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Put your best foot forward when talking with potential employers by following these job-interview tips.
Text by: Margaret Godoy

f you are anything like me, you probably find job interviews stressful. Now add to the mix a second language or different culture, and all the usual pre-interview nerves become amplified. What should I wear? What kinds of questions will they ask me? What will impress them the most? What if they don’t understand me?

All these questions and more roll around my head like a very depressing chorus until I am just about ready to give up and call off the whole thing. Unfortunately, early retirement is not an option for me and so I’ve just had to learn how to cope with the ins and outs of being interviewed – in my own country and abroad.

Even if you’re not specifically looking to live and work in a new country, with globalization it has become increasingly common for companies to employ staff remotely. So you may well find yourself on a Skype interview with a human resources team dialing in from thousands of miles away.

As you prepare for your interview, my advice to you is nothing groundbreaking; there is no silver bullet, just do your homework. Research the company, try to find out who you’ll be interviewing with, and practice a few different interview scenarios and questions so that you’ll be prepared for any direction that the meeting may take. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect.

Keep these communication best practices in mind as you prepare for your interview:

Use the active, not the passive voice

As the saying goes, “At the heart of every good sentence is a strong, precise verb; at the core of most confusing,

awkward, or wordy sentences lies a weak verb.” Try to use the active voice whenever possible in both written and verbal English. This is a good rule to keep in mind generally, but especially as you write your résumé or CV and answer questions during the interview.

In a passive sentence, the target of the action is promoted to subject. In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. So, for example, instead of, “A team of three coordinators was managed by me” (passive), try saying: “I managed a team of three coordinators” (active). Not only does it sound a lot more natural, but you—as the main actor of the sentence—come across as assertive.

By using the active voice, you go from being a passive afterthought to the main actor of the sentence – all while trying to sell yourself and your skills.

Study helpful phrases and expressions

While writing your résumé or CV and during the actual interview, try to use relevant, job-related phrases and expressions. Try to be yourself—the potential employer wants to get to know the authentic you—but remain professional in your conduct. Study some relevant expressions that you can work into the conversation naturally. For example:

- I perform well under pressure.
- I have a proven track record in XXXX.
- I’m a quick learner.
- I’m a team player.
- I am great at multitasking.
- This position is very much in line with my qualifications.
- I want to take on more responsibility.

You’ll want to choose your words carefully to make the best impression possible. That means you’ll also want to avoid certain words and phrases.

- “Like” and “Um” When you’re not sure what you’ll going to say next, you may use these words to fill the silence. Instead, take a moment to stop and pause as you collect your thoughts before continuing on in with the interview. This will leave a better impression than a long “ummmm” or “like”, which can come across as unprofessional.
- “Sure”, ”cool”, “kinda
While you might use these words in a conversation with a friend, it would not be considered professional in the context of a formal job interview.
- Words that deal in absolutes, like “always” or “never”

These types of words should be carefully used in an interview. As Scott Rwitsche, co-founder of Collaborative Business Solutions, says as part of an Entrepreneur article on the topic, “Very few things in life are absolute, and that is especially true with people in the business world. By saying, ‘I always do this,’ you might give the impression that you are not as honest and forthcoming as employers may want to hear. Also, saying, ‘I never do this,’ you may give the impression you are not flexible, [and flexibility] can be a positive trait to demonstrate. Make sure, if you deal in absolutes, you are not giving a bad impression in terms of integrity, or preventing your key skills from coming forth.”

Be aware of your body language

Your body language can be just as important as what you do or don’t say during the interview, so make sure that you dust off that firm handshake, smile and be prepared to project confidence from the moment you walk into the office.

Finally, congratulations! You landed the interview, you met with the potential employer, and now all you have to do is cross your fingers and wait. Don’t forget to send a thank-you email or letter to the person who interviewed you and remember that “a watched pot never boils”. Try to turn your attention to additional opportunities or new projects instead of staring down the clock as you wait for a decision. Every interview is a learning opportunity, and so, regardless of the outcome, you will be sure to benefit in the long term.

Tips for Job Interviewing across cultures

Here are some very general tips for cross-cultural interviewing. They should help you jump-start your own personal research into the region, country, and company that you will be interacting with.

Personal questions and privacy: Some countries have laws that prohibit interview questions that are not directly related to your professional qualifications and performance. However, in other countries, you may be expected to answer questions related to your marital status and personal life.

Critical language skills: Language fluency is obviously a crucial component to any job, and having working proficiency in the local language will usually be a minimum requirement to qualifying for the job.

Self-promotion Western style: Be cautious of overselling yourself in a culture that values understated performance over self-promotion.

Appropriate dress and grooming: Always err on the side of dressing conservatively.



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Acing the interview

Most people find job interviews to be quite stressful. It is even more stressful if you live in a different culture and have to interview in a different language. But with a few simple tips you can learn to do well at your interview.

Try to use the active voice rather than the passive voice in your résumé and when you answer questions during your interview. Study some helpful phrases and expressions to use in your résumé and interview. For example:

I perform well under pressure.

I have a proven track record in XXXX.

I’m a quick learner.

I’m a team player.

I am great at multitasking.

This position is very much in line with my qualifications.

I want to take on more responsibility.

Choose your words carefully so you can make a great impression. This also means you should avoid certain words and phrases that sound unprofessional. Don’t use “like” and “um” when you are not sure what to say next. Just stop and make a small pause before you continue. Don’t use words like “sure”, “cool”, and “kinda”. Also, try not to use the words “always” and “never” as they can make you seem dishonest or inflexible.

And finally, be aware of your body language. Smile, project confidence when you enter the room, and greet your interviewer with a firm handshake.

If you follow these simple steps you should do well in your interview, but even if you don’t get the job, remember that every interview is a learning opportunity and you will do better on the next one.

 

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