Having taught hundreds of adult learners of English, many of whom were desperately looking for work in Sydney, one of the most expensive cities in the world, I have come to notice a number of factors that lead the students to fail job interviews.
To apply for jobs looking for “bubbly” personalities
Be realistic. Know your strengths and weaknesses. You might be “bubbly” in your language but are you in English? “Bubbly” people are obviously people who never shut up, they’re like a chatterbox, very talkative, get it? So, to be “bubbly”, you need to have so many words “bubbling” in you and out of you, which is most probably not going to be the case if you’re still learning English and are not very fluent yet.
To use long difficult words to impress
Yes yes I know that’s all you know, especially if you started off learning the language through reading and writing. The thing is most people are not comfortable listening to that sort of formal language, it sounds very artificial. They prefer more standard, more natural language. Why? Because it is just easier to understand and relate to. We call that “colloquialism”. Do NOT confuse colloquialism with slang. They’re NOT the same. Yes they do have much in common, but they’re not the same. Colloquialism is the standard everyday language that we all speak, regardless of where we’re from, whether you’re from the US, Britain or Australia, you will more often say “get in” instead of “enter”, “run away” instead of “escape”, “gonna” instead of “going to” etc. Slang is more specific and regional. There’s slang used by teens, construction workers, IT people, actors etc (again, not to confuse that with jargon and terminology). Using slang means you choose “stink” instead of “bad smell”, “buzz off” instead of “go away”, “get wasted” instead “get drunk”, get it? So that brings us to our next point…
To use slang to impress
Again, in trying to impress, you might think “I’m going to show that guy how good I am in English, I’m going to use more slang than he or she does”. If you do that, the chances are that you’re going to sound like a fool, especially if you have a bit of accent, because as I said, slang is local, so it sounds more natural when spoken by those who have always lived in that area. Yes there is “standard” slang but that can still be inappropriate in most situations, so you’re not impressing anyone by using it. Having said all that, it all comes down to the interviewer and the job you’re being interviewed for. Some interviewers are like that. They use slang in job interviews too. If they start it, then by all means, play along.
To take long confusing pauses during the conversation
Under no circumstances should you freeze like a deer caught in the headlights during the interview. You’ve got to keep going no matter what! Get used to saying something, anything. even if it’s not what you intended to say. If you forget what you want to say, say “What was I going to say? I can’t remember. forgot to have my morning coffee today” Memorize a couple of sentences to save you from embarrassment. If you can’t find the word you’re looking for, say “Umm… what do you call it? what do you say when you want to… “, explain what you want by using different words and engage the employer in the conversation, it’s OKAY, trust me, it’s not the END OF THE WORLD, it happens to native speakers too, but they don’t FREEZE. Taking long pauses, staring at the roof, giggling nervously or apologizing for your bad English, can be the WORST thing you can do in a job interview.
To think that your weird accent is cute and funny
It’s not cute and it’s not funny, especially if it’s distracting. Employers need to be able to understand the content of the conversation without having to focus an awful lot on the sounds. I love children because they’re honest. They once told a Japanese friend of mine, “why do you speak weird?”. They didn’t know their words were like daggers, she was having nightmares about it for months especially that she had been speaking English for a while and always got false reassurances from adults about her English. Fix it. Your pronunciation should be at least good enough not to get attention from anyone. Is that clear enough? If your pronunciation causes someone to start guessing or even realize the vast different between your accent and his, then most probably, you won’t be getting this job. It’s simply too much hard work for the employer or any person communicating with you in English. Some jobs do not require oral communication, but rather, technical knowledge, in which case you would stand a greater chance to get the job.
Not to prepare to speak about your strength
It’s hard enough for you as an English learner to sit there in front of one or several interviewers staring at you and asking you all sorts of questions, the least thing you can do is prepare. Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare. I personally recommend that you prepare talking about yourself, because most of the times, employers want to know you, about you, and what you can do for them. That’s the bottom line. What can you do for them? What can you bring to the table? You show them that and you’re in. The words themselves do not matter as much as confidence does. How do you get confidence? Prepare and rehearse. Rehearse talking about the unique qualities you want the employer to see in you, rehearse saying what you want to say until it sounds credible (believable), genuine and natural. Pronunciation (the way you speak) has a lot to do with that. You’ve got to know how to talk about yourself in a way that makes the employer feel he or she can trust you. Your choice of sentence stress and voice pitch and overall intonation has the potential to secure that dream job you’ve been trying to get.