Preparing for a recruitment interview in English

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Obviously in the times in which we live, many people are thinking about their professional futures, their value in the job market and the possibility of having to get a new job at some point. In addition to this , if we remember that English is becoming more and more important, depending on the sector in which you operate, the chances of having to do an interview in English are increasing every day.

So how can you prepare for an interview in English? If you  really feel you need to improve your level, think seriously about enrolling on an intensive course and/or getting private classes. And simulation practice with a native teacher who also has a interviewing experience is ideal.

However, at the end of the day, when it comes to the time of  the interview, your English is the level it is, so it really  doesn’t make sense to worry too much about it, if you do, you’ll just feel more nervous and get blocked more easily.

In this post I want to talk about preparing for a specific TYPE of interview, a type that all recruiters are using in all languages (at least the most professional ones). This is COMPETENCY BASED  or BEHAVIOURAL BASED interviewing.

Given that you possess the necessary qualifications and experience to do the job, the interviewer will want to make sure that in the recent past you have demonstated the skills or competencies they are looking for. The reason for this is that extensive research has shown that past behaviour is the best indicator of future performance. So the traditional hypothetical questions of the type ‘what would you do if you had two members of your team who were in constant conflict’? will rarely be used by an experienced interviewer because they know that what you say you would do and what you actually do could be quite different!

Common competencies that interviewers might be looking for could be communication skills, working in a team or planning and organising for example.

So basically, and this applies to any language, you will need to prepare for a competency based interview.  How can you do that?  Very simple, just use the technique that the recruiters use.

What is this technique? It’s known by the acronym STARS standing for…

Situation – Task – Actions – Results -Summary.

Let’s imagine that the interviewer wants to check that you are able to work successfully in a team. Typical questions at each stage of the STARS process would be something like:

Situation: “Tell me about a time you had to work in a team”  – you chose the situation you want to talk about

Task: “What exactly was your role?/What was the team’s overall objective”? – here the interviewer wants to get some context and discover what tasks you had to complete within the situation you have chosen

Actions: “What did you do?/ how did you deal with that?/what did he/she say”? – here the interviewer is investigating how you behaved  to explore to what extent you demontstrated the competency that he/she is looking for

Results: “What was the outcome?/what did you learn from that experience”? – obviously the interviewer is interested in the results as they are looking for people who have certain competencies that ultimately increase the company’s bottom line.

Summary: ” So you…”  – this is not an essential part, but the interviewer may want to summarise what they’ve heard to check their understanding and to be able to evaluate your skills more objectively.

Possibly up to 70% of the interview will consist of competency based questions of this nature. Knowing this will help you prepare much more effectively and put you way ahead of any competition who isn’t aware of this type of interview.

On the internet you can easily find competency listings for common positions, eg. Finance Manager, Office Administrator. Do some research, obtain the main competencies for your type of job and get to work on thinking about real situations which will show you demonstrated the skill in question.

For those of you who are non-natives, from a language point of view this means you will need to know your past tenses well, especially the past simple. Work on the verbs you could use to describe what happened in different situations and pay particular attention to the correct pronunciation of the  ‘ed’ endings of regular past simple verbs.

In my next post I’ll be speaking about how to use ‘power words’ in your CV and at interview to really make sure you stand out from the other candidates and you maximise your chances of getting that dream job!

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