Finding a job when you are studying English as a second language may seem intimidating. However Drew’s ESL Fluency Lessons has created a job interview script to help prepare you for using language basics in real-life scenarios when you are looking for a job. The following terms are among the most commonly-used expressions you might hear during, or while preparing for, a job interview:
Company Owner: Hello Mr. Smith. I assume you are here about the job opening. Did you bring your resume?
Applicant: Yes sir. I did bring it and I can leave a copy with you. You will see that I have a lot of on the job experience selling software. I have over ten years of experience in this field and I think you will like what my references have to say about me.
Company Owner: Well, you sure seem to have a lot of confidence. I like that in a prospective employee. Why did you leave your last job?
Applicant: That’s a good question and I’d be happy to answer it. I decided to leave the last company I worked for because there was no room for growth. Last year I was passed over for a promotion to sales manager. The boss’s son-in-law got the job. Everyone knew I was the better fit for the job.
Company Owner: The position we are looking to fill is a sales position similar to the one you just left. Do you feel you are overqualified for this job?
Applicant: No sir. I did my research and your company is larger than my previous employer. Your annual sales are three times that of my old company.
Company Owner: Yes. We have increased business significantly in the last three years. Are you OK with cold calls? We do sometimes ask our sales people to do this on occasion.
Applicant: Yes. I will do anything it takes to get a sale. I am not above cold calls by any means.
Company Owner: Great. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you hear about this position?
Applicant: I went to a career fair last week in the civic center downtown. A little networking is always a good idea. I met one of your employees from HR there. That’s where I got the lead on this job.
Company Owner: I think you would be a huge asset to this company. I’d like to offer you the position. What do you think?
Applicant: That’s great sir. I will accept. You won’t be sorry. I’ll be setting sales records in this company in my first year!
You’ve just landed an interview for your dream job. If you’re like most people, you’ll spend hours, perhaps days, preparing for that interview. You’ll research the company and industry, anticipate the questions you’ll be asked, and rehearse the perfect answers. You’ve probably followed all the interviewing best practices: be yourself, dress appropriately, focus on your strengths, don’t interrupt, and prepare questions in advance.
But, in spite of your careful preparation, your interviewer might not evaluate your skills, ability, and potential using an equally thorough process. Rather than carefully analyzing your resume and engaging in deep conversation, a busy interviewer might rely on split-second impressions. Indeed, psychologist Ellen Langer shows that just as people shift to “autopilot” during routine tasks such as driving to work, they may go through interviews and other spontaneous social interactions in a similarly automated fashion.
The problem occurs when people process information through what psychologists refer to as the peripheral route. When they follow this route, they go on instinct and use tidbits of information rather than the full arsenal of data they have in front of them. In fact, the vast body of research suggests that all of us are vulnerable, at times, to taking the peripheral route when our attention is somewhat compromised — perhaps because we’re rushed, tired, hungry, overwhelmed, stressed, or simply engaging in a well-rehearsed routine, like an interview.
How can you ensure that an interviewer sees you for who you are and your unique characteristics are noted? Through our research on how people form impressions about experts and how people manage envy, we identify four strategies to help you turn around an interview.
Disrupt the script. Although an interview may appear to be a spontaneous conversation, both the interviewer and the interviewee are often following preprogrammed scripts. The interviewer may have a standard protocol that they’re following — in fact, this is a best practice that ensures that each candidate is screened through the same process. They might ask standard questions such as, “Tell me about your previous experience” and “What you are looking for in a job,” or they might use a walk-through of your resume as the basis of their script.
As the interviewee responds with carefully prepped answers, they can quickly go from charming to robotic. When we’ve observed MBA students, their responses are almost too smooth. Sometimes, they answer too quickly, without even a pause to think about what was asked — revealing that they’re delivering a rehearsed answer rather than engaging in a conversation that feels genuine and interactive. Instead, pause after the interviewer asks a question — even if you’ve practiced a response. Listen for and reuse a few key words from the interviewer’s question in your own answer to signal that you’re building on the interviewer’s statement. By interrupting your own scripts and building on the discussion, you can make the conversation flow more organically, allowing the interviewer to process information more deeply. One of our managers shared another technique he used to disrupt the script by stating, “Let me tell you what’s not on my resume.” That got the interviewer’s attention, since the interviewer stopped mindlessly looking at the resume.
Make a personal connection. Whether it’s discovering that you attended neighboring small town high schools or both visit the same vacation spot, these off-script moments are more likely to lead to an interpersonal connection. This is due to the mere connection effect: If you can find even one point of commonality in few moments of interacting, you can shift from outsider to insider in the interviewer’s mind. As an insider, you’ll receive the benefit of the doubt, as compared to an outsider who’s quickly judged and dismissed. One manager described how she scans an interviewer’s office for any photos or pictures and asks about them: “So, you’re a Blackhawks fan?”
