. Read the job description again and write down anything about the job or company that you are not 100% sure about, so that you know what kinds of questions to ask them.

Thirdly, it’s a very good idea to practise for your interview by going through the whole process in your head, imagining each step and picturing what you would say or do at that moment. This means you’re likely to feel more comfortable when you arrive, and less likely to panic during the interview!

For example, what is the first thing that will happen when you arrive for your interview?

You’ll probably need to go to the main desk or ring an intercom and explain who you are and why you are there. This is the first time you will speak to someone from the company and it’s important to sound confident and professional.

Smile and say something like: “Hi, my name is Sally Jones. I have an interview with Kate Wilson at 11am.”

Then, you will probably need to wait for a few minutes. Instead of tapping your foot nervously, look over your notes or read a newspaper article / an industry magazine that is related to the job you are applying for.

Now, picture the next step: meeting your interviewer and introducing yourself. This is the most important first impression you need to make, so smile, shake their hand and say something polite, like: “thank you for inviting me to meet with you today.”

Think about how you will sit in order to feel comfortable while looking professional. For example, sitting up straight in your chair will help you look and feel confident and alert, while crossing your ankles or resting one hand on the other on the table will make it easier to stay still and avoid fidgeting.

The first question an interviewer asks is usually a general one about your career history.

Your interviewer will probably say something like, “tell me about yourself” or “talk me through your CV”.

Lots of people panic at this moment because the question is so open – and then they talk too much and lose focus! That’s why it’s really important to practise beforehand to make sure you can give a concise answer, providing the most relevant details that help the interviewer understand why you’re a good person for the job.

For example, you could say something like:

“I decided to study Business and Management in London, firstly to improve my English and secondly to get practical experience working in a UK company and learning about British corporate culture. In my sandwich year I was very fortunate to get a placement at Paulson Industries, who were restructuring at that time, so I used the experience to help me research my dissertation on team motivation strategies during times of job insecurity. As you can see from my CV, I also had a part time job in a bar during university and this summer I was promoted to assistant manager, so I have been trying out the motivation strategies from my research in real life, too.”

Now keep going, imagining each different question your interviewer is likely to ask and practising answers in front of the mirror. This will help you to give clear, confident answers and identify any vocabulary that you need to revise in advance.

Lastly, don’t forget to smile, make eye contact, and thank your interviewer at the end for the opportunity. Good luck!

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