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I've recently received the task to coordinate and perform a job interview for an internship position at our company. I've no experience at all at this, so please excuse my (maybe stupid) question.

So far, the whole application process of the candidate has been in German (native tongue), but for the interview I will be supported by a colleague who does not speak German. Therefore, I will conduct the interview in English.

Should I inform the candidate about this or is this something a candidate has to expect when applying to an international company? English skills are a requirement and clearly stated in the job description.

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    Can you give an example of why you would not tell them this? You can't just flip languages on a candidate without warning when they show up for a face-to-face interview!! – Lightness Races with Monica May 22 '18 at 9:26
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit > This depends which country you're working in and the usage there. I'm in Belgium myself and it is quite common to have interviews in English even though job postings are in French and Dutch. It is also quite common for a recruiter to switch languages in the middle of the interview to see how easy you are with both country languages. I've also had interviews where one of the interviewers spoke French and the other Dutch. – Laurent S. May 22 '18 at 11:29
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    Was spoken English proficiency specified as a requirement for the job? – Patricia Shanahan May 22 '18 at 13:22
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I would say: Yes

No one is going to learn enough proficient English to trick you in a few days, so there is no particular advantage on hiding it. On the other side, candidates could cancel the interview by themselves (if they lack this ability and don't feel prepared), saving you some time.

In addition, hiding it may make the candidate nervous when the interview arrives, which is something I try to avoid.

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    "No one is going to learn enough proficient English to trick you in a few days" And if they can, it's not a trick! – pmf May 22 '18 at 6:52
  • You are right. And it denotes they are really fast learners! – Ripstein May 22 '18 at 7:04
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    The nervous-ness point is a very important one. You really should do everything in your power to try and prevent people from making a bad impression just because they're nervous, and suddenly hearing "hey, we're doing this in another language" will do just that. – Erik May 22 '18 at 7:31
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    I would add to that that there is no need to hide anything here. Tell the candidate straight out that the interview will be in English because there is an international team member present, and that it's very likely they will need to speak English at the workplace often or most of the time anyway. If this is a young tech company, possibly in Berlin, Hamburg or Munich, they will expect that. If it's a smaller company they will be happy you told them. – simbabque May 22 '18 at 8:40
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    @pmf - in fact if someone could learn proficient enough English in a few days time to successfully pass an interview, they should probably be hired for that ability regardless! – Joe Smentz May 22 '18 at 22:33
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Speaking a foreign language takes practice. Even speaking your native language takes practice - if you don't use your native language for a long time, you can't just switch it on, it takes a while until it all comes back to you and you can speak fluently.

So you should really inform the candidate beforehand, otherwise what you hear in the interview may give a completely wrong impression of their abilities.

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    +1 and I concur. I spoke French fluently every day in middle and high school but my last conversation that lasted longer than 5 minutes was years ago. I would certainly appreciate a warning to schedule an afternoon with another French speaker which is, in my experience, enough to reacquire most of that fluency. – David Foerster May 22 '18 at 21:19
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    Agreed. It kinda echoes @DavidFoerster 's comment, but refers to my native language. While English is my native language, I rarely verbally speak it, so I am terrible at it for the first 5-10 minutes or so when I need to do so suddenly. Just speaking with a friend or family member for an hour or so in English beforehand would be enough to get me to be able to speak normally. – さりげない告白 May 23 '18 at 0:36
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    I would even add that it should have been part of the job ad that interviews might be conducted in english. – Bent May 23 '18 at 16:09
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I can tell you how other German companies do that.

Most of them don't notify candidates that interviews or some parts of them will be in English. Even when I asked several times, I was given answers like "We don't know yet", "It depends on the interviewers so be prepared for both" and similar. These were all big, well-known companies.

I don't think I've been ever told my interview will be in a specific language. They don't normally let you know if they want to test other languages you listed in your CV either.

