Career and workplace advisor Ellen Gordon Reeves is the author of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? A Crash Course in Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job, featured in media including CNN, CBS, EXTRA, Fox, ABC, Forbes.com andNPR. She consults to the Baruch College Master of Financial Engineering Program in New York City, the Computational Finance and Risk Management Program at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the Master of Science in Financial Engineering Program at the Drucker School of Management in Claremont, CA.
Reeves is the creator of Extreme Professional Makeover: Boot Camp for Job-Hunters, and Do-It-Yourself Professional Development: Making Your Workplace Work For You.
Below is an excerpt from a comprehensive career advice guide Ellen wrote for the QuantNet International Guide to Financial Engineering Programs.
I am a non-native English speaker and worried about interviews, particularly phone interviews. Any tips?
Don’t Pretend You Understand If You Don’t
Everyone has an accent. It’s important never to pretend you understand what someone is saying if you don’t.
Be Direct with the Interviewer
At the beginning of the interview, say, “As you can probably tell from my accent, I’m not a native English speaker, and I can function perfectly well in English, but I hope you won’t mind if I ask you to speak slowly or to repeat things.” This is especially important for phone and video or Skype interviews.
Improving Your Accent: Listen to NPR
If you are interested in working on your language skills and accent—and this goes for native speakers, too—listen to National Public Radio (NPR) hosts (not the guests!), most of whom speak clear and standard English.
Tackle One Language Issue at a Time
Don’t try to tackle everything at once; choose one issue to work on, for example the “th” sound in “the.” Practice saying words with “th.” Exaggerate the sound by:
Making sure your tongue licks the bottom of your top teeth
Placing your forefinger in front of your mouth
Making sure your tongue touches your finger as you make the “th” sound.