A job interview is like a first date. First impressions matter, nervousness is natural, and success is not guaranteed.
But if you remember to be yourself, you’re more likely to make a connection.
Being yourself is not easy. It takes practice using spoken English for interviews to communicate your strengths, experiences, and core values.
Once you’ve scheduled a job interview in your datebook, it’s not enough to simply plan and prepare for the big day.
What you need is to actively and energetically practice your spoken English for interviews.
Practice means doing, not thinking. It means sitting down across from a partner and rehearsing what you will say. It means taking deep breaths and pushing your voice to speak confidently and enthusiastically. It means actually performing role plays with classmates or colleagues.
It also means getting feedback from peers and instructors, reflecting, and trying again. And again. That’s why it’s so useful to take business, academic, or general English classes to improve your communication skills.
For weeks leading up to the big day, you have to practice answering interview questions as if doing physical exercises.
Learning how to prepare for English interview includes figuring out how to sell yourself. Selling yourself doesn’t have anything to do with money–it has to do with showing how your personality, values, and passions fit the company. How to introduce yourself in English for interviews boils down to one thing: standing out from the crowd.
And the only way to stand out from the crowd is to tell stories that nobody else could tell. Your stories should come from your professional and academic life, contain memorable details, and highlight your achievements, failures, and personal growth.
In addition to practicing your spoken English for interviews, be sure to research the company. Read their web site to understand their history, mission, and workplace culture. Show you’re the right person for this particular job at this specific company, not just any job at any company.
Use this research to predict questions and adapt your answers to your audience. At some point the hiring committee will say something like “Do you have any questions for us?” Come prepared with thoughtful questions about the company to ask your interviewer. Declining makes it seem like you lack curiosity and initiative. It’s important that you respond with something like “Yes, could you tell me more about….” or “I wanted to know more about your…” to show that you’ve done your homework and that you care.
Then on the big day, you can relax and be yourself.
Get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, dress professionally, and arrive early.
It’s a huge challenge learning how to get ready for an interview in English. But you don’t have to do it alone.
Join an Intensive English program or part-time English speaking course, either online or -in-person, to benefit from guided instruction and feedback.
Digging deeper into how to prepare for an English interview, let’s look at common questions and strategies.
How to introduce yourself in English for an interview
Ok, so you just walked through the door of the company building. You’re ready for the interview. What’s next?
You may need to check in with reception. In this case, your first English introduction for the interview consists of you giving your full name, appointment time, and the position.
The game is on.
As you approach the front desk, it’s time to flash that warm smile and flex that confident voice, saying something like:
“Good morning! My name is Florence Green. I’m here for the 9:30 interview for the project manager position.”
If you need to wait, take a seat. Assume a comfortable but professional posture. Don’t slouch, fidget, or stare at your phone. Snacking is a bad idea, too. Feeling anxious? Work it off by stretching or walking before entering the building.
While waiting, seconds can feel like hours. Try to appear pleasant and patient–even if you’ve got butterflies in your stomach. Take deep breaths to stay calm. Relax your arms. You may cross your legs at the ankles or keep your feet on the ground.
When the HR rep comes to greet you, stand up, smile, and return the greeting. Give a firm handshake that’s not too weak and not too strong–just like you practiced (see above).
Introduce yourself with your full name, unless you’ve spoken on the phone before and you’re definitely on a first name basis and just putting a face to the name.
Respond to their introduction with a phrase like “it’s nice to meet you.” Say their name out loud so it sticks in your memory. If you’ve already talked on the phone say “It’s nice to meet you in person.”
Maintain eye contact. Try to stay comfortable and go with the flow.
Up next, you may get a tour of the facilities or head straight to the interview room. If the person is just directing you to the room rather than conducting the interview itself, don’t forget to thank them. It’s important to connect with every person on your new potential team (fingers crossed).
If you have more downtime waiting for the interviewer, arrange your pen and paper to take notes. Neaten your portfolio with the copy of your resume or work samples (you remembered to bring all that, right?)
When the interviewer enters, do what you do best: stand up, smile, make eye contact, shake hands, and introduce yourself with your name. Keep your comfortable and confident voice. It’s helpful to have a short statement prepared to break the ice:
“It’s great to meet with you. I look forward to talking with you about the curriculum director role on your English Services team.”
Next, the interviewer may warm up with a little small talk about the weather or your trip. Let the interviewer drive the meeting, but don’t be afraid to fill an awkward silence with your elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a short speech that quickly recaps your background and interests. It lasts around 30 seconds, or the length of a typical elevator ride. It could go something like this:
“I’m an ESOL instructor with 20 years experience teaching English for academic and business purposes to adults from all over the world. I look forward to developing my curriculum writing skills in the role of academic coordinator. I believe in expanding access to student-centered instruction for English learners so that they can become change agents in their respective fields.”
