Once I was being interviewed by an interviewer with a very thick accent. I often had to ask him to repeat himself slowly three or four times, and often still couldn't tell what he was saying. I don't think either of us had much fun.

What's the least bad way to handle such a situation?

(I have mild hearing loss in one ear, it is generally is no problem, but it does make already difficult to understand people extra hard for me to understand)

  • 4
    I would have told him I had some hearing loss, so that at least he would not feel insulted that you can't understand him.
    – HLGEM
    Sep 21 '16 at 15:40
  • 2
    I actually have hearing loss too but I admittedly use it in precisely this situation as @HLGEM suggests. I take it on myself "I'm really sorry but I have a little bit of hearing loss that makes it hard to understand some things. I hate to ask you to repeat yourself again..."
    – Chris E
    Sep 21 '16 at 15:53

If the job requires frequent interactions with this person, the interview is uncovering a major obstacle.

I would admit that I'm having trouble / can't understand the person because of the accent, and suggest that things are done in writing or through another person acting as a mouthpiece. Always say things like this with a smile and genuinely appreciate the absurdity of the situation. You can try to parrot back, but if this is completely broken down, it's not impolite to suggest the interview end. It's not likely that you'll rise to the top of the candidate list in either case.


In your particular situation mentioning the hearing loss is important as are concentrating the strategies you normally take on a day to day basis (watching his lips, angling your good ear towards him).

Beyond this you if you have any idea what he might be saying, paraphrase the question back to him as an opening to your answer. If you caught some of the question but not enough to understand it, let him know the part that you understood and the part that needs clarification. If you didn't understand any of the question you just have to ask for repetition until you get enough to work with.

If the communication breakdown is so bad that it's grinding the interview to a halt, you could ask him to write his questions as he asks them however this should be a last resort as it (unfairly maybe) reflects on your communication skills.

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