An ESP Story About Interview Training

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

In the fall of 2013, an undergraduate student at my university in Japan approached me and asked me to coach him for a job interview with the government. I am happy to report that the student was hired, and his first assignment will require him to live and work in a foreign country where English is spoken. From an ESP training perspective, what was done to prepare the student for the interview?

When I am in the position of training someone for an overseas assignment, I like to get that person involved in the research process. For example, I might ask the student to find answers to the following questions:

  • Tell me how many Japanese restaurants and supermarkets are near your office overseas.
  • What are seven fun things that you will be able to do in your free time?
  • Where will you live, exactly? Tell me the details.

These questions require the student to do research and begin to visualize positive experiences in the new environment.

I used a similar approach with the student preparing for the job interview. The first thing that I did was to ask the student to obtain more information about the English section of the interview. The student did some research outside of class and thereafter informed me that he would be asked to talk about himself. He would also be required to participate in a role play with the interviewer. The role play would reflect the types of activities he would be expected to do on the job in a foreign country. He was also able to tell me what those job-related activities might be.

Our training sessions focused on preparing the student to talk about himself and to perform well in the role play. I already had extensive experience conducting mock interviews with Japanese company employees seeking admission to top MBA programs primarily in the United States. Therefore, I was inclined to use the same approach with the undergraduate student. Specifically, I asked the student to bring a recording device to our training sessions. The student recorded with his mobile phone the mock interviews in which I acted as the interviewer. We also switched roles, and I modeled for the student how I would respond to the interviewer’s questions if I were the student himself.

During the time between our weekly sessions, the student listened to the recordings and worked hard to improve his personal performance. This involved identifying and memorizing important parts and details of his stories but not memorizing the stories themselves. I encouraged the student to develop a collection of stories to respond to behavioral questions and to tell those stories using the following organizational patterns, which are basically the same:

  • S.T.A.R. (Situation/Task or Problem/Action/Result)
  • C.A.R. (Challenge/Action/Result)
  • P.A.R. (Problem/Action/Result)

In this way, he learned to promote himself effectively and to be flexible when responding to questions.

Preparing for the role plays involved strategic thinking and analysis of the various situations. We spent time practicing several situations where negotiating was involved. In this regard, it helped to remind the student to focus on what he wanted to achieve (i.e., the objectives) through the negotiations. I also advised him to be creative in obtaining the objectives to the extent that his role in the government, cultural constraints, and good behavior allowed. (In some ways, these role plays reminded me of leaders striving to get buy in for their visions from stakeholders.)

Fortunately, the student was a tough negotiator, and he had the skills and attitude that would make him a good choice for the expatriate position with the government. So, I was pleased that the government recognized his potential and offered him the position. The student was pleased as well!

Good luck preparing your students for success! The success stories of your students are also your success stories!

All the best,

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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One Response to An ESP Story About Interview Training

  1. ssahr Sarah Sahr says:

    Hi Kevin, it’s always great to read what you are up to! See you in Portland.

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