Next, before moving on to specific questions, the interviewer will often simply say, “Tell me about yourself.”
You’ve got this–because you’ve already practiced telling your story.
Remember NOT to recite memorized speeches word for word. Follow the outlines you’ve practiced and include carefully chosen details, but keep the speed and sound of your voice conversational.
It’s OK to pause, collect your thoughts, and stumble a little over your exact phrasing–you’re human! Just keep your answers short and specific.
Don’t try to impress with fancy language. Don’t drone on and on, speaking for several minutes without stopping or rushing through an information overload. Simple and clear stories beat complicated, long-winded speeches.
Your spoken English for interviews doesn’t have to be perfect. Just keep focused on why you’re a great fit for this role.
Interviewers are looking for more than just skills and qualifications. Lots of people have those.
What they’re seeking is a colleague they want to work with.
That’s why when you learn how to improve English communication skills for an interview, you work on showing that you have the right personality to thrive in the culture of the company. You reveal your values as well as background.
Now that you’ve charmed the front desk and settled into the interview room, you’re ready to handle the increasingly challenging questions with calm confidence.
What are good English words for an interview?
Rule number one: keep your language simple and clear. Your meaning should be clear to an educated, non-specialist. Your interviewer may or may not be a potential boss or team member; maybe you’ll be talking to HR reps or recruiters with little expertise in your field. You have to be flexible. Companies look for employees whose communication skills allow them to get their ideas across to experts and non-experts alike.
Rule number two: forget rule number one if–and only if–there are technical terms essential to your field that are necessary to discuss the position.
Thus, when you choose the best words to get ready for an interview in English, pay attention to the language of your specific field.
What cool new buzz words is everybody repeating at your internship or in your grad program? What key terms are essential to explain your job? How do trade magazines discuss the latest trends affecting your industry?
Only you can answer these questions, because you’re the expert.
If you’re not sure, then you need to read more publications in your field. Pay closer attention to conversations and literature at your current job or school. Attend career fairs and conferences. Network professionally and socially with peers who share your interests.
Beyond the specifics of your field, there are many simple expressions common in virtually all professional contexts. If you’re wondering how to prepare for English interviews, some simple phrases can help.
While far from a complete list, here are 10 must-have English phrases for job interviews and the workplace in general. For the sake of variety, we’ll include both individual words and idiomatic phrases that are useful to improve English communication skills for interviews.
- Be good at (doing something): You need to sing your own praises. This straightforward phrase allows you to identify your strengths without bragging or exaggerating.
- “I’m good at meeting deadlines. For example, last year…”
- Look forward to (doing something). It means you’re excited to do it. Looking forward to an opportunity shows you have a positive, can-do attitude.
- “I’m looking forward to learning more about your university partners.”
- It’s also a way to end an email: “I look forward to hearing from you.”
- Opportunity. It can refer to both past accomplishments and future possibilities, suggesting that you’re eager to grow and grateful for a chance.
- “I’m looking for opportunities to make positive social change in a leadership role.”
- Mission Statement: It articulates the goals and values of a company in the form of a brief written summary. You should read the company’s mission statement on their website. Come to the interview with questions or comments about their mission statement in order to demonstrate your knowledge and curiosity.
- “When reading your mission statement, I was impressed by your focus on social justice. I’d love to hear more about your plans in the coming year to address food insecurity and what opportunities I might have as event coordinator to contribute.”
- Take initiative: It means to begin a task or make a plan on your own without being told by a boss or coworker. Taking initiative shows you are not passive, but active, motivated, and self-directed.
- “After noticing the software bug, I took the initiative to fix the problem before it affected the servers and caused any serious issues.”
- Team: Job interview questions commonly ask about working with a team. Similar key terms include teamwork and being a team player. You should demonstrate a balance of individual initiative and group collaboration.
- “During my summer internship, I learned the importance of being a team player when developing a software product for overseas markets.”
- Be on the same page: It means when people agree with one another. Telling a story that includes this common English business idiom shows you’re a team player with communication skills.
- “I made sure the contractors and clients were on the same page by emailing them before and after the meeting.”
- Touch base with someone: Another top idiom in a business setting, it means to get in contact with somebody briefly for a specific purpose. Your stories should include examples of times you touched base with a team member in person, by email, or on the phone.
- “Before finalizing the deal, I touched base with my supervisor to make sure we hadn’t overlooked any details.”
- It’s also a great way to start an email. “Hi team! I just wanted to touch base about the upcoming deadlines.”
- Flexible: It means being able to adapt to changing circumstances. When you get ready for an interview in English, brainstorm examples of when you changed your strategy, moved in a different direction, or tried new approaches after a situation suddenly changed.
- “At my previous job, I learned how important it is to be flexible when a client’s needs change unexpectedly.”
- Multitask: It means doing many tasks at the same time successfully. If you’re good at multitasking, give an example. If you’re not good at it, explain how you use time management and organizational skills to accomplish multiple tasks in a timely fashion.
