Busuu’s recruitment leader Katie gives her expert advice on how to wow at an English interview.
Interviews in English speaking countries like the UK and US differ to those you might have experienced in other parts of the globe.
When I’m interviewing a candidate for an international company, I’ll focus on finding someone who’s got the most experience. But when I’m interviewing on behalf of an English speaking company, I’ll also want to get to know them as an individual.
For English interviews are as much a judge of character as they are a judge of your professional experience.
The person interviewing you won’t want to know what your team has achieved, and they definitely don’t want you to simply run through all your experience on your CV.
They’ll want to understand your character, motives and career goals – what’s important to you, and what’s not.
Of course, they’ll be interested in hearing about your experience, but they’ll only want to hear about the bits that are relevant to the role you’re applying for. They’ll want to hear more about what you’ve personally achieved.
So now that you’re up to speed with how English speaking companies assess potential candidates, the question remains: how can you prepare for an English interview? Here are my top three preparation pointers for acing an interview at an English speaking company.
a) Research the company
Researching the company is an absolute must. It’s important to show them you know what you’re doing, but also that you’ve taken the time to get to know them.
It tells them you actually want to work at that company – and to prove it, you’ve gone the extra mile to understand everything from their history, mission and values, to how they work on a day-to-day basis.
b) Research the person interviewing you
Don’t underestimate the advantage a quick stalk of your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile could give you.
Maybe you’ll find out you’ve got a connection in common. Or maybe you’ll just get a better idea of who they are, and what they like.
Whatever intel you pick up, let it shape the approach you take with the interviewer.
c) Prepare answers for these 12 English interview questions
It goes without saying that anticipating and preparing for the questions you might get asked during your interview is absolutely vital.
Find my advice on how to answer the following 12 questions you’ll get in any English interview:
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1. Tell me a little bit about your experience.
Here, the interviewer is asking you to tell them the story of how your career choices have led you to this very conversation.
Take this question as an opportunity to show off your most relevant experience. And remember: always bring back every piece of information you give them to why you want the role, and why you think you’d be the perfect fit.
2. What do you know about us?
As I’ve already mentioned, research is everything in an English interview – so use this question to show off what you know about the company, and the reasons why you want to work there.
Talk about the company’s history, their mission and values. Talk about what you think sets them apart from their competitors.
And for extra brownie points, talk about how everything you’ve learned has made you passionate about working there, and how the role fits in with your career development plan.
3. Knowing what you know about the way we do things here, what would you change?
I love asking this question.
For me, it’s a great exercise in critical thinking: it makes candidates reflect on everything they know about the company, then apply their knowledge to the situation at hand. The answer you give should explain what you, as the candidate, can bring to the table, and how you can help drive the organisation forward.
In order to answer this question properly, you’ll need to come armed to the interview not only with research on the company, but also a detailed understanding of the job spec, and the benefits the role brings to the entire company.
Think about what existing transferable skills you have that could help you bring the change you suggest to life, and even what additional knowledge you might need to acquire to further your endeavour.
4. Why do you want to leave your current job?
The answer you give to this question will say a lot about what you’re looking for in an employer – so for this one, it’s important to be honest.
Make sure your answer is well-thought-out, cohesive, and, most importantly, objective. For example, if the management style at your previous company didn’t suit you, it’s important to voice that in a calm, collected way. It’ll open up an honest conversation that’ll help establish whether you and the company you’re interviewing at are a good fit – which is important to figure out during the interview process, rather than later down the line.
Remember: the interview process is a two-way street – you choose your employer as much as the employer chooses you.
And bear in mind that if you do simply lead with simply, “I want a pay rise”, or “There are no opportunities to grow”, you’ll have to be prepared to justify your answer. Be ready to specify how big of a salary bump or what growth opportunities you’re looking for.
The interviewer might even go a step further, and ask if you’ve tried to have a conversation with your current company about it. Or, if you’re looking for a pay rise, they might ask you to tell them why you merit the rise (apart of course, from the number of years you’ve spent in that same position).
