diplomatic language services blog post about interviewing in a foreign language

Interviewing In a Foreign Language

Interviewing in your native language is already an intimidating experience. In today’s global world, the likelihood of interviewing in a foreign language is quite high making an already intimidating experience that much more of a challenge. As someone who has been on both sides of the table, (interviewing for positions in my second and third languages, and interviewing others in their second and third languages) I’ll offer some suggestions to make the experience a little less daunting. Regardless if you are interviewing in your native language or not, you should always come prepared for a job interview.  


You may be a phenomenal interviewer in your native culture and could talk your way into getting any position. But, interviewing in another language also probably means you are interviewing in another culture with varying social norms and cues. What is the appropriate level of professionalism and how is it displayed? Do you offer a firm handshake or bow? How should you dress? Starting the interview off right begins with understanding the culture as well as business etiquette of the country you are in.


Next, you also need to understand the company culture. Research the company, the job description, and review the website for any tips and buzzwords to incorporate in the interview. Not only will this help you identify the terminology appropriate for the company, but this will also help you focus on the language to practice for the interview itself. Take notes and make sure you understand the keywords you find.


Even if you feel you can converse comfortably in your non-native language, the extra stress during an interview requires a little bit of extra practice to appear qualified and convincing. Google common interview questions and practice giving concise answers. Practice answering questions first in your native language and then translating them. There are standard questions asked in certain countries and fields, and you can easily identify them by searching the web.

Be calm

Even if you are extremely fluent, slow your speech down so you can think about your answers and the questions you were asked. If you didn’t understand something, ask them to repeat it. There is no shame in saying, ‘I didn’t quite understand,’ or ‘can you explain what you mean by that?’ I do that even when interviewing in my native language.

Your preparation and research will help you be more confident to represent your best self. To impress your interviewee you don’t need to fluently speak their language, but make them feel comfortable by showing them you understand their culture and are qualified for the job. Next time you find yourself interviewing in a foreign language, keep these tips in mind!

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By Kate Marden