- “In my role as receptionist at the firm, I learned how to multitask on three computer monitors in a noisy environment.”
Exercises to help you answer job interview questions
As we’ve discussed, you need to be yourself. That means sharing specific stories from your past work or school experience.
You may be asked about your greatest strengths, in which case you can use the expression “I’m good at…”
Practice listing what you’re good at by recording yourself and listening back. As always, be sure to add examples. Include details about when, where, why, and who to make your examples memorable and vivid.
You may also be asked about your greatest weakness, in which case you can be honest without beating yourself up. Admitting faults may feel weird but shows self-awareness and capacity for growth.
One way to discuss weaknesses is to mention skills that are not essential to the job. For instance, if you’re applying for a design job that calls for creativity but not math, you can admit to being bad at numbers. However, don’t just shrug off the weakness. Add, for example, that while working on a recent project you familiarized yourself with Google analytics and came to appreciate the power of data to shape the creative process.
Better yet, describe how you overcame a weakness by learning from your mistakes, which is always an admirable trait. You can mention ways you’ve grown on the job or skills you’ve improved with the phrase “I’ve become better at…” as in “I’ve become better at delegating tasks to my team and trusting their judgement instead of micromanaging.”
Share these stories with a friend and ask for feedback. As you hone your details, keep your answers down to a minute or two while speaking at a normal pace.
Another way to talk about your weaknesses is to turn a negative into a positive. Consider these potential weaknesses: too much attention to detail, impatience meeting deadlines, being a perfectionist, trouble saying no, trouble asking for help, trouble maintaining a healthy work/life balance. None of these are fatal flaws; in fact, they may suggest essential seriousness, even hidden strengths. Identify your weakness but show how you took action and improved.
Besides general strength and weakness questions, typical job interviews often consist of competency-based questions, otherwise known as behavioral questions.
In the eyes of an employer, the best predictor of future success is past behavior.
Competency-based questions typically touch on soft skills such as flexibility, leadership, willingness to learn, self-awareness, problem solving, creativity, initiative, resilience, organization, and teamwork.
They may be formulated as an open how/what/why questions or begin with phrases such as these:
- Tell me about a time your communication skills helped resolve a conflict in the workplace.
- Give an example of a problem you solved in a creative way. How did you go about it?
- Describe a situation in which you led a team. What did you learn?
- Talk about a time you failed in a team project. How did you handle it?
- Name three improvements you made in your previous position.
Notice what the answers share: a sense of narrative. You’re telling a story from your professional past.
A common method to answer behavioral questions goes by the acronym STAR, which stands for:
With the STAR method, you tell a story in four steps.
First, the situation tells the when, where, why, and who. Set the stage for the drama. Background only.
Second, the task explains what had to be done. Talk about the project or problem. Highlight challenges and goals.
Third, the action tells what you did, along with the how and why. Emphasize your specific actions. Use “I” as in “I did A, B, and C because/so…”
Finally, the result describes the outcome. Emphasize not just the successes earned but the lessons learned.
To prepare answers, brainstorm on 4 different colored index cards. Write down key words and details on each card. Avoid complete sentences — just phrases, facts, details, and key terms.
Tape the 4 cards to the wall and practice telling your story. Set the timer on your phone to make sure you don’t go over a couple minutes.
Why tape the cards to the wall? So your hands are free and your posture is good. Spoken English for interviews includes more than just verbal language; body language is also important.
Getting ready for an interview includes not just your spoken English but also interpersonal skills such as smiling, making eye contact, and asking questions proactively.
Enlist your friends and family to ask you common behavioral English interview questions (like those above) about your strengths, weaknesses, and experience collaborating on teams, managing time, and solving problems.
Your partner can play the role of interviewer and give you feedback about your concise, compelling stories.
Record yourself on your phone and listen back to make sure your speech is slow, clear, and friendly.
Drill the pronunciation of key terms and concepts, from tech skills (database management, Microsoft suite, cybersecurity) to soft skills (creative problem solving, teamwork, desire to learn).
However, avoid memorizing sentences, which will sound unnatural. The company is hiring a human, not a robot.
After weeks and months of working so hard on how to improve English communication skills for an interview, you can be in the moment on your big day.
That way you can act natural, friendly and calm during the interview.
Approach the interview like it’s a conversation, not an interrogation. Show your interpersonal skills by listening, adjusting your answers to the questions, and asking for clarification.
Be an attentive listener during the English interview. If a question confuses you, ask the recruiter to repeat it. Respond to the specific question, rather than rushing into a pre-planned memorized speech.
When learning how to introduce yourself in English for interviews, be sure to do more than just review it in your mind. Practicing doing it in reality, standing, walking, and talking with a partner.
The point is you need to rehearse, like an actor before a performance, or a singer before a concert.
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