Job Interviews in English: Using the correct language

Do you have to conduct job interviews in English? Job interview language, and which grammar tense to use, can be tricky at times. Never sure if it’s ‘have worked’ or ‘worked’? Get confused by ‘have done’ and ‘did’?

Job interviews usually involve discussing the experience the applicant can bring to the position. Everyone’s experience is based on events in their lives and some of these are finished and some are not. Below is some information that should help you prepare to conduct job interviews in English.

Job interviews in English: example of an interview conversation

Below is an example of a typical interview conversation.  There are several examples of both tenses being used in parallel in a job interview. Which events are finished and which are ongoing in Ms Brandy’s life?

  1. Good morning Ms Brandy, please have a seat.
  2. Good morning Mr Jones, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
  1. Could you tell me who you work for at the moment?
  2. I work for Frank and Banowitz importers.
  1. How long have you worked for them?
  2. I’ve worked for Frank and Banowitz for the past three years.
  1. And how long have you worked in the marketing department?
  2. I’ve been in the marketing department for the past six months.
  1. You know this job requires a lot of travel. Have you done much traveling for business?
  2. Yes, the job I had before Frank and Banowitz at an insurance company required me to travel monthly.
  1. And why did you leave that position?
  2. I got a more interesting position at Frank and Banowitz.
  1. Have you had any experience in advertising?
  2. Yes, I’ve spent the last few years working part-time as an advertising consultant for schools offering summer language courses.
  1. That’s interesting. How successful have you been?
  2. The school I’ve worked for has had quite a few more registrations as a result of my collaboration.
  1. Very interesting…

Note how the interviewer (1.) asks questions using ‘have you + past participle’, unless he wants to know more about one of Ms Brandy’s experiences.  At that point, he then switches to the past. (‘Why did you leave that position’?). The ‘have you’ questions focus on Ms Brandy’s life experiences which are relevant to the job interview of today. The past question deals with finding out more information on why Ms Brandy left the first job she had. It is an important question, but is about a finished experience for her.

It is a good idea to practice the different tenses used in an interview by analyzing your own CV and writing down questions you would expect to be asked in an interview for your team leader’s position.  Feel free post your answers, or any other questions you might have, in the comments area below and we will get back to you with some feedback.  Make sure to check out how Target Training has helped professionals improve their writing skills at work by clicking here.