How to Ace a Job Interview in French | Talk in French
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How to Ace a Job Interview in French

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No matter how many you have gone through before, a job interview is always intimidating. It is even more so when you must conduct that interview in a language different than your mother tongue---like a job interview in French, for instance.

Have no fear! These tips will help you get ready for your meeting and put all the chances on your side so that you can ace your entretien d’embauche in French!

1. Before your interview

Preparing a job interview is crucial no matter what language you are speaking, but it is even more critical if you are conducting the interview en français. Stay confident and avoid unbefitting “euuuh” and “mmmmh” by making sure you are ready to answer some of the questions that will be asked during the interview.

A. Research the company you will be interviewing with

The goal for any candidate to a job is that the company should hire him or her rather than someone else. Your first job is to make sure that the recruiter knows you are the best contender to the post because of your international background rather than despite it.

Research which aspects of your work history are the most likely to grab the attention of the recruiter and how they would benefit the company. Ensure that you know the French equivalent for your diplomas and professional experience.

Note that there is only one institution that can deliver a French certificate of equivalence to your foreign diploma: the ENIC-NARIC so if it is something that might come up, do your homework ahead of time so you can have the certificate in hand on the day of the interview.

If you are a European citizen, websites like Europass can help you present your work skills and competencies.  

Each industry has its specific vocabulary. Even if your French is very fluent, it is not necessarily terms that come up into everyday conversation. Prepare yourself a cheat sheet with some keywords you need to know in French and study until they become second nature, whether they are industry-specific or business-related.

As for job interviews everywhere, the recruiter will want to make sure that you are familiar with the company. Memorize some key numbers and statistics that might come up during the interview. Any data related to your home country is a plus!

Some vocabulary articles that might help:

French Terms Related to Business and Employment

A Handy List of Essential Marketing Words in French

French Vocabulary: Office and Computing

B. Prepare your answer to some of the most common questions.

Some questions are bound to come up during the interview. Make sure you have an answer prepared for it (in French, bien sûr!)

Parlez-moi de vous.

Tell me about yourself.

Pourquoi pensez-vous que nous devrions vous embaucher ?

Why do you think should we hire you?

Pourquoi voulez-vous travailler dans notre entreprise ?

Why do you want to work for our company?

 Où vous voyez-vous dans cinq ans ?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Quelles sont vos prétentions salariales ?

What are your expectations in terms of salary?

Pourquoi voulez-vous quitter votre travail actuel ?

Why do you want to leave your current job?

Avez-vous des questions?

Do you have any questions?

Some subjects during a job interview in France are considered illegal. If asked, you do not have to answer them. Illegal topics include eight categories:

  • Family situation (if you are married, have children, are planning to have children, etc.)
  • Health (although the recruiter can ask for a certificate of good health, he or she cannot ask details about specific health issue)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Trade union activism
  • Political opinion
  • Justice
  • Origins

At the end of the interview, the recruiter will most likely ask you if you have any questions for him or her. Here are some good ones that will help demonstrate your interest in the post:

Quand puis-je commencer ?

When can I start ?

Comment se déroule une journée type ?

What does a typical day look like?

Quel est le plus gros challenge auquel la personne à ce poste sera confrontée ?

What is the biggest challenge the person hired will have to face?

Comment se passe la formation à la prise de poste ?

How would I be trained after starting the job?

Qui sera mon maître de stage/manager, et quelles sont ses responsabilités ?

Who will be my manager, and what are his/her responsibilities?

2. On the day of the interview

Job interviews in French tend to be more formal than what you might be used to, especially if you come from an Anglophone country. They tend to be straight to the point, focused on the job being discussed, without any chit-chat from the get-go.

A. How to address the recruiter

Although many Anglophones think nothing about addressing someone in a professional context by their first name, even if they have just met him or her, it is not the case in France. Unless invited to do otherwise, always address your recruiter as Monsieur or Madame.

To respect the rules of politeness, always use “Monsieur” or “Madame” when greeting or thanking your discussion partner:
  • Bonjour Monsieur/Madame
  • Merci Monsieur/Madame
  • Au revoir Monsieur/Madame

B. Appearances are everything

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

As for job interviews everywhere, make sure that you are appropriately dressed: neutral colors like grey, navy and black are usually a good bet. Wear clean dress shoes (not sneakers) and a sports coat or blazer can give a more formal tone to your outfit.

C. Be punctual

It is a good idea to plan on arriving 20 minutes or so before the scheduled appointment. If you are planning on using public transportations, check an alternative route in case you run into any issues. And if you are in France, it never hurts to see if a strike is scheduled on that day!

D. What to bring

Image by Tobias Herrmann from Pixabay


Some things to bring with you to the interview include:

  • A copy of your Curriculum Vitae (or CV, aka your resume), even if you have already sent it to the company with your lettre de motivation (cover letter)
  • A copy of the job posting so you can refer to it
  • Paper and a pen to take notes
  • Your portfolio (if you have one)
  • A copy of your diplomas, relevant achievements or work certificate

Quick note

Please note that the French term résumé means "summary" and it is not used in the same way as English speakers do. The French refer to it as un C.V. (curriculum vitae)

3. After the interview

Once the interview is over, the hardest part is behind you. However, you are not done until you have an offer in hand.

A. Follow up with the recruiter.

It is always a good idea to follow your interview with an email to thank your recruiter within 48 hours. Keep it short, but don’t forget to include some key elements:

  • Thank the recruiter
  • Reiterate your interest in the position
  • Personalize it by reminding them of your qualities or essential points that you discussed during the interview

At the end of the job interview, don’t forget to ask the recruiter how long you should wait to hear back from them: “Si mon profil vous intéresse, d'ici combien de temps pensez-vous me recontacter pour un second entretien?” and if you should get back in touch by email or phone.

B. Prepare for a second interview

Congratulations, you got a second interview! It is time to get out those notes that you took during the first one and reinforce the idea that you are the best candidate for the job.

Expect new recruiters to sit in: it is usually a person you will be working with directly, but don’t be surprised if you must repeat some of the things you discussed during the first interview.

Assume that the questions you will be more detailed and technical, so dive in deeper in your research on the company and what the job will require.

If you made any mistakes or were unsure of your French, now is the time to brush up on your weak spots.

See also:

French Business Etiquette: A Guide to Business Culture in France

French Business Vocabulary

Conclusion

Good luck on your job interview in French! If you have gone through the process before, what are the things that surprised you the most and what would be your advice to a new candidate?  Share it with us in the comments section!

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About the Author Alix Barnaud

Alix grew up in the Southwest of France and studied in Paris. She now lives in the United States where she is an active member of the francophone community and never misses an occasion to share her culture.