I’m going to assume that for many of you, learning a second language is directly related to improving your career or finding new employment opportunities. However, taking the step to find a new job that uses your second language can be scary and one of the first challenges you are going to face is the interview.


Interviews are not always easy. You cannot always predict what the interviewer will ask you. How will you respond if they ask you to describe a piece of paper? Or what will you say if they ask you to explain, step by step, how you would get a hippo into a fridge?


However, you can predict at least 80% of the interview. And it’s your lucky day, because I’m going to show you how!


Save it, print it, memorise it…


First of all, if you’ve applied for a job and been lucky enough to be selected for interview, you will have seen some kind of job description or job advert. The job description will usually include items such as a person specification, a summary of the main actions and tasks the employee will be asked to perform, a paragraph on the company’s mission and values and details such as the salary bracket.


This document will be vital in helping you to prepare for the interview. Save it, print it, stick it on your fridge and memorise it. I promise you, it may seem like an unusual use of your brain space, but it will be worth it.


The beginning and the end


Now, think about any previous interviews you’ve had. I bet that in those interviews, some of the questions you’ve been asked have been the same every single time:


  • How was your journey here?
  • Tell me about yourself…
  • Do you have any questions for us?


I don’t think I’ve ever been to an interview where these questions haven’t come up. So you now know (unless you’re unfortunate enough to be the poor candidate whose interview starts with ‘if you were a superhero, which one would you be’), how your interview will start and finish. Fantastic! Prepare your answers for these questions and you’ll have 20% of your interview answers sorted.


Back to that JD…Now we’re going to look at that all important job description. You memorised it, right? Just kidding…


The first thing I want you to do with that job description is look for any language where they describe the tasks they want the employee to do or the characteristics and skills they want the employee to have. Here are some examples:

Have a look at the first advert. The company are looking for teachers who are ‘creative, passionate, and fun’. So what type of questions do you think they might ask? ‘Tell us about a time you’ve used creativity to help your students learn’? ‘How do you ensure learning is both fun and useful for young people’?


Now look at the second advert, looking for a professional in marketing who has an ‘extensive knowledge of inbound channels’. What experience do you think they might quiz you on? Perhaps your knowledge of inbound channels…


Finally, the third, an advert for a professional in finance. This person needs to be resilient and a ‘strong and compelling communicator’. So which qualities do you think they are going to ask you about? Do you think they might ask about a time you’ve had to explain a complex subject in a simple manner?


As you go through the job description, look for any adjectives, phrases and wishes from the employer that you think could be turned into interview questions. Write those questions down and then start preparing your answers!




What you will find, is that many of the questions you come up with will be what we call ‘competency based questions’. These are questions that ask you to demonstrate real life experience as the basis of your answer. For example:


  • Describe a time when you took on the role of leader. Were there any challenges and how did you address them?
  • Give an example of a time you handled conflict in the workplace?
  • Tell me about a time when you promoted an opportunity to a client?


When you plan your answers to these questions, make sure you think specifically about what you did in order to achieve great results. It is important not to be vague. The more specific your answer, the more the employers will be able to see your suitability for the role. You may also want to take a look at the STAR technique, a useful tool for planning for these questions. STAR stands for


  • Situation - where were you? What company were you with? What were the priorities for the company at that time?
  • Task - what did you have to do? What objective were you trying to achieve?
  • Action - how did you do it? What skills did you use to achieve the objective?
  • Result - What positive results did you achieve due to your actions? Who did you help? What did you change?


Once you have done this you will have at least 80% of your interview sorted. Simple!


One last word on hippos…


You cannot predict whether the employer will ask you "how many balloons would fit into the room" (an actual question from PWC) or "how do you weigh an elephant without using a scale" (a treat from IBM) but you have a pretty good shot at working out the rest.


Wishing you all the best for your upcoming interviews!


If you'd like to practice your listening skills and watch teacher Caroline's advice in video format, click the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnFOi5F_8SU&list=PLFduWcyZ27C4w_PESLs_gKp4SYj4i1Cz_ .