One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

Englishman has first job interview…IN FRENCH!

Upon arranging in France 4 months ago, my main initial priority was to settle in and get my French up to a strong level as quickly as possible. Although I had a level of French when I came over, I was very focusing on wanting to sound as French as possible. I now feel my French has improved a lot and I can follow and contribute to most conversations with friends and family.

So out of the blue this week I got a call back from a local business, (I won’t name the place or the line of work as I don’t want to jinx it!) to ask if I could pop by for an interview for a position I had applied to a week or so ago. Although I was happy to receive the call, I was suddenly panic about the thought of having to do a whole interview in my new, far from perfect language. I hate interviews in English, and having to explain myself, my motivations and my past experiences in French sounded very scary indeed – especially with the thought of a Manager staring at me the whole time studying my responses. I knew that this had to happen, and that I shouldn’t expect to get the position over other native speakers who might also be interviewed, but to treat it as a new experience. Still, the merest thought of what mistakes I might make through my nerves caused me to hyperventilate!

I spent a long time preparing what I wanted to say, translating my qualifications and achievements into their equivalent in French and working through every possible mistake I could possibly make so I knew what to avoid. I want to make sure I was formal, but friendly and as I can’t really disguise the fact I am English I should instead make more of it. I decided to dress up in a nice suit, shirt ands tie combination, borrowed some nice shoes off my Fiancées dad and generally worked on my appearance in the hope to it might take the emphasis away from any faux-pas I might make.

So today was the interview day, and after several toilet visits I prepared myself for the interview. I arrived early, announced my arrival with the secretary and took a seat in the plush reception. After a while a young French gentleman in a suit emerged who had obviously been interviewed before me, and I was called in for my interview. The interview itself went very well indeed. Although my interviewer spoke very quickly I had no problems understanding everything word he said, and I was able to answer any questions posed at me with ease and confidence… Thank goodness!

After 10 the interview was over and I was shaking hands and leaving the office, before saying goodbye to the secretary. I might not have got the job, but at least I felt happy with myself to have got through what felt like a big hurdle without any problems.

Merci France!


8 responses

  1. Don’t be so hard on yourself – you still might have got the job! Well done for doing it and welcome to the club 🙂

    March 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm

  2. Wow! Congrats! I am sure that feels like quite the accomplishment. I hope I can one day say the same!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm

  3. corinneviking

    Well done! Going through an interview in a foreign language is a massive accomplishment! You may or may not get the job but you now have a pretty positive experience, which is always good for the ego and most of all they called you in so it shows you have an intersting profile!!!

    As someone who has been leaving abroad for 12 years, I might also advise that you don’t need to sound as French as possible. While this is a noble quest, you just really need to be able to communicate and be understood to a good enough level.

    Best of luck!

    March 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

  4. Many thanks for all the comments!

    Corrine – I totally agree re the language! I think it is impossible for me to lose my old English ways!

    Thanks again, and I hope everyone has a great weekend!

    T x

    March 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm

  5. What a great achievement just to be able to actually survive an interview in another language!! The closest I’ll ever get to that is the possibility of being interviewed by an American 😉 Good luck with the role.

    March 26, 2012 at 3:07 am

  6. Congrats to you! Just making it through the interview is a really big achievement! French can be scary especially when you feel you are on the spot. Hope you get the job 🙂

    March 29, 2012 at 10:10 pm

  7. ostl2012

    I am about to go through the same thing but via phone. Any advice on how to prepare? I just have not used the French in a business setting.

    April 26, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    • I would say prepare 6 strong sentences about yourself – your motivations, experience etc and make sure you have those perfectly rehearsed so they can be pronounced fluidly and with clarity. I would also say to make sure you have a few ideas about possible questions that can be asked, and how these questions might commence so you can identify and react quickly if they come up.

      Obviously use formal language and try not to use shortened sentences or colloquial language that you would normally use in a social situation.

      Most of all be confident! Don’t worry too much about the speed in which you speak in your response, but just make sure that what you say is clear and addresses just what is asked. I have found the French don’t take kindly to people going off on a tangent!

      Good luck!

      April 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

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