So whatever your answer to the question may be, make sure you’re prepared to justify your reasoning.
5. How would your old boss/team describe you?
Interviewers will ask this sort of question to judge whether you have the analytical skills and emotional intelligence to evaluate your role in your current team.
And in terms of how best to answer this question? When you’re picking your adjectives, remember that English speaking companies will want to hire people they actually like and will get on with. Ideally, they’ll want to get people who are team players and respectful of authority figures.
6. Tell me about a situation in your previous job where you failed to meet expectations. How did you deal with that situation?
Don’t worry, the interviewer won’t judge you on your failure; they’re asking this question as they believe that making mistakes is sometimes inevitable, but they know that it’s how you deal with them that counts.
Bonus points will be rewarded if the example involves working in a team, and working together to come up with the solution.
This question can be asked in a variety of ways; but the important thing to remember is that they’ll be looking for you to respond with a tried-and-tested formula: the STAR approach:
- Situation. Give them context.
- Task. Tell them what the task entailed.
- Action. Tell them what the issue was, and how you came up with a solution.
- Result. Tell them how you implemented that solution, and what the results were.
7. Tell me an instance where you showed initiative / (insert quality here).
As with question six, you’ll need to use the STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result – approach to structure your answer.
This question allows you to show that you are in control of their career path, and you’ll go above and beyond what is expected of you to achieve results.
It can also be a great way to showcase yourself as a team player. Think to use an example that shows how you contributed to wider team or company efforts, and left a legacy.
8. How would you like to see your career develop?
This is your chance to show your ambition and awareness of potential career paths you could take.
If you can, come up with an answer that aligns your career plan with the role – and company – you’re applying for. And, if you want to go a step further, use this as leverage to demonstrate your suitability for the position and your enthusiasm for working at that particular company.
9. How can we help you with your career goals?
Your answer to this question will be on the same lines as your response to question eight.
Remember that it’s important for you to show the value you could bring to the company, as well as how the role at that particular company fits in with your long-term career development plan.
Demonstrating this awareness will immediately show whether the company is a good fit for you, and whether you’ll take the role seriously.
10. What are your salary expectations (and why do you want that much)?
This is not a trick question. This is your chance to be honest, transparent and show awareness of your worth.
Always come to the interview with two salary amounts in mind: the one you’re aiming for, and the lowest one you’d consider walking away with. That way, if the interview turns into a salary negotiation discussion, you can ensure you won’t get cornered into accepting any amount you’re unhappy with.
One more thing: be aware that salary expectations always need to be justified, based on your current base salary, benefits package and, if applicable, your bonus scheme.
So if you’re offered a base salary that looks a bit low, always consider whether the value of the benefits or bonus scheme you’re offered make up for it.
11. What is your notice period?
This is a pretty standard English interview question. Employers ask this so that, if they offered you the job and you accepted, they’d know when you’d be able to start.
This is also a good time to mention any holidays you’ve got coming up. This will help your potential employer map out your onboarding period, and okay dates with your potential team.
12. Do you have any concerns about my suitability for this role?
Now, this final question is not for them to ask you: it’s for you to ask them.
Asking questions throughout an English interview is a good thing. It shows you’re curious and engaged. But this particular question serves a different purpose.
This question gives you, as the candidate, a golden opportunity to find out whether the interviewer has any doubts about you.
Because once you know their concerns, you can respond to them, either by expanding on information you might have neglected to mention during the interview, or by using your passion and experience to convince the interviewer that you belong at that company. That they’d be crazy if they picked anyone else but you. That they should stop the search right now and hire you on the spot.
Some final words of advice
Now that I’ve covered all the bases, I have one final thing to add.
When you’re in the room, try and turn the question-answer interview structure into a conversation.
Because that’s what an interview should be. A conversation between two (or more) people about whether they’d be a good fit for each other.
As I’ve said before, the interview process is a two-way street. So don’t miss your opportunity to make it one.
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