I moved to the U.S. four years ago. Since then, I studied English and then I completed my master’s degree in January 2008.
During these four years, I worked in a gift store for one year, then in a shoe store for a bit longer than a year. After I started my master’s I did not work for one year because I had to complete my two semesters in order to work for a company because of my student visa status. Then I started to work as an intern in a financial company for 4 months during the fall session. After that I did not work. Instead I went home to my country and got married in summer. Now I’m done with my school and looking for a job. I have work authorization until January 2009.
I have been interviewing with staffing agencies mostly. I had an interview last week, but I got very nervous so I could not speak really well. The interviewer said communication is going to be a problem and she was right. I found out I got rejected. During the interview she mentioned the communication issue in the middle of the interview and it only made me more nervous! My thoughts were going faster than my words.
Today I had an phone interview which I think it went well, but the interviewer told me he will contact the agency about the decision. I feel really frustrated about this process. Could you give me any advice how to communicate more effectively during the interview?
Also…people usually ask why I have not been with the company that I had internship. Reality is the internship was for 4 months and then I wanted to concentrate more on my school. But sometimes I feel it is not the right answer for people. What should I do with this kind of situation?
I would appreciate any interview tips you can give me.
My heart goes out to you. My parents came here from Poland (by way of Italy) in 1949. English is not an easy language to learn and I think you have done very well. I remember how nervous my parents always felt when they had to speak in a formal situation. It’s not easy. I’ve studied 3 other languages and can barely say hello in any one of them! Interviewing is stressful for anyone, but when it isn’t your first language…well, I can only imagine.
That said…my advice to you is what I would give anyone who gets nervous while interviewing. There is a joke where a tourist in New York City asks a native New Yorker “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer? “Practice practice practice!” And that’s what I suggest for you too.
You can’t change the fact that you still have some language difficulties. But if you know that your work skills are good and that you learn quickly, those are the things for you to emphasize – to yourself most of all!
Some places just aren’t as open as others to people whose English isn’t really good. But that’s ok. You only need one job. So your mental goal is to find a place open enough to recognize how good a worker you would be – and more importantly, how pleasant you would be to work with. That’s very important here.
So for you to get comfortable enough to show them who you really are, you need to practice interviewing. Ask your friends or family to help. Your school should also have good resources for these purposes. Don’t be shy. Call them and ask for help. Keep practicing until you can relax a little. Even use a tape recorder and play both parts (interviewer and interviewee) yourself. Also record yourself being interviewed by a friend. It helps! Don’t worry…you’ll get better.
And about that internship…it really is a shame that you let that connection go cold. Here, the best way to get jobs is what we call networking. From now on, stay in touch with people from every job you have and always leave a good impression. If there is anyone at that former internship you can contact, please do that right away. Tell them you are looking for a full-time job and was wondering if they know of anything or could at least give you some advice.
If they would be willing to meet with you, even better. This is true for former instructors or friends who work in an industry you like too. The more you make an effort to get people to meet with you and offer you advice, the more likely a real job will eventually show up. And meanwhile, you get to practice just talking about yourself.
This gives you a chance to practice interviewing some more even if there is no real job for you there at this moment. It will help you start to think of an interview as nothing more than a meeting between two or more people…just talking. The more you practice such meetings, the better you will do in a real interview.
As for your statement “My thoughts were going faster than my words.” Slow down! It’s ok to take a moment and pause before answering. Let them know you are a little nervous. It’s all right. It’s just being real. (Doing some yoga breathing exercises before the interview starts might help. Breathe in counting slowly to 8 and out slowly to 8. Gently. Again and again. Smile to yourself. It will be ok. You are someone they will like if they can get a chance to know the real you.)
And when they ask about the internship, what you are saying is ok. It was important to concentrate on school. Just let them know you did a good job (I hope) and mention something you especially enjoyed about it. Tell a story if you have one about some problem you solved or something you handled well. Basically, they just want to know what kind of an employee you’ll be for them and what kind of attitude you bring to the job.
To help you get a little more comfortable with the whole process, please also read these previous Work Coach posts that might be of help:
Good luck, EB! Please let us know when you get a job.
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, Career Nook and on Google+.