job-interview-in-french

Job Interview in French: 10 Questions with Answers, Resources and Tips

If you’re an expat looking for a job in France or another French-speaking country, you might be feeling a bit nervous.

There are cultural differences to consider, the challenge of translating your education and work experience and of course the idea of doing a job interview in another language. 

But with a bit of preparation, you can calm your nerves and feel more confident about impressing your potential employer. 

In this post, you’ll learn 10 common job interview questions you’ll probably get from a French interviewer and how you should answer them.

Plus, you’ll get some helpful tips for how to show professionalism at the interview and resources for your job search and interview prep.

Contents


10 Common French Job Interview Questions

Job interviews across different countries are usually rather similar in terms of the types of questions you’ll be asked. Being prepared for common questions and ready with some impactful answers will help you ace your job interview, even in a foreign language. 

1. Parlez-moi de votre expérience professionnelle

(Talk to me about your professional experience.)

When sharing your prior work experience, it’s important to create a coherent narrative, even if your parcours  (trajectory) has been a bit all over the place. Explain how the skills cultivated in your previous positions make you a great fit for the job you’re seeking.

Let’s say you’re applying for a job at a tutoring agency. Here’s an example of how you could answer this inquiry: 

Pendant mes études je travaillais comme guide touristique et puis j’ai travaillé quatre ans comme comptable au sein d’une agence de voyage. Aujourd’hui je suis intéressé(e) par votre entreprise car elle me permettrait de relier ma passion pour le partage de mes connaissances en art et en histoire et mon caractère minutieux.

(During my studies, I worked as a tour guide and then I worked as an accountant for a travel agency. Today I’m interested in your company because it would allow to me connect my passion for sharing my knowledge in art and history and my detail-oriented personality).

2. Quel est votre parcours scolaire ?

(What is your academic background?)

While in many Anglophone contexts, employers want to know what kind of training you’ve had after high school, in France, it’s common to refer to the type of baccalauréat you’ve obtained (there are three broad categories: general, professional and technical).

In your response, you should mention the year you finished high school (I also recommend mentioning where) and then note any other degrees obtained thereafter.

Après avoir obtenu mon baccalauréat en 2006 aux État-Unis, j’ai poursuivi mes études en histoire de l’art et j’ai obtenu une licence en 2010.

(After having received my high school diploma in 2006 in the United States, I studied art history and I received my bachelor’s degree in 2010).

3. Quels sont vos centres d’intérêt ?

(What are your areas of interest?)

Keep in mind that your interviewer will ask you this question as a means of gauging not only your work personality and how you’ll get along with potential coworkers but also how you “recharge your batteries” (so you’ll be in tip-top form when on the job).

Craft a response in which you speak about something you’re passionate about that also allows you to come across as the kind, dynamic, curious, initiative-taking person you are. For example, mentioning your dedication to a particular sport is a great way to convey commitment, discipline and team spirit, while your love for travel can be indicative of an ouverture d’esprit  (open-mindedness).

4. Pourquoi voulez-vous quitter votre travail actuel ?

(Why do you want to leave your current job?)

When responding to this potentially prickly question, tact is essential. Never, under any circumstances, bash your current workplace, no matter how you feel about it.

Instead, make yourself the focus of your answer (and not your current boss or coworkers). A great way to do this is to convey a desire for future growth. Let’s take a look at some examples:

J’ai envie de relever de nouveaux défis. Je suis intéressé(e) par de nouvelles responsabilités qui me permettront de mettre mon expérience et mes acquis en valeur.

(I want to take on new challenges. I’m interested in new responsibilities that will allow me to let my experience and my skills shine through.)

Je suis quelqu’un d’ambitieux et je souhaite évoluer vers un poste qui n’est pas disponible au sein de mon lieu de travail actuel.

(I’m an ambitious person and I’d like to move towards a position that isn’t vacant at my current workplace.)

5. Puis-je appeler votre ancien employeur ? 

(May I call your former employer?)

Unless you were fired or you’re embroiled in a messy lawsuit, you should respond to this question in the affirmative: Oui bien sûr  (Yes, of course).

If you did leave your workplace on not-so-great terms, responding to this question will require a bit of maneuvering. One strategy is to directly tell your interviewer that things are less than ideal between you and your former boss:

Je dois juste vous prévenir que Monsier Ledésert était un peu déçu de mon départ et que cela ne s’est pas passé de façon harmonieuse. Je ne sais donc pas ce qu’il peut vous dire à mon sujet.

(I must warn you that Mr. Lédesert was a bit disappointed with my departure and it didn’t go over smoothly. I, therefore, am unsure about what he will say about me.)

Another strategy is to gently guide your interviewer to those who aren’t necessarily your boss per se, but who can attest to your work ethic nonetheless:

Si l’objet de votre demande est d’échanger avec des personnes qui m’ont vu(e) travailler, je peux vous proposer d’échanger avec Monsieur Leroy et Madame Watteau, les deux directeurs de mon équipe.

(If you’re asking in order to talk with people who have seen me work, I recommend talking to Mr. Leroy and Ms. Watteau, the two leaders of my team).

6. Quand serez-vous disponible pour commencer ?

(When will you be ready to start?)

When you hear this question, you should confidently respond le plus tôt possible  (as early as possible). Although there are several logistical factors to consider in terms of when you can actually start your new job, the job interview itself is not the place to do your hemming and hawing.

Besides, most interviewers are well aware that le plus tôt possible (as early as possible) does not mean demain  (tomorrow) and that many employers require une ou deux semaines de préavis  (one or two weeks notice).

7. Quelles sont, selon vous, les qualités requises pour ce travail ?

(What qualities, according to you, are required for this job?)

You should be very familiar with the fiche de poste  (job description) so you can effectively answer this question. From there, you should draw as many parallels between what’s expected of employees and your prior experience and skills.

In asking this question, the interviewer wants to know “Why should I hire you?” Here’s an example of an appropriate response:

Selon moi, ce type de poste