Comprehensive job interview checklist for non-native English speakers

Do you have a job interview soon? This checklist is written to help non-native English speakers interviewing in America or other English-speaking countries do well in their interview so they get the job.

Before the Interview

1. Research the position

Know the job description inside and out.

2. Research the employer

Use their website, social media accounts, LinkedIn, and Google.

If you can’t find enough information this way, go to a library and ask for help. This will make you stand out from other applicants who didn’t do research and will help you answer the potential question: What do you know about our company?

3. Research the industry

  • Competitors

  • Current trends and news

4. Research the interviewer

Use LinkedIn and Google

5. Practice answers to common interview questions

  • General questions

  • Behavioral questions

  • Field-related questions

Write your answers down and then say them aloud in front of a mirror or video camera. If you both write and speak the answers you will know better how the answers sound and you can fine-tune them.

Do a mock (practice) interview with someone.

6. Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer

7. Prepare for the pre-interview small talk

8. Evaluate your English

You've prepared for the questions and the small talk. How did you do? Were you able to say what you needed to say in English? If not, you may need to do a quick intensive review of your English before you go for the interview. Get out your old English textbooks and study or work with a teacher for a short-term practice session. Don't let English problems keep you from sounding professional.

9. Prepare your clothes

They should be appropriate for the job, the company, and the industry.

You may need to do research if necessary to consider the company culture

Prepare every element of the outfit, including shoes, stockings, tie, and accessories. Everything should be clean and without wrinkles

Don’t wait until the day of the interview, because your clothes will be the first thing they see.

10. Confirm interview logistics

  • Plan your route

  • Will you drive?

  • Is there parking?

  • Double check the interview time

11. Get a good night’s sleep the night before

The Day of the Interview

12. Don’t put on cologne/aftershave/perfume

Many people are sensitive to fragrances, especially in small offices.

13. Don’t smoke

Many people don’t like the smell of cigarette smoke, so avoid it.

14. Arrive about 10 minutes early, but no more

If you’re late, phone the company.

15. Greet the receptionist or assistant politely

Remember, once you walk in the building you’re making an impression

16. Turn your phone off and keep it hidden in your purse or your pocket

Don’t take it out and look at it, even while you’re waiting.

17. Wait calmly

  • Don’t fidget or look at your phone

  • Try to relax if you’re nervous. Take some deep breaths.

In the Beginning of the Interview

18. Give a proper handshake

Use a firm grip. If you are not used to shaking hands when you greet someone, practice this beforehand.

19. Give a polite greeting, while you’re shaking hands or just before or after

20. Make eye contact

21. Smile

22. Seem confident and professional

23. Sit down only after you’re offered a seat

24. Be aware of your body language

Sit upright and don’t move around.

25. Be prepared for small talk

The interview may start off with some small talk and it may not. Americans do usually do a bit of small talk before turning to business, but it depends on the personality of the interviewer.

During the Interview

You’ll be evaluated on what you say and how you say it. This means you have to think about the content of your speech but also how you look while you’re speaking.

26. Avoid negativity

Don’t say anything bad about your past jobs or colleagues.

27. Stick to safe topics

No politics, religion, personal problems, or family issues. Don’t bring up family unless you’re asked a direct question about it. Here in America, we don’t talk about our families with strangers (this definitely includes interviewers). Be aware of this, especially because it may not be the same in your country.

Obviously, if your interviewer asks you about an unusual topic, you are free to answer if you feel comfortable doing so, but don’t bring one up yourself.

28. Give short answers

30 to 45 seconds per answer is best. You should have practiced your interview questions so there shouldn’t be any surprises.

29. Keep your answers focused

Are you the kind of person who can talk and talk about something and never get to the point? Don’t do that here. Know what you want to say and say it. If they want more information, they’ll ask for it.

30. Brag about yourself

The point of an interview is so that you can tell and show that you’re the best person for the job. You show this by wearing the right clothes and having the right body language, etc., but you also have to tell.

I know for many people, especially women, it’s difficult to talk about how good you are at something.

Women are taught to be polite, and it’s not seen as polite to talk about your accomplishments.

Also, in many cultures it’s considered impolite to focus on yourself instead of the group.

American interviewers (and also ones from other English speaking countries) expect a candidate to be able to talk about their strengths and accomplishments in the interview. Think about it this way - if you don’t talk about your experience, how will they know about it?

31. Ask questions

You don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to do this. In fact, you should be asking questions as you go. If you don’t ask any questions, you’ll be showing a lack of interest. Even if the interviewer has already told you everything you want to know, you need to ask other questions. You should have prepared a list of questions before the interview, about the job, your future team, or the company.

32. Don’t ask the wrong questions

Don’t ask about salary, benefits, or vacation. Also avoid asking about the typical hours the employees work. You can discuss this if the interviewer brings it up, but if you ask about it yourself you will seem lazy.

You may be asked about your salary requirements so be prepared to answer this question.

33. Body language:

  • think about your posture – sit up straight

  • keep your gestures minimal

  • don’t cross your arms

  • don’t fidget (move around)

  • look interested

  • lean close, but not too close

  • face your shoulders toward them

  • maintain eye contact

  • smile at appropriate times

34. Pay attention to your language

  • Avoid saying um, uh, like, you know, or using other filler words.

  • Avoid slang.

At the End of the Interview

35. Ask any questions you haven’t already asked

You should have been asking them during the interview, but you should probably ask one or two now, so that you seem interested and so that it’s clear you did research.

36. Say that you are very interested in the job and ask about the next steps in the process

37. Say thank you to the interviewer and shake their hand if they offer theirs

Some people will want to shake again when saying good bye but some won’t, so follow their lead.

38. If you don’t already know their name and contact info, ask for their business card now.

After the Interview

39. Send a thank you note within 24 hours to everyone you interviewed with.

40. Relax and wait to get your job offer

I know that interviewing in English is difficult for non-native speakers, but if you prepare ahead of time you can succeed in the interview and get the job. 

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 I’m happy to say that after working with me, my clients, who range from entry level to executive level, have done well in their interviews and gotten the job they wanted.

If you’d like to work with me to prepare for your interview, email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or a full interview prep session.

Interview Genie is an American interview prep company specializing in interviews at American companies.