Preparing for that job interview in English (7)
Updated: Feb 2
Preparing for the Interview in English
(dificuldade 7 – pode encontrar uma lista de vocabulário no final)
So, you’ve got the interview for the dream job…congratulations! This next step could be the one that truly gets your career on track, doing stuff that you were born to do. The only problem is, the company is American, and they’ve got a director flying in to check you out…and s/he doesn’t speak any Portuguese…
Dozens, if not hundreds, of Brasileiros face this daunting prospect every year. And it is intimidating. It’s bad enough doing an interview in your own language – but one in English???
First the good news. You’ve already done several interviews, maybe a dozen or more, in Portuguese. You know how it feels – the butterflies in the stomach, the hand trembling a little more than usual when you accept the coffee (although if it shakes too much, perhaps better not to accept one), the running over in your mind of your initial pitch – your background, your strengths, your love of what you do... and an interview in English is no different. You’re going to prepare, and you’re going to tell your story, in an environment you are familiar with.
But your previous interviewers were Brazilian? What’s different this time?
Well, while I can’t magically make you suddenly fluent in English, I can give you a few pointers as to some of the norms of interviews in the UK and USA, so that hopefully you won’t trip over the first curve-ball pitched your way.
Do Your Homework
If you were a football coach, you’d probably watch some videos of the opposition beforehand and plan how you are going to beat them, right? Your interviewer is your ‘opposition’ for the day. Research them ahead of time. There are some companies that lay out the company philosophy in detail on their website. You’d look pretty silly not to be familiar with it.
Maybe your interviewer (or the company) has made speeches about the company’s priorities for the year ahead? Do they have a particular cause or philosophy they champion? Have they spoken about the direction they are trying to take the company? If they have, then you can shape your answers to fit their goals. Of course, if their goals are something that you are not comfortable with, then maybe this company is not for you.
Clearly it helps if you have insider information – someone who already works at the company who can guide you as to what they are looking for. Your goal is to make your past fit seamlessly with the company’s future… and in particular the future of the position you are trying to obtain. But ask yourself -why are you interested in the position? If you are out of work currently, then you have to work doubly hard to make sure that your skills and goals fit with the company’s needs and objectives. If you are in work, then you need more than just the lure of a bigger pay check to convince someone to hire you. Ask yourself – if this turns out to be the perfect job – where would you like to be in ten-years’ time? And why do you think you have what it takes to get there? If you truly believe it, there’s a chance they will too.
When you are planning the interview, try and I identify 3 key ‘take-aways’ you want the interviewer to remember about you. Is it that you have exceptional technical skills, or unique experiences that fit the position? Is it your networking skills and ability to get the best out of people? Once you’ve identified these 3 things, you can frame your answers to make sure that you get an opportunity to emphasize these qualities so that, ideally, when the interviewer thinks about you, these are things they are going to remember.
Now take some time to practice. Take a look at typical interview questions that get asked and try and find someone to practice them with. If you’d like some examples of typical interview questions, you’ll find a much more comprehensive guide to interviews in our English Guru section.
First Impressions Count
It may sound obvious, but English speaking interviewers place a great deal in the level of confidence the candidate displays. Things such as a firm (but not too firm) handshake and confident eye-contact on meeting are a given, and reassure the interviewer that the person they are interviewing can cut it.
This also sounds obvious. But it is easier to say than to do. Try and sense the expectations of the interviewer in terms of when to speak and what to say. It’s about building rapport. The questions should be two-way, and natural, as if the person you are speaking to is the most interesting person you’ve ever met in your life. But respect them if they don’t want to talk about themselves. English speakers are most comfortable when there is an invisible barrier between them and the person they are speaking to. If they appear cold and boring, let it go and focus on what you offer the company rather than any idiosyncrasies you think you may have identified in your interviewer.
If they ask you a question, feel free to pause and think about it. Remember, English is not your first language, so it’s fair and reasonable that you can take a breath before responding.
Then make sure you answer their question. You can frame their question around a wider context, or you can offer examples of similar situations you have encountered – but you need to answer the question and you need to stop talking when the interviewer has heard enough. There are few things worse than rambling on while the interviewer is looking at her watch.
And try not to rush when speaking. A bit like when doing a presentation, when we are under pressure we want the pain to stop as quickly as possible and can end up rushing things. Slow it down. Your fluency isn't measured by how quickly you speak, but by your effectiveness in conveying your ideas.
Talk to the Numbers
English speakers, and Americans in particular, love numbers. It’s only a small exaggeration to say that they are obsessed with the ‘bottom line’. Quantify your achievements whenever possible – especially on your resume – and make sure you focus on what you delivered rather than what you were responsible for. It’s all about showing how you made a difference – what you contributed to your current or previous company.
Be Upbeat and Make Sure You Know the Lingo
The interviewer has already read your resume, and knows what you have achieved. But they want to know what you will do for them, and what you will be like to work with. So be upbeat, and go to work with your analysis. Think about the company as if it were your own. What would you be looking to do to make a success of it here in Brazil? Use a framework if you have one (Porter’s Five Forces, the BCG growth-share matrix, or whatever). Show off your passion (even if you are only lukewarm about the position) and your expertise, and how you have succeeded in the past. You are a team player – you work well with others, even though they may be in Manaus while you are stuck on Marginal Tiete. This is your chance to dazzle. Ah – but the vocabulary is different, right? So, prepare beforehand. Make sure you know the English terms for what you do and what you know.
Don’t Be Afraid to Play Hard to Get
Ok. I’m not talking about behaving like a prima dona here. But show them you have other options. You like what you’ve heard, but they also need to sell the position to you. So challenge them for details when they tell you they are trying to grow their presence or build their brand. Specifically, what are their targets for the year ahead? Are those targets reasonable? Do they even know the market that they are trying to enter? What’s the key differential in their product or service that’s going to help you sell it or deliver it here? What support will they provide to ensure you meet your goals? Show them you know the market, and you know the competition, and manage their expectations. They may be big where they come from, but here maybe no-one has heard of them. After all, even a company the size of Walmart couldn’t make it work here.
Be Patient but not Passive
This isn’t actually a tip you need. If you’ve been for an interview here, then you know that you can go several months at a time between interviews with no clue as to whether the company is interested in you or not. That being said, after a week or two, it doesn’t hurt to write to the person who interviewed you summarizing the main points of your conversation and your reasons for remaining interested in the position. You’re not groveling here, merely showing them that you liked them. It’s a bit like dating – if you have a date and never hear from the other person again, you would assume they aren’t interested. So show them that you are interested, but without being a nuisance or giving them cause to issue a restraining order. Good luck, don’t forget to check out our complete guide to interviews in the English Guru section
and let me know if you want to practice ahead of time. 😉
to check out – checar / visitar
daunting – assustador
butterflies in the stomach – borboletas no estomago
to tremble – tremer
shake – sacadir
run over – rever (em outros contextos, pode ser atropelar)
pitch – discurso de vendas
pointers – sugestões / recomendações
curve-ball – problema / dificuldade (origem – beisebol)
beforehand / ahead of time - antes
lay out – apresentar
silly – ridículo
to shape – moldar
to fit – caber
seamlessly – facilmente
lure – incentivo
handshake – aperto de mão
to cut it – dar certo
rapport – bom relacionamento
frame - posicionar
ramble – divagar / ser prolixo
bottom line – resultado financeiro
lingo – linguagem (gíria)
to feel lukewarm – estar sem muito interesse
to be stuck – estar preso / grudado
to dazzle – brilhar
brand – marca
to grovel – rastejar
a nuisance – irritação / incômodo