The interview is the finish line for any job-hunt, the ‘make or break’ chance to impress an employer. “In today’s competitive graduate job market,” says Marc Fels, director at video recruitment specialists meettherealme.com and overall interview guru, “employers are increasingly ruthless. It is not enough to rely on a degree or a couple of weeks work experience to impress the hirers and firers: if a candidate fails to perform at the interview stage, they won’t be called back, no matter how perfect they might seem on paper”.
It’s nerve-racking enough having to promote yourself one-on-one with your prospective employer, but studies have shown that for ethnic minorities, the interview stage is not a level playing field. Celia Roberts is a senior research fellow at the Department of Education & Professional Studies at King’s College London; she is concerned that minorities are not getting a fair deal, “our research found that, surprisingly, current practice to make job interviews fairer unwittingly disadvantaged foreign-born ethnic minorities”.
Regardless of their experience and job skills, it’s disheartening to know that those from minority backgrounds, especially those for whom English is not their first language, are at a disadvantage compared to ‘native’ English speakers. Roberts’ research at King’s College has shown that it is predominantly first generation ethnic minorities that fare less well at the interview stage because they are, in Roberts’ words, victim to a ‘linguistic penalty’. This disadvantage occurs less from a lack of fluency in English but more from candidate’s being unaware of the need “to talk in institutionally credible ways and from a mismatch of implicit cultural expectations, evidenced by mutual misunderstandings, protracted attempts to resolve them and Don’t let inter vie w chat get you down. We brush up on the language of success The Interview: talking the talk ‘ Remember, an interview is not a test but a chance to show what sets you apart from the competition ‘ negative judgments by interviewers”.
The language used in the interview process can often confound the most confident of English speakers, let alone those who speak it as a second language. “Job interview English is different from the day-to-day communications you need, for example, for a manual job in a factory or doing delivery work” explains Roberts.
For this reason, Roberts thinks employers should look at different methods of recruitment for certain jobs. “Organisations need to consider alternative methods to interviewing, which test job skills more directly, such as work experience – especially for entry-level jobs”.
Marc Fels, however, thinks that ethic minority graduates can help change their own luck in the interview. Being fluent in a second language can obviously be beneficial to your job prospects, as Fels explains. “The first step is to recognise the areas that distinguish you from the rest of the interviewees and then learn how to express them in the interview. For example, if you are fluent in a second language, stress how being bilingual improves your communication skills.”
He says that it’s important to play on these differences as strengths and challenge any preconceptions the interviewer may have on what is required in terms of qualifications or experience, “Remember, an interview is not a test but a chance to show what sets you apart from the competition, and how these strengths can be transferred to a working environment”.