Relocation Resources  Career Advice      

Interviewing When You Don't Know the Language? Prepare with These 5 Tips.




12-Jan-2018

If you want to work in your new country but don’t know the language yet, you may be wondering how to overcome this barrier in an interview. Though this may add an additional layer of anxiety to the job search and interview process, there are ways to relieve your stress and manage the obstacle.

1. Search for a job where your mother language is an asset.
If you can find companies that have a global reach, your language obstacle may become obsolete. For instance, if you move to Asia and only speak French, you would want to find companies that do business in French-speaking countries. Employers will want to know if you plan to learn the native language, so make sure to convey that you are willing, and maybe even excited, to learn their language.

2. Search for a recruiter who has experience placing applicants who do not speak the local language.
Finding a recruiter who has a positive mindset, will support your efforts and will work with the skills you have (or don't have) is a key element. Having this person by your side will create a better interview process overall.

3. Be honest about your language skills.
You do want to highlight your strengths, of course, but when language is an issue, make sure you are honest about your ability. If you have learned some of the new language, do not be afraid to use it. Mistakes will be made, but you will find that most people will appreciate that you are trying. If you know none of the language, perhaps ask if someone can be present to interpret for you during the interview.

4. Try to learn some phrases before the interview.
Practising for any interview is very important in order to be confident when the real one happens. Learn a few phrases in the native language and practise responding to typical interview questions with them. Remember not to strive for perfection – it will not happen. Try to get to a point where you are speaking confidently and slowly; your effort will be appreciated. And practise, practise, practise!

5. Be confident in your strengths.
Do not let a language obstacle be a negative item that looms over the interview. Language barriers can be overcome in a variety of ways, after all. Focus on the skills you possess that qualify you for the position and emphasise those to the interviewer. These skills and abilities are what you should remain confident in.

A successful expat experience begins with being open to new experiences. Even if you are not sure if you will work in your new country, start learning the language as soon as possible. It will only enhance your entire expat experience!


Contribution by Jill Jassmann-Sharlock.

Jill is an IMPACT Group Global Research Team Lead & Project Specialist who focuses on the unique information needs of global transferees. She also manages content for our global client-facing website.