1. Before the Interview
Preparing for a job interview is crucial, regardless of the language you’re speaking, but it becomes even more important when the interview is conducted in French. Stay confident and avoid hesitations such as “uhh” and “umm” by ensuring you’re ready to answer some of the questions that will be asked during the interview.
A. Research the Company You’re Interviewing With
The goal for any job candidate is to convince the company to hire them over others. Your first task is to make sure the recruiter understands that you are the best candidate for the position because of your international background, not despite it.
Research which aspects of your work history are most likely to catch the recruiter’s attention 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 provide a French certificate of equivalence for your foreign diploma: ENIC-NARIC. If this might be required, do your homework in advance so you can have the certificate on 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, these terms might not come up in everyday conversation. Prepare a cheat sheet with some industry-specific or business-related keywords you need to know in French and study them until they become second nature.
Just like in job interviews everywhere, the recruiter will want to make sure 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!
B. Prepare Your Answers to Common Questions
Certain questions are likely to come up during the interview. Make sure you have an answer prepared (in French, of course!). Review these French interview questions:
- Parlez-moi de vous. (Tell me about yourself.)
- Pourquoi pensez-vous que nous devrions vous embaucher ? (Why do you think we should 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 salary expectations?)
- 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, they cannot ask for details about specific health issues)
- Sexual orientation
- Trade union activism
- Political opinion
At the end of the interview, the recruiter will most likely ask if you have any questions for them. Here are some good French interview questions that will help demonstrate your interest in the position:
- 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 in this position will face?)
- Comment se passe la formation à la prise de poste ? (How is training conducted after starting the job?)
- Qui sera mon maître de stage/manager, et quelles sont ses responsabilités ? (Who will be my mentor/manager, and what are their 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 of addressing someone in a professional context by their first name, even if they have just met them, 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 (Hello, Mr./Mrs.)
- Merci Monsieur/Madame (Thank you, Mr./Mrs.)
- Au revoir Monsieur/Madame (Goodbye, Mr./Mrs.)
B. Appearances Are Everything
As with 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 transportation, 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
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 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
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 ?” (If my profile interests you, how long do you think it will be before you contact me for a second interview?) 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 review the notes 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 will be more detailed and technical during the second interview, so delve even deeper into your research on the company and what the job will require.
If you made any mistakes or were unsure of your French during the first interview, now is the time to brush up on your weak spots.
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!