How to be the best at your interview in French

How to be the best at your interview in French

by Louise

Updated May 10, 2022

A job interview is always a bit stressful, no matter how many you’ve done. But it can be even more stressful if it’s a job interview in French — which might not be your first language. There are some particularities for an interview in French. Whether it’s using the right pronoun (you know it’s vous, right?), not blabbering about your last holidays or being able to answer a particular question. You also need to be familiar with the vocabulary used in a business conversation.

Take a deep breath, we are here to walk you through it!

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Le savoir-être – soft skills

Dressing smart

It goes without saying that a job interview is not the place to wear your favourite unicorn onesie, even if it is the most cozy outfit ever. Dress professionally and comfortably. We don’t want you to arrive at your interview limping because you wore brand new shoes. Dressing smart does not mean dressing in a boring way. Let your personality shine so the interviewer knows which kind of person (and future employee) they’re talking to.

Using vous

While the difference between formal and informal language might not be too important in other languages, it really is in French. You must use vous when addressing your interviewer during your interview. Do the same for any person you meet before or after the interview; they might be your future colleagues!

Thanking your interviewer

Before asking or answering any question, make sure you thank your interview partner for meeting with you.

The person interviewing you could be a recruiter from an agency or someone working where you are applying.

  • Merci de prendre le temps de me rencontrer aujourd’hui. (Thank you for taking the time to meet me today.)
  • Je suis ravi.e de vous rencontrer, je vous remercie de cette opportunité. (I’m very glad to meet you, thank you for this opportunity.)
  • Je vous remercie de me recevoir. (Thank you for having me.)

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Most commonly asked questions at a job interview

The questions listed below are commonly asked questions (and answers) for job interviews in French . You should prepare an answer for each of those and practice saying it out loud, so they seem natural. Practicing out loud will also help you become familiar with French job interview vocabulary. Don’t be afraid someone will catch you talking to yourself, we’ve all been there!
While in other countries, it’s common to make some small talk before starting the interview, in France the interviewer will most likely d jump right into questions.

The first one is usually:

  • Parlez-moi de votre parcours. (Tell me about your experience)

The person interviewing you will have read your CV so they roughly know what you’ve done in your career but it’s up to you to show them that your parcours (trajectory) is coherent. Outline your professional experience and let them know what you are looking for.

  • J’ai complété une licence d’histoire de l’art puis un master. J’ai travaillé 4 ans dans une maison de ventes aux Etats-Unis. Là-bas, j’ai suivi plusieurs formations reconnues et je me suis spécialisée dans les objets du 17ème siècle. Je cherche maintenant un poste dans lequel je pourrais évoluer et devenir responsable d’équipe.
    = I’ve completed a BA in Art History then a Master’s degree. I’ve worked 4 years in an auction house in the United States. Over there, I followed multiple renown training and specialised in 17th Century artifacts. I’m now looking for a job where I will be able to move forward and become a team manager.
  • Pourquoi avez-vous quitté votre dernier emploi ? (Why did you leave your last job?)
  • Pourquoi voulez-vous quitter votre emploi actuel ? (Why do you want to leave your current job?)

This could be a tricky question, especially if you have been fired from your last job. Be tactful and make sure your answer is focused on you and what you can do and not why your last job was so bad.

  • Ça a été une décision difficile car j’aimais beaucoup ce que je faisais mais malheureusement, mon entreprise ne m’offrait pas les perspectives que j’aurais voulues. 
    = It has been a difficult decision because I loved what I was doing but, unfortunately, my company was not offering the prospects I would have wanted.

Je suis une personne ambitieuse et je veux accomplir de nouvelles choses. Le poste que vous proposez me permettrait de relever de multiples défis et j’ai l’énergie et la motivation pour les relever.

I am an ambitious person and I want to accomplish new things. The job you are offering would allow me to take on multiple challenges and I have the energy and motivation to rise to the challenge.

  • Pouvez-vous me définir ce que vous avez compris du poste ? (Could you define what you have understood of what’s expected for the job?)

There is no need here to recite the job description. However, make sure to take notes of everything that seems particularly important in it. To structure your answer, list the 3 essential elements in a job description: the title of the function, how it’s related to the other departments of the company and the missions you will have to fulfill.

  • Comment travaillez-vous en équipe ? (How do you work in a team?)

If you are a manager, explain how you delegate tasks, motivate your colleagues and lead meetings. If you are not, explain how you participate in a team project. Do you work alone? Do you try to help others? Do you prefer working in a pair? Etc. Give specific examples.

  • Dans mon précédent emploi, travailler en équipe était indispensable. J’aime l’idée de s’entraider entre collaborateurs, de rendre notre travail plus facile et d’échanger. Dans d’autres aspects de mon travail, je travaillais de manière plus indépendante avec des points d’échanges à des moments donnés. Je suis ouverte aux critiques sur mon travail qui permettent de me perfectionner et d’avancer dans mes responsabilités.
    = In my previous job, working in a team was vital. I like the idea of working together, making our work easier and sharing with my colleagues. In other aspects of my job, I like to work more independently with some sharing points along the way. I’m open to feedback as they allow me to perfect my work and move forward with my tasks.

After the interview

The interviewer has finished asking questions? You think the interview is over? Think again!
If you are wondering about something that’s been said or that you have seen while reading up, it’s time for you to ask about it. And I mean about the job and what it entails, not when the next metro is. This will show the interviewer that you are prepared and that you are attentive. Once the conversation is over, thank the interviewer again and let them know that they can contact you should they have any questions.

Je reste à votre disposition pour toute autre information nécessaire.  (I remain at your full disposal for any further information you may need.)

Leave them with a Bonne journée ! (Have a nice day!)

Sending an email after the interview is a nice touch and will keep you in the interviewer’s mind. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated.

Je vous remercie d’avoir pris le temps de me rencontrer hier.
Je suis très intéressé par la position de *** (insert job title) et reste à votre disposition pour des informations complémentaires.

= Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday.
I am very interested in the *** (insert job title) position and am here should you need any other information.
Best regards, 

To sum up your French interview

One of the main things to remember is that you need to be prepared! It is true for all interviews but maybe even more for a job interview in French if it’s not your native language. Make sure you are familiar with French terms used in the job description, so you are not caught off guard if the interviewer mentions them to you. Why not print out the job description and highlight the main tasks and the vocabulary that is repeated? Also, remember to revise your conjugations with the pronoun vous as it will be used a lot.

Bonne chance ! (good luck!)

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Louise is a French teacher and courses director. She lives in Oxford, UK and loves to bike around this lovely city. She is a keen traveller (she lived in Europe, the United States and Australia) and loves meeting people from all over the world. She is also passionate about how learning a new language opens doors to so many different cultures, and this is what she wants to share with her students. She comes from Burgundy-Franche-Comté, a region in the East of France, and loves everything there is about it, from the Macvin to the cancoillotte!

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