Then, try to get beyond surface similarities. Demonstrate that you share their higher-order goals. Leigh once hired someone because her question was, “What does it feel like to have written a book?” That question showed that she was passionate about research and writing — the very same goals that motivated Leigh. If you’re in tech, you might ask how the interviewer felt leading a cutting edge project; if you’re in sales, ask how they managed to win over a particularly tough customer.
Become a partner. If you’re dealing with an antagonistic interviewer who has automatic negative assumptions about you, a “connection” may be nearly impossible. In our research, we’ve observed how psychological threat, like people’s insecurities and envy, affects their judgment. Perhaps they just don’t like the people who’ve typically held your position. Or maybe they’ve read your vita and view you as competition. The threatened interviewer focuses only on your weaknesses and perceived slights, leaving you to meet impossible standards.
In response, try this strategy that we’ve drawn from the research of Dr. Abraham Tesser. Rather than focusing on common goals that could elicit a threatened response, highlight your distinctive talents — skills in unique areas that don’t undermine the interviewer’s expertise. Then, show how your expertise benefits them, opening up the potential for partnership. For example, when one junior consultant works with potential clients who are industry experts, he’d frame his expertise in a nonthreatening way: “I clearly do not have the decades of experience in the industry that you do, but I am a supply chain expert, and this has allowed me to achieve cost savings for each of the companies I’ve worked with as a consultant.” Rather than suggesting that he knew more than the client, he framed it as knowing something different — which could help the clients showcase their existing expertise rather than replacing it.
Call out the elephant in the room. A benevolent but busy decision maker might have formed negative beliefs about your potential for reasons that they are uncomfortable talking about or, perhaps, are not even aware of. We suggest surfacing these unconscious perceptions and making it comfortable for people to address the taboo issue. Communicating about the potential objection reveals self-awareness and courage, and it also creates an opening so you can provide the clear evidence to dismiss it.
For example, one of our colleagues was from Korea and had a strong accent. “Will they notice?” she worried. Our response: “They’d have to be deaf not to notice.” We told her to be forthcoming and say, “I have an accent. I’m aware of that. Still, I’ve received top teaching evaluations. Here is what I’ve used to be successful in the classroom…” She got hired for the job.
Good jobs are few and far between, and you’re paying both a financial and emotional price if you have the credentials but aren’t getting opportunities because of quick judgments. The toughest interviewer to crack is not the one with the tough questions but the one who’s operating on automatic assumptions. The recommendations we’ve suggested will help you get past the quick impressions, and steer the interview in your favor.
You can prepare for possible interview questions for days, but if you don’t consider any questions for the employer, you might not snag the job. When the hiring manager asks if you have any questions, it’s not just a meaningless formality. When thinking good questions to ask in a job interview, you want to ask questions that will help you decide if you want to work at the company over the long-term. You’re also letting the hiring manager know you understand the company’s culture – and have done your research. Here are a few questions you can ask based on the information you want to know or the message you want to convey.
Understanding daily responsibilities
If you’re offered the job, you want to have enough information about the position to know if you want to accept the offer. Questions that help you understand your daily responsibilities can be asked at any point. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions at any point during the interview to keep up a rapport with the hiring committee.
- What task or tasks would be the most important for me in my first 60 days as an employee?
- What does a work day typically look like for someone in this position?
Considering how this position will help you on your career path
When preparing questions for an employer, the committee will be interested in career path interview questions because they want to see that this position puts you where you want to be. You should be interested in asking these questions so you have a better understanding of how the position will advance your career.
- Is there anything you would want me to do education or training-wise to make me a better fit for this position?
- Do you offer continued education or training for individuals in this position?
Demonstrating that you’re motivated to do the job
These questions show that you would be excited to do the position and to meet the challenges expected by the employer. To demonstrate your interest, you don’t have to wait until they finish asking you questions; instead, you can ask these questions spontaneously whenever they seem to fit well into the conversation.
- What is a problem facing your company/staff that I could help solve if hired?
- What factors would indicate a person’s success at this company?
Gaining a better understanding of the company culture
Hiring managers want to know you understand and value the company culture. Show them you do by asking these kinds of interview questions.
- What does this company value most?
- Can you tell me some of the most appealing aspects of your company culture?
Increasing your knowledge about how you would interact with others if hired
In your interview prep, consider creating questions that can demonstrate you work well with others. Don’t be afraid to turn the interview into a conversation, and ask these questions whenever they feel natural to you.
- What systems are in place that would help me work collaboratively in this position?
- Will I be mentored or mentor others in this position?
Before you get to ask your interview questions, your resume first needs to impress the hiring manager enough that she or he calls you in for an interview. Make sure your resume is persuasive by choosing an exceptional resume template and running it through Jobscan. Jobscan ensures your resume makes it through a company’s applicant tracking system (ATS) and to the hiring manager by matching your resume’s keywords to those listed on the job application.