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Worried about being interviewed in a different language?

Firstly, it’s normal to feel nervous before a job interview. As long as the nerves do not get too much, this isn’t anything to worry about. Sometimes though you may feel additional worry or pressure because you are interviewing in a different language. In addition to practicing your language skills, the following techniques can help with this.

Recognise your specific worries

This will help you address each negative thought or emotion directly instead of being overshadowed by a overall feeling of unease. List your worries as specifically as possible, your thoughts and/or beliefs about each one and it’s potential impact on your behaviour. For example:

Worry – I’ll be asked a question that I don’t understand

Thoughts/beliefs – I’ll fail the interview because I can’t answer and will look stupid

Impact – I’m already scared about questions I’ll be asked and won’t be able to relax or come across confidently

Strategies for addressing specific worries include:

Being solution-focused

When we really care about something (such as securing a job), it’s easy to focus on what has or might go wrong. Unfortunately, focusing thoughts this way can be obstructive to success.

One strategy to use is to reframe negative thoughts from a positive angle. Seeing the situation in a new way that allows you to move forward. For example:

Original thought Reframed thought
‘I’m scared I won’t know the right words to say’ ‘It’s great that I really want to do well in this interview. What specific questions am I worried about answering, and who can help me practise them?’
‘I failed at the last interview even though I really prepared’ ‘I’m disappointed, but now know more about questions I might get asked, where I do well and where to improve for the next one. It’s normal for people to have a few job interviews before they are successful.’
‘I don’t know enough words’ ‘There are some some words and phrases I am confident using. How can I practise answers for questions I’m likely to get asked so I can improve on any areas of weakness?’


Reviewing your list of worries, are there anyways you can reframe your thoughts positively?


A rating scale can be used to identify where you are in relation to a goal and identify small, manageable steps to help you move forward. Sample questions you could ask yourself include –

  • On a scale of 1-10, if 1 were absolutely terrible and 10 was perfection, what score would I give myself for my interview skills?
  • I have given myself a score of X. What have I done to get the score this high?
  • What are the reasons I haven’t given myself a higher score? What would it take to get it up to the next score [e.g. from 5 to 6]?

Positive Experiences

While you may not have successfully interviewed in another language, you can still think about experiences that collectively improve your self-belief in detail. For example, remembering a good interview you had elsewhere. What did you do that made it a good interview? How did that make you feel? How did you prepare for it? How did you answer any difficult questions?


This involves imagining performing well in an upcoming event in minute detail. If this is a positive experience it can create positive feelings and associations in your brain as if you’d actually experienced the event for real. As an example of this –

Imagine yourself arriving for your interview, including thinking about what you are wearing. Think about how you might be feeling. Imagine meeting and introducing yourself to the people interviewing you, including the details of the room and furniture. You are walking in confidently and shake their hands. How are they reacting to you?

You sit down and they ask you the first interview question, which you answer confidently and easily. How does this make you feel? How are people reacting to you? Continue this process for a few more questions.

You end the interview by confidently shaking hands, smile and leaving the room. How do you feel now? What are the interviewers thinking as you leave?

Now try think of a word that you can associate with this final scene that would allow you to remember this image and associated feelings easily.

You can recreate this scene in your mind several times leading up to the interview, and each time use your chosen word to bring back the positive images in your mind. On the day of the interview you can say this word to yourself to help you get into a confident frame of mind.

Mock Interviews and Practise

You can book a mock interview with your careers service for upcoming interviews you have. This will give you interview practise. Please note that this will most likely be in English. If there are specific things you are worried about (e.g. specific interview questions), you can address these.

If you have an upcoming interview in a different language, having a mock interview in English will still help you practise good interview technique. If there are people you know who are fluent in the language you are interviewing in, there is value in practising interview questions and answers with them, even if they are not interview experts. Simply speaking words and phrases will help you feel more confident and be more proficient.

Christian Jameson-Warren, Loughborough University