How to Speak During a Job Interview If You’re a Non-Native English Speaker

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Job interview with a non-native English speaker

Improve Spoken English

The truth of the matter is that most foreign English speakers want to improve their English in order to improve their chances of getting a better job or getting that long-wanted promotion in their current company.

So, the chances are quite high that you also cherish such dreams of improving the quality of your professional life, and I guess I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that you’d like to be prepared really, really well when going for your job interview!

Also, if you’re competing against native English speakers for the position, you may want to make sure you don’t expose your weaknesses in terms of your overall English skills, and most importantly – you definitely want to make sure you’re able to showcase your personal profile, relevant qualifications and past experience without any hiccups during the job interview.

Now, do you think you don’t stand a chance of getting that job you desire if:

  • You sometimes get stuck for words when speaking in English;
  • Using the right English tenses during a conversation sometimes presents problems for you;
  • You don’t know how to sound professional during important events such as job interviews and meetings?

Don’t worry!

In this and the next few articles dedicated to job seeking for non-native English speakers I’m going to provide killer tips for you that will see to your job seeking goals and make sure you put on a great show during the job interview! 😉

Tip #1: Use the Simple Past Tense for Your Past Experience & Qualifications

When you’re in a job interview facing a native English speaking interviewer, you may unwillingly put yourself under a massive pressure to use complicated English sentences in order to make a good impression of yourself.

Let’s say, you want to tell your potential employer that you’ve attained your college degree in engineering, so you’re saying the following:

I have attained a degree in engineering and I also had done a course in software programming prior to that.

It’s all nice and well, and you’re perfectly fine to say things like that. It’s just that you’re running a slight risk of making mistakes in your English speech if you’re using Perfect Tenses during your job interview! Also you have to bear in mind that if you use date references with your qualifications, the proper grammar rules demand the Simple Past Tense.

It all may lead to too much analysis – I mean, you may start wondering “Am I supposed to be using the Simple Past or the Present Perfect Tense now?…” and then you just can’t speak fluently anymore… 😡

INSTEAD stick with using Simple Past when describing your past achievements, and even if you don’t follow your statement with a date and a year, it won’t sound wrong at all!

I graduated from high school back in 2008.

I received an excellence award when finishing my college.

I worked in a customer support service desk in Xerox.

I started in my first direct sales position in 2007 and I worked in 3 other direct sales companies after that.

I worked in logistics from 2007 to 2009 as a stock manager.

Yes, sure enough – you’re perfectly fine to use the Perfect Continuous Tense to describe how long you’ve been with a company: “I’ve been working for my current employer for 4 years”.

The point I’m making in this article, however, is the following – during a job interview there’s a big chance you’ll be:

  • Stressed out like hell;
  • Really anxious to make a good and lasting impression;
  • Eager to get the damn job!

So, there’s no wonder your English speech may deteriorate, and you’ll find it difficult to speak using complicated English Tenses and sophisticated vocab!

Bottom line: use Simple Past to describe your qualifications and past experience and you won’t get it wrong – that’s for sure!

Tip #2: Use the Present Continuous Tense to Describe Your Current Job

The second tip also concerns English Tenses – and this time around it’s the Present Continuous that we’re going to look at.

When you’ve talked and answered questions about your past professional and educational experiences, the second biggest topic discussed in any job interview is your RELEVANT EXPERIENCE.

If your current job is relevant to the position you’re going for in the new company, you can be pretty sure you’ll be asked a lot of questions in relation to what you do in your current job and how you go about your daily business.

And here’s a really invaluable tip on how to discuss your current job duties with your future employer: use the Present Continuous Tense to make it easier on yourself!

Remember that you’re going to be really stressed out during the job interview, so take some of that pressure off yourself by eliminating the need to think of which English Tense to use when talking about things you do regularly at work:

I’m entering data such as new customer profiles and sales orders.

I’m looking after a telesales team of four people.

During the busy season we’re doing a lot of overtime so needless to say I’m very well used to working under pressure.

I’m not usually dealing with customers; I’m only doing refunds, coin exchange and similar requests.

Yes, the standard English Grammar rules kind of dictate that when speaking of routine tasks, Present Simple is used:

  • I enter data
  • I look after
  • We do a lot of overtime
  • and so on and so forth!

In real life though, even native English speakers use the Present Continuous Tense A LOT when speaking about routine things, and I wouldn’t be really wrong in saying that oftentimes Present Continuous can actually substitute the Present Simple Tense in conversations:

  • I’m driving taxi during the day and I’m doing pizza deliveries over the weekends.
  • I’m helping school children with their studies and I’m also minding babies.
  • I’m working long hours every day and I’m not worried at all about the possibility of doing night shifts.

Every single one of those sentences can be worded using Present Simple; but you may just as well use the Present Continuous instead – especially because of this compelling reason:

Present Continuous can also be used to describe arranged future plans, so in order to avoid switching between different tenses during the interview, minimize the number of tenses you’re using!

So, when you’ve entered that door to have the job interview, make it easier on yourself to speak fluently by SIMPLIFYING your speech.

Mark these two tenses:

  • Simple Past
  • Present Continuous

as your most important tenses during the job interview – especially if you feel you start making stupid mistakes and your fluency is just about to go out the window.

And no – your future employer isn’t going to scorn upon it because native English speakers also speak in simple sentences and make mistakes when they’re stressed out ❗

I truly hope this article is going to prove helpful for your job interview preparation, and stay tuned for more articles to come on the same subject in the near future!



P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!


English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • Manuel Lazo

    really helpful your article, just yesterday was my first job interview with a native american speaker and i got crazy for a while, however, I could handle it in a 85% xD, great article and blessings.

  • Hi Luke, here’s another blog post on the subject:

    Hope you’ll enjoy it! 😉

  • I have the next post lined up for Monday, so stay tuned! 😉

  • luke

    I’m looking forward to reading your next “tricks of the trade” 🙂