- The Net's Premier Resume Writing and Editing Service
For candidates whose primary language is not English, interviewing
can be intimidating. While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 does not allow employers to require that English is the only
language used in the workplace without compelling reasons, language
difficulties can cause problems during interviews.
The importance of your English fluency as a candidate depends in
part on the job and company. If you are working with numbers or
computer programming, refined English skills are less important.
If other colleagues speak your primary language, you need not rely
as heavily on English. If you are applying for a job as a manager
or you will be interacting with English-speaking clients regularly,
language fluency could be significant.
In addition to the job itself, language skills can pose barriers
during interviews. Employers need to feel like they can connect
with you. Even if you are friendly and accomplished, interviewers
will begin to feel uncomfortable if they cannot communicate with
you effectively. People feel weird about themselves when they cannot
understand you or are not confident that you understand them. If
interviewers feel uncomfortable around you, they will feel uncomfortable
with you. The last thing you want to do is leave an interviewer
with the impression that you are nice and talented, but that he
could not tell if you understood what he was saying. Feeling like
you cannot express yourself well can also cause you to lose well-deserved
and much needed confidence.
There are ways for you to overcome these negative outcomes. Language
difficulties are best resolved by learning English very well. The
more fluent you are, the better and more confidently you can connect
with the employer. If you are still struggling with English, consider
these other tips:
Before the interview:
- Memorize answers to common and difficult questions after
having someone edit your responses for grammar.
- Write down a few notes to yourself that you can refer to
during the interview if you get intimidated.
- Prepare and memorize questions that you wish to ask the
During the interview:
- Remember that you are a qualified person who speaks more
than one language-an accomplishment that many interviewers cannot
claim for themselves.
- If you do not understand a question during the interview,
ask the interviewer to clarify the question. You might begin
by saying, "I want to make sure that I understand what you mean.
Are you saying. . .?"
- Address your language proficiency in the interview, mentioning
to the interviewer how you make certain that you understand
instructions and giving examples of working situations in which
you excelled despite limitations in English. Do this casually
- Tell the employer about your plans to take advanced English
classes or tutoring in the evenings.
- Take notes.
- Summarize what the interviewer says at the end of the interview,
touching on the important responsibilities of the job and needs
of the company. Briefly repeat how you could meet these needs.
Inquire into when you can expect to hear from the company.
After the interview:
- Be sure to write a thank you note that highlights your fit
with the position. Repeat what you have to offer the company
and what enthuses you about the company. Be sure to have someone
edit the note for grammar before you send it. This way, the
lasting impression of you should focus on your abilities and
not your English.