1- If you say that you speak Spanish on your resume, cover letter, or other part of a job application, be ready to answer questions in Spanish during an interview.
2- Same goes for any other information that you have provided–it does not reflect well on you if you seem surprised by or unprepared for interview questions that come straight from your own application.
When it comes to answering job interview questions in Spanish, here are key tips:
1- Practice, polish and prepare. If it’s not your first language, you want to have a polished bit of error-free language prepared for any interview.
2- Don’t talk about your language studies or language skills. Instead, talk about your professional life in Spanish–you career goals and how Spanish fits into that or the specific position you’re interviewing for and how your language skills uniquely qualify you for that job.
In this video, you see the candidate handle all of this well: she immediately explains the importance of multilingualism and multiculturalism in the globalized workplace, then she moves to her field more generally.
Here are a few more links to mock interviews with candidates who I asked to show up unprepared so that we could make “before” and “after” videos that illustrate the contrast between being taken off guard by an interview question they were not expecting on the one hand and having spent a few minutes practicing and preparing a polished answer on the other:
1- In the interview clips here we see the classic first reaction when taken off guard: talking about your language studies instead of illustrating your language skills by talking about career topics. In the after answer, he goes straight to a workplace example and explains how he’s used his Spanish to help his employer’s bottom line by essentially saying, “I can help you earn money by serving your Spanish-speaking clients!”
2- This example shows the whole spectrum of reactions: first, she’s completely taken off guard and jumps right in with a hesitant, faltering answer. When I interrupt and ask her to speak Spanish, she comfortably switches languages, but falls into the common trap of telling about her studies. She eventually settles in and does a great job of showing that she does indeed speak Spanish, but as you can see from her chuckle at the end of the take, she’s well aware that winging it is not the way to go. After just a couple minutes of brainstorming and practicing, she has prepared a clear, concise example of how she has already used her Spanish in a professional context to serve both an employer and its clients. She ends by saying to the interviewee: “I could communicate with your Spanish-speaking clients as well!”
As all the examples here show, you don’t have to give long answers–they just have to be thought-through, specific, and delivered in a Spanish that corresponds to any claims you made on your resume.
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. To schedule a campus workshop or for help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org The mock interviews were conducted with University of Illinois Urbana Champaign students from Ann Abbott’s “Spanish and Entrepreneurship” course who worked with me on my social media presence as part of their course projects in spring 2014 and 2015.