Passing a job interview in a language that’s not your mother tongue is always a challenge – but however daunting it may seem, it can actually be done with flying colours.

To help you prepare for your first job interview in English, we’ve spoken to recruiters at some of Barcelona’s coolest tech startups and asked them to share what they look for when interviewing non-native English speakers. These companies have diverse international teams and use English every day as their official language in the office, so it’s super important to them that candidates prove their speaking skills.

Here’s their advice on how to make sure you ace the conversation that could mean a new job opportunity for you.


Relax and get into the flow

“The first thing to remember is to relax. As a native English speaker living in Spain, I appreciate that interviewing in a second language can be intimidating. Spend 30 minutes before the interview speaking in English, and remember, we are checking to see if you can communicate well with your potential new team, not perfection!” – Joe McAllister, Tech Recruiting Lead at N26

It’s time to call in a favour and ask a friend who speaks English to grab a coffee with you just before the interview. Having a light 30-minute chat will get you into the flow just enough so that you don’t have to deal with the stress of trying to recalibrate your brain when the interview starts. If you don’t have a friend who’s free to help you out, watching a movie or a couple of Youtube videos in English before the interview can also prove useful.


Practice understanding different accents

“At TravelPerk, we run our recruitment in English from start to finish. We have over 30 nationalities in the company, so the candidate will experience many English accents throughout the process. They’ll need to be able to understand and communicate effectively with everyone. My tip? Worry less about technical knowledge of English and more about being able to hold a conversation. When in doubt, just practice.” – Dani Martos, Recruiting Team Lead at TravelPerk.

Practice, practice, practice. Speak with as many people in English as you can. When you run out of friends and family members to practice with, try joining language exchange groups to encounter as many accents as possible. Detach yourself from your favourite Hollywood TV shows and venture into unknown territory by watching a series with British or Australian actors. Start listening to podcasts from all over the world and try understanding the most unusual accents.


Listen actively

“First of all, focus on listening actively. In case of doubts, ask or rephrase to make sure you understand really well what you are being asked. After that, keep it simple, especially if your level is not high, do not over-engineer it and make sure you use correct words and tenses. Less is more. In the end, validate that you were really understood.” – Albert Alabau, Chief People Officer at Typeform.

It’s important to remember that while it’s you being interviewed, you still get to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say “Pardon me, could you repeat that?” or “Would you mind rephrasing that question?” if you’re not sure whether you understood the question correctly. Similarly, if you’re not positive that your interviewers understood what you meant, ask them whether they’d like you to rephrase or explain your idea in a different way.


Review job-specific vocabulary

“Prepare for the interview by reviewing the vocabulary related to the field or the position you’re interviewing for. Try to express yourself well, use synonyms, give specific, detailed answers and try to be organised.” – Nora Sarroca Agustí, Senior Recruiter at an international outsourcing agency.

Just as you would prepare for a job interview in your native language, research what the company does, what industry they are in, who their competitors are, etc. As you’re doing your homework, you will come across a lot of terms and expressions used within the field that your employer-to-be operates in. Make sure you double-review these words and know what they refer to, so if you’re asked about them, you can give a structured and detailed answer.

How rigorously companies test English skills always depends on the role, but if you take our advice, you will be prepared for any challenge that may come your way. Good luck!

Learn how to write the perfect CV to land an interview at the company of your dreams!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Daunting (adj): seeming difficult to deal with; intimidating.

With flying colours (exp): the actual time during which a process or event occurs.

Recruiter (n): have a spoken conversation over the Internet using Skype.

Call in a favour (exp): intimidating.

Detach oneself (v): in a very early stage.

Venture into unknown territory (exp): in a very early stage.

Over-engineer (v): in a very early stage.


adj = adjective

n = noun

v = verb

exp = expression

Study English at Oxford House Barcelona

Interested in taking a Business English course at Oxford House Barcelona? Take a look at our Business course and contact us for more information.

Leave a Reply

Captcha *