‘I have poor English, and it’s preventing me from getting interviews. What can I do?’

Posted August 2, 2013, by Jo Messer

‘I have a high education and marks but poor English, which mean I don't get interviews. What can I do, please help.’ 

Ming, 26, engineering graduate 

This is a very common problem for international students and migrants trying to get a job. But there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you’re preparing your resume and cover letter correctly – see my previous column on what to do when you’re not getting any interviews.

You can’t assume the style of resume you used previously is suitable for the Australian marketplace. There are some basic rules of thumb you need to follow:

  • Use Australian spelling, not American – for example, ‘organise’, not ‘organize’
  • Do not include personal details such as marital status, date of birth, number of children, religious affiliation or nationality
  • Do not include a photo
  • Your resume should be approximately two to three pages in length, professionally formatted and clearly structured

If you feel your English is far from perfect, it’s essential that you have your resume proofread and edited by a professional, or someone who writes and edits extremely well. No matter how impressive your credentials, if you have a poorly written resume you’ll never be given a chance.

You also need to think ahead to what you will do if and when you get to the interview stage – that means you have to practise communicating in English as much as you can. Do things like read the newspaper and industry publications and listen to talk-back radio, and use every opportunity to speak in English – this will increase your confidence and fluency. It’s also important to prepare for and practise answering interview questions so you can speak readily when the time comes.

Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.

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Jo Messer

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