However, you might want to tell candidates the interview will be in English for several reasons:

  1. Some candidates like to know what to expect.
  2. If you don't list fluent English as a requirement, you want to have the candidate prepared, so that they are not surprised.
  3. It shows some respect towards candidates to provide them with info on the process.
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    "We don't know yet" is still better than just having the candidate assume it is german when it then isn't. – Paŭlo Ebermann May 22 '18 at 21:33
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    +1 for showing respect. Also, application process is usually stressful enough by itself, explaining it makes it a much better experience for the applicant. – Frax May 23 '18 at 22:19
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I want to add a perspective that was not mentioned in the other answers: A job interview is not a one-way road.

Depending on your line of buisness the interviewee may have already other offers they could take and are just searching for the best fit. If a sudden change to another language is not something that is to be expected and needed for the job, you may loose a valuable worker to another company just because they didn't like the surprise or are intimidated.

The first impression of your company is as important as the first impression of the interviewee. So avoiding unecessary unpleasant surprises will work in your favour.

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There are 6 official international languages (the official languages of United Nations) and it's not reasonable to expect a candidate will be fluent in all 6 of them only because he/she applies to international company...

However, the relevant part is, that language X (it really doesn't matter, what X stays for) is in your 'must have' skills. Therefore, the candidate should expect, that the ability of speaking in this language will be tested.

However, informing the candidate makes sense. It's unlikely to give him/her any advantage, a few days is not enough to refresh language skills. But it avoids extra stress because of surprise effect, and in case the candidate has a bit overestimated his/her language skills, it might save both your and his/hers time...

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    Hmm, "working language of the United Nations" is not what I would use as a definition of "international language". – Paŭlo Ebermann May 22 '18 at 21:36
  • @PaŭloEbermann do you have any other idea what an international language could be, or you simply don't believe in the concept of 'international' language? – user50700 May 23 '18 at 6:37
  • An international geopolitical language has nothing to do with an international business language. – PmanAce May 23 '18 at 15:16
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    The list of six contains Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. German isn't even on the list. What are you saying exactly? – Mast May 23 '18 at 15:34
  • "International language" is just a language used in international communications, which certainly applies to most of those 6 languages, but also to several others, more or less widely spread. (English is used in many parts of the world for this goal, the others are more localized, from my understanding). I personally like Esperanto as my international language, though this is not used in many companies (and certainly not big ones, as far as I know). – Paŭlo Ebermann May 25 '18 at 19:15
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I would say it depends on the field. No harm done in warning a candidate or asking if he does not mind being interviewed in English.

However, it might also depends on the field. On Information Technology is pretty much expect you are proficient in English at least in an intermediate Level, and whilst nobody expects you to conduct long talks, people expect a minimum of proficiency.

Whist in some interviews I was warned beforehand it would be in English, in many countless others, I was just asked at the last minute if I would not mind switching languages.

I would also add to the discussion from personal experience, that how the candidate deals with that request at the last minute varies with maturity and command of the tongue.

Nevertheless, I also nowadays prefer a previous warning of several sorts of interviews, as not to waste time with processes that would not be a fit for me.

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Contrary to other answers, I would say "No, it is not necessary". From the job description, it should be clear that the job require certain level of a language proficiency. The person passing you the CVs should be capable enough to filter candidates on such trivial requirement.

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    A job interview isn’t an everyday job situation though, and I, for one, would definitely feel ambushed. – Konrad Rudolph May 22 '18 at 11:39
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    There is a big difference between "The interview will be held in X" and "Part of the interview will be held in X". The first check the candidate's overall profficiency in the language, the second may check the mandatory parts. Why should, for example, a material specialist be assessed on their ability to discuss their salary in english, when applying to a germany-based company? – Crowley May 22 '18 at 13:12
  • There's a huge difference between "Good english is a requirement" and being able to casually have a job interview in english. At a German company I would assume that I would have to communicate with english speakers via email, maybe a short phone conversation. I wouldn't be prepared to have an entire job interview in english. – xyious May 22 '18 at 14:39

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