Finding a Job for ESL Learners: Interview Basics

Businesswoman welcoming man to meeting
AMV Photo/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images

Taking a job interview in English can be a challenging task. It's important to use the correct tense to state when and how often you perform duties at your present and past jobs. The first step was writing your resume and cover letter. Learn to use these tenses in these situations and you'll be sure to make as good an impression in your job interview as you have with your resume.

There are some very important game rules to consider when taking a job interview.

The job interview in English requires a very specific kind of vocabulary. It also requires good tense usage as you need to make a clear distinction between past and present responsibilities. Here is a quick overview of the appropriate tenses to use:

Tense: ​Present Simple

  • Example Sentence: I collect data from all of our branches and analyze the information on a weekly basis.
  • Explanation: Use the present simple to describe your daily responsibilities. This is the most common tense to use when speaking about your current position.

Tense: Past Simple

  • Example Sentence: I developed an in-house database for the personnel department.
  • Explanation: Use the past simple to describe your daily responsibilities in a former position. This is the most common tense to use when speaking about past jobs.

Tense: Present Continuous

  • Example Sentence: Currently, we are expanding our sales division to include South America.
  • Explanation: Use the present continuous to speak about current projects that are happening at that moment in time. These projects are limited in time and should not be confused with daily responsibilities.
  • Example: Currently, I am designing a new layout for our local branch. I am usually responsible for staff organization, but they asked me to help out with design this time.

    Tense: Present Perfect

    • Example Sentence: I've researched over 300 cases until now.
    • Explanation: Use the present perfect to generally describe projects or accomplishments that you have made up to the present moment in time. Remember not to include specific past time references which should be used with the past simple.
    • Example: I've developed a number of databases using Microsoft Access. Just last week I finished a database for our warehouse.

    Tense: Future Simple

    • Example Sentence: I will be the manager of a medium sized retail outlet.
    • Explanation: Use the future simple to discuss your plans for the future. This tense is only used when the interviewer asks you what you plan to do in the future.

    There are a number of other tenses that you can use to speak about experience that you have had. However, if you do not feel comfortable using more advanced tenses, these tenses should serve you well in the interview.

    The Most Important Parts of a Job Interview

    • Work Experience: Work experience is by far the most important part of any job interview in an English speaking country. It is true that education is also important, however, most employers are more impressed by extensive work experience than by university degrees. Employers want to know exactly what you did and how well you accomplished your tasks. This is the part of the interview during which you can make the best impression. It's important to give full, detailed answers. Be confident, and emphasize your accomplishments in past positions.
    • Qualifications: Qualifications include any education from high school through university, as well as any special training you may have had (such as computer courses). Make sure to mention your English studies. This is very important as English is not your first language and the employer may be concerned about this fact. Assure the employer that you are continuing to improve your English skills by any courses you may be taking, or by saying that you study a certain number of hours a week to improve your skills.
    • Talking about Responsibilities: Most importantly, you will need to demonstrate your qualifications and skills which are directly applicable to the job you are applying for. If past job skills were not exactly the same as what you will need on the new job, make sure to detail how they are similar to job skills you will need for the new position.

      Finding a Job For ESL Learners