Conversation Tips for Life (Nail that Next Job Interview!)

by Jobbatical October 24, 2017

Today’s post is brought to you by Hailey Sexton who runs the travel blog Mentor Travel.

You’ve finally gotten that dream interview which will allow you to move abroad. Before the interview has even taken place, you’re sucked away into day dreams of tropical islands, palm trees, and adventure. As you look outside the dreary office window, thoughts dancing, you think to yourself “I’m almost out of here!” Then reality wiggles into your mind, “I still need to get the job! What do I say in my interview?! Eek!!”

“What do I say in my interview?!” — Photo by: Africa Studio / Shutterstock.

Interviews are always nerve-wracking. Especially so when adding on the fact that interview is with people who are most likely from a different culture, geographical location, and have different customs, and whose first language isn’t English. Talk about adding on stress! (Just for reference I’m assuming that English is the interviewee’s first language and the interviewer’s second language. — author.)

We’ve got your back!

The keys to having a successful interview are the same skills that improve ability to connect with others and to have great conversations. You can use the below skills and tips everywhere not just for a job interview. Excellent communication during an interview is a slam dunk to get a job and to liven up any social event both at home and abroad. As you incorporate these behaviors into your life you’ll not only succeed in interviews but you’ll also create more friendships and connections in your life.

I’ve listed our 5 tips below for easy reference.

  • Speak Slowly and Clearly
  • Listen Carefully
  • Smile
  • Have Go-To Questions Ready
  • Make a Personal Connection

Speak slowly and clearly

This is such a crucial step when communicating with people whose first language might not be English. Often when people aren’t being understood they speak louder as they try to communicate. Being misunderstood makes us feel as if the other party can’t hear us, hence the raised volume. This tactic doesn’t work very well to improve a misunderstanding someone. In fact, it often does just the opposite and can make people feel attacked and stressed.

Accents can be hard to understand — stay calm and use our tips & tricks! Photo by: ASDF_MEDIA / Shutterstock.

If this happens to you, remember to stay calm and work through each of these steps to improve any miscommunication. These can be used during a job interview or in your day to day life. Let’s face it, accents can be hard to understand, no matter where in the world you are.

1.When having trouble being understood, repeat yourself slowly to see if they understand. Make sure to really enunciate each word.

2. If step one fails to improve understanding, think to yourself, “Which words in my sentence or story might be difficult for a non-native speaker to understand?”

3. Then try to replace that potential trouble word with a simpler word. I find it helpful to think back to basic words that are typically taught during the first two years of learning a language. This process helps me choose an alternative word. For example, if you are using the word ‘receive’, try substituting it with the word ‘get’.

4. If none of the above works, try to think of an example to illustrate your point.

5. If none of these steps work, it’s time to get resourceful. If their reading ability is better than their listening, try sending them your thought in a chat message.

6. Consider if the point you are trying to convey is important enough to continue pursuing. It might be time to move on to a different topic or choose an alternative answer.

Listen carefully

I know how hard it can be to listen carefully. I have fallen victim to not listening more times than I can count. Sometimes it can be really hard to realize you aren’t listening — your brain might insert what you expect to hear into your memory rather than what was actually said. To be the best possible listener, stay present. Focus on what the speaker is saying. This is vital when getting a job abroad.

Focus on what the speaker is saying. This is vital when getting a job abroad. Photo by: Tirachard Kumtanom / Shutterstock.

For instance, your interviewer might tell you that while you are working at their company you will receive no paid time off. But if you weren’t listening very well, you might hear paid time off is allowed. This might happen either because:

A) it was what you were expecting to hear or,

B) it was what you wanted to hear. To stay focused, try not to think about your response until after the speaker has finished speaking. Then pause, collect your thoughts, and respond. A little bit of silence in a conversation is okay!

While you are listening keenly, make sure to use body language to demonstrate that you are paying attention — nodding your head, smiling, making regular eye contact (depending on the culture). It’s a great idea to research the culture or country you’ll be interacting with.

Smile 🙂

I can’t emphasize this enough. Make sure to smile! I recently had a job interview for an online teaching position, and I thought I’d smiled a lot. But the feedback from the interview said that I didn’t smile very much. Sometimes it can be hard to gauge how much you are actually smiling. To figure it out, try video recording yourself speaking or ask your friends and family how much you smile. Keep your smile on!

Smiling is always a winning strategy. Photo by: StockLite / Shutterstock.

Have go-to questions ready

It’s always awkward in an interview when it has been going great and then the interviewer asks, “So, what questions do you have about the position?” The interview pauses into a long silence as you desperately try to think up a question. Prevent this from happening next time by being prepared! Have some questions ready to go. Some of my favorites to ask are:

  • What is their favorite part about working for the company?
  • What do they think will be the most difficult/best part of the job?
  • What is the culture like in the company?
  • What are the next steps after the interview?
  • What are the most important qualities to succeed in this role?

It can be difficult to feel confident in conversation with new people, especially at networking or social events when it seems a bit out of your depth. It’s important to realize that most people feel uncomfortable at these events so a little bit of confidence and positivity will draw people to you like a magnet. It always helps to feel more confident when you have a ready arsenal of thought provoking questions ready to be asked in case conversation starts to slow. Here are some of my favorites to ask:

  • What did you do on your last vacation?
  • What was the last funny video you saw?
  • What do you do to get rid of stress?
  • What is something you are obsessed with?
  • Who is your oldest friend? Where did you meet them?

Make a personal connection

Before you walk into any event like an interview, set a goal for yourself. What do you want to be remembered for? What is your goal for this event? Once these objectives are clear, it will be easier to maintain conversation, meet new people, and leave the event knowing your time is well spent. For instance, at an interview if you decided that you want to be remembered as a detail-oriented, efficient worker any question you are asked you’ll be able to tie back to that idea. This will help you stay focused and have an organized answer. Most importantly it will help you to stand out in your interview and in other social situations.

As Jordan Harbinger, the host of the Art of Charm, said in his podcast, “People want to help you out, but they can only help you if you have clearly stated your goals.”

People want to help you out, but they can only help you if you have clearly stated your goals. Photo by: Cookie Studio / Shutterstock.

Another awesome technique that will greatly improve your confidence is being on the lookout for anything that you have in common. Focusing on commonalities isn’t just something that will help you in an interview. It’s an excellent tool to use to create friendships and bonds with people that you meet anywhere in the world. Often people feel overwhelmed when meeting new people because they focus on all of their differences. Finding commonalities tricks your brain into viewing everyone as part of “your tribe” and reduces social anxiety.


There you have it — our tips for successfully navigating conversations, interviews, networking events, and parties. If you remember these tips:

  • Speak Slowly and Clearly
  • Listen Carefully
  • Smile
  • Have Go-To Questions Ready
  • Make a Personal Connection

You will be on your way to successful and comfortable conversations in no time. Learning these skills takes time, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Focus on each tip for a month at a time while you learn these skills. Eventually you will become a conversational superstar!

Now that you’ve nailed your conversational skills, why don’t you take a look at the job opportunities Jobbatical has to offer — be it in Malaysia or Sweden.

Hailey Sexton runs the travel blog Mentor Travel. She offers travel planning services, house finding services, and travel mentoring. Hailey and her coauthor Jess write about their adventures as they travel the world in their entertaining blog.

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