If you have a job interview in English coming up, you might want to make sure you avoid these 6 common mistakes. This way, you will make a much better impression and your English will come off (= seem / look) much more advanced.
Mistake #1. You use a limited vocabulary
You don’t have to memorize a lot of advanced words. You just need to know the most commonly used words in everyday English communication and practice using them.
So, how can you make your vocabulary more advanced?
Use softening words
Quite — it was quite difficult
A bit — I found it a bit confusing
Rather — The process is rather quick
Fairly — It’s fairly complicated
Use more common and advanced adjectives for phrases such as “very good”, “very bad”, etc.
Very bad — awful, terrible
Very good — awesome, fantastic, amazing
Very interesting — fascinating, intriguing
Very tired — exhausted
Very scary — terrifying
Very boring — tedious
Very big — huge
Very small — tiny
While we’re on the topic, the word “very” itself has many synonyms that you can also use to vary your speech up. For example: extremely, really, incredibly, etc.
I got extremely excited about the project and was very happy to seize this opportunity.
This is really great news!
Besides, there are other phrases you can leverage (=use to your advantage) to make your English more interesting.
Instead: I wanted (to do something) very much
Say: I was dying to (do something)
Instead: Our client was satisfied with our work
Say: Our client was (very) happy with our work
Instead: I will do it with pleasure
Say:: I will be happy to do it
Instead: I want to start working on (something) very much
Say:: I’m excited to start working on (something)
Use linking phrases
Connecting your sentences together so that it is easy for people to follow what you’re saying is another important skill. Here is a list of linking phrases to get you started:
In fact — actually
I started working as a full-stack developer 5 years ago. In fact, I used to do some work on the server even as an intern
Eventually — in the end, after all
We struggled to get the project off the ground but, eventually, we managed to reach a consensus
Fortunately — luckily
Fortunately, we’ve managed to resolve this issue
Unfortunately — unluckily
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it
Hopefully — use this phrase to express your hopes and expectations for the future
I’ve already reached out to a few people, hopefully, I’ll hear back from them soon
On the flip slide — on the other hand
Being a freelancer has its advantages. But on the flip side, it makes you miss team interaction and collaboration.
Come to think of it — If you think about it
Come to think of it, it could’ve been better to choose a different approach for this task
Moreover — What’s more
I have a lot of experience communicating with foreign clients, moreover, I used to work abroad.
Basically — this phrase doesn’t really mean anything but it is often used when you want to explain something in more detail
Basically, we decided to put the project on the back burner
Surely enough — used to say that something was not a surprise
We overlooked a few important details and surely enough soon ran into some trouble
Still — the word “still” can also be used in the meaning of “nonetheless”
I didn’t particularly enjoy being the only person in charge of the project but still, it was better than being micromanaged
However — a more advanced synonym of “but”
I like my current company, however, I’m looking for more opportunities to grow
Mistake #2. Your answers lack structure
Every time you answer a question, you want to sound like you have a plan for what you’re going to say. Some job seekers go as far as writing down their answers to all common job interview questions and trying to memorize them for the interview but we do not recommend doing so. You can’t possibly prepare canned responses (=pre-planned responses) to all questions you could be asked in an interview and you also don’t want to risk sounding like a robot.
What we recommend doing instead is learning about the basic structure of job interview questions and applying it to your answers.
Use the following structure when you’re asked to talk about yourself
1. Briefly summarize your career path
I’m a software engineer with over 7 years of experience. I’ve worked at small and medium-sized companies where I built user-friendly, efficient mobile apps. I’ve developed over 20 apps that made thousands of dollars in revenue for my clients.
2. Describe your most interesting achievements and qualities
Lately, I’ve been involved in creating a full-stack cross-platform wellness app that works both on your phone and smartwatch. I enjoy solving both technical and business problems as I like working as part of a team to deliver useful and practical software solutions.
Use the STAR structure when you’re asked to describe something from your past experience (the time you solved a challenging problem, the time you dealt with conflict, etc.)
STAR means “situation, task, action, result”.
At my previous company, my team had to support different web applications. There was no uniformity among team members regarding which framework to use. What ended up happening was that we had some apps written in Angular, some apps written in React, etc. It was all over the place.
The problem with this was that if you were assigned to create a feature for a certain app and you didn’t know the framework, you would have to spend some time learning it. That potentially increased the development time by a lot.
My proposal was to have all our apps written in Vue.js. I set up a meeting with the team and gave them a demo about the pros and cons of using Vue.
The result was that my manager was on board and we decided to use Vue.js for all our new development.
It’s ok to take your time before you answer a question. Take a few moments to think about the structure of your answer and while you’re thinking, feel free to use some handy filler phrases. On top of buying a little extra time, these expressions also help make your English sound more fluent.
Let me see…
It’s hard to say off the top of my head but …
I would say that…
It’s hard to say but …
Let me think for a moment…
Mistake #3. You don’t focus on results
Oftentimes, we get too focused on describing the process rather than talking about the larger picture — your results and accomplishments.
When answering a job interview question, always make sure to mention not only the “what” (What did you do)? but also the “why” (Why did you do it)? Feel free to use the following phrases:
As a result
As a result, we were able to launch our app successfully
The desired outcome
We’ve been able to reach our desired outcome of improving employee engagement
By doing so…
By doing so we’ve managed to maximize our revenue streams
(Something) was a success
The conference was a big success and we managed to attract a lot of new leads
By analyzing our mistakes as a team, we were able to see where we went wrong
Mistake # 4. Your English is not polite enough
There are a few rules you might want to follow:
Avoid saying “you” when you criticize or point something out
Impolite: You didn’t understand
Polite: I guess I didn’t make myself clear. \ That wasn’t really my point. What I’m trying to say is…
Impolite: What do you mean?
Polite: I’m not sure I know what you mean
Impolite: What did you say?
Polite: Could you say this again? / Come again, please?
2. Learn to disagree
Avoid saying this like “no, that’s not true” or “you didn’t understand me” at all costs. It’s better to say the following:
I wouldn’t say so because…
That wasn’t really the case…
What I meant to say was…
Bonus tip: instead of saying “no”, try saying “not really” — this will make you sound much friendlier.
So you don’t like working on your own.
Not really. It can be a fun challenge sometimes.
3. Avoid being too direct
Polite English uses a lot of indirect and softening phrases. For example:
Less polite: I want…
More polite: I’d like to…
Less polite: I want to talk to you about…
More polite: I was hoping we could discuss…
Less polite: I think we should…
More polite: I feel like it would be best to…
Mistake # 5. You’re avoiding small talk
Small talk is all about showing that you’re open and ready to communicate so don’t be weirded out if your interviewer starts the interview by asking you about the weather, your weekend plans, travel, books, etc.
Making small talk also gives you an opportunity to show off your English skills and vocabulary.
Here are a few phrases that might come in useful:
1. I’m really into… = I really like
I’m really into tennis.
2. I’m (not really) big on… = I like / don’t like something very much
I’m not big on audiobooks. I prefer reading paper books instead.
3. I’m really passionate about…
I’m really passionate about health and fitness.
4. One of my favorite things to do is…
One of my favorite things to do is scuba diving.
5. I like to do (painting) for fun
Mistake #6. You don’t research the company
Companies are interested in your team and culture fit, not only your skills. In other words, are you the right match for the company? Do you share their values? Will you get along with your future team members?
That’s why it’s worth doing some research on social media and the company website so that you understand if a particular company is a good fit for you.
What’s more, you can and should ask your interviewer questions about the company and what’s it like to work there. For example:
How do you evaluate performance?
Could you tell me something about your corporate culture?
What do you personally enjoy the most about working here?
Is there room for upward mobility?
Feel free to check out our earlier article for more questions you can ask in an interview.
English For IT wishes you the best of luck in your next job interview!