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Article by Victoria Fontana

Who invented the word “perfect”, anyway?

Ok, you’re looking in the “Segunda Mano” for a new job...we all know that feeling of anticipation – what’s going to be in there for me? – as your eyes skate down the page looking for that one job that suits you, or at least seems interesting enough to spend a stamp on. If nothing looks good under your preferred job heading, you may entertain the idea of looking in other fields – but as you search through, you start to realize that the offers in your field, the strangest offers, the ones you don’t understand, and those you’d never admit to even reading, have one thing in common.... “Imprescindible hablar inglés”. And you ever-so-nonchalantly flip over to the “formación” section of the want ads – “Academias de Inglés”!

From my experience in preparing students for interviews in English, I have basically found that there are two types of interviews. This of course is not the be all and end all of job interviews, but here are some tips for both types I’ve seen – and some common questions...

Interview 1 – The "Gui just guant to see if yu espeak Inglish (even if we can’t)" interview.

This tends to be common in jobs such as sales, administration, secretarial jobs, IT, some legal positions, travel and tourism, business, marketing, advertising, well, you name it! And is usually a combination interview – part in Spanish and part in English.

Depending on the amount of English that you would actually have to speak if you were to land this job, the interview may be more or less rigorous. I have seen everything from students being interviewed by someone who hardly speaks English at all, to being interviewed by a native. However, this type of interview tends to be less job specific (they usually ask the labor-related questions in the Spanish part of the interview) – and more geared towards how well you “espik inglish”. From what I have been told and have seen, the English part of this interview tends to last around 15 minutes, and sometimes even less.

This interview can be more difficult in the sense that the interviewer’s only job is to pay attention to how you speak English, or rather, how well you speak English. So, you may feel more under pressure as far as vocabulary and structure. However, it is easier in the sense that the questions asked are usually quite basic and colloquial, and are only intended to get you to speak in different tenses and in a variety of contexts.

Some of the common questions in these types of interviews (among others) are:

1. Tell me about yourself. (this is such a fun question to answer!)
2. Where are you from?
3. What is there to see in your town?
4. What do you do in your free time? (answering “I study English in my free time” is a “PELOTA” answer! Don’t insult your interviewer)
5. How did you learn English?
6. How long have you studied English?
7. Have you traveled to any English-speaking countries, spent time abroad?
8. How did you like (country)?
9. How long were you in (country)?
10. Tell me about your experience in (country). (this type of question , “tell me about...”, usually comes up when you are being a “listo” and only giving short answers to avoid speaking and they want to hear you talk more.)
11. What was (country) like? (this is, among other things, to see if you really went to this place, so if you haven’t, and you’re telling “porky pies” (lies) you better get “googling” your chosen place before the interview!!)
12. Did you like the people? (Please, if your interviewer is from the same country you studied in, and you hated the people and/or the food, maybe this isn’t the time to show how honest you are.)
13. What are you doing now to keep up your English skills? (Needless to say, picking up “Guiris” at bars is not a good answer.)
14. How have you had to use English at work in the past?
15. What did you do in your last job?
16. What are your strengths and weaknesses? (even more fun than question #1! Trust me, we all “work too hard” – be creative with your weakness!)

Interview 2 – The –"¡Cágate lorito! ¿Por qué no fui a Oxford a estudiar - por mi cara bonita - cuando mis papis me lo ofrecían?" - interview.

Yes, the interview of all interviews!!! The, “I’m going to work for a foreign company” interview. Undoubtedly this can be a more difficult interview to handle. First of all, your interviewer will most likely have impeccable English skills. You need to be comfortable with your English speaking skills – confident. The good thing about these interviews is that the minor mistakes (unless it’s for a UN translator or something of that sort) usually don’t count so much against you. I’m not saying you can get away with murder, however the interviewers aren’t usually as hung up on grammar as your COU English teacher was. Usually the interviewer is interested in your skills in your field, if you can speak fluently and confidently, and if you understand what they are asking you.

Listening comprehension plays a big role in these interviews (in all interviews). One of our worst enemies are our own nerves when we listen to someone speak in another language – we get so nervous about not understanding them, we actually end up getting confused, all on our own. Or, at the first word we don’t understand, we lose the next ten, stuck on that one darn word and/or freaking out. What’s this, you say? AAAAGH! Phrasal Verb!!! Freaking out?

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (great resource, by the way):
function: verb
intransitive uses:
1: to withdraw from reality especially by taking drugs -- often used with out
2 : to experience nightmarish hallucinations as a result of taking drugs -- often used with out
3 a : to behave irrationally or unconventionally under the influence of drugs -- often used with out
b : to react with extreme or irrational distress or discomposure -- often used with out

Ok, we’re talking about 3b here, the modern definition. The other 3 are what my parents were probably doing in the late 60’s. (Just kidding Mom and Dad!)

Anyway, and in summary – the important thing is to relax and to not get hung up on that one stupid word! If you find yourself in a situation where you find it really difficult to understand the interviewer, you have to make every effort to go with the flow and get the idea of what they are asking or saying. And move on! The same goes for when you are speaking and can’t remember a certain expression. Get over it and work around it! By doing this, you are also showing your problem-solving skills in English, demonstrating that you can SURVIVE in these situations.

Ok, enough chit chat–
Here are some more common questions to prepare for this type, or any type of interview. You then have to add on other questions specific to your field and practice, practice, practice!

1. Tell me about yourself. / How would you describe yourself? (you’ll never escape this question!!!)
2. Why did you leave your last job?
3. What did you like most/least about your last job?
4. What do you see yourself doing five years from now? Ten years from now?
5. What are your long range and short range goals and objectives?
6. Why did you choose this career?
7. Why did you go into (profession)? (this is another way of asking question 6)
8. How well do you work with people?
9. Do you work better alone or in a team?
10. How would you describe your work ethic?
11. How well do you work under pressure?
12. Why should we hire you? /Why should we hire you over the other candidates?
13. What makes you qualified for this position?
14. What qualities do you think make up a good (job title)?
15. What's one of the hardest decisions you've ever had to make?
16. What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
17. What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
18. Describe the most rewarding experience of your career thus far.
19. What do you think it takes to be successful in a company like ours?
20. In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
21. Why did you decide to seek a position in this company?
22. What can you tell us about our company?
23. What do you know about our competitors?
24. What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
25. How do you feel about traveling?
26. Would you be willing to live in another country?
27. What are your strengths and weaknesses? (ha! ha! ha! you’ll never escape this one either!)

Good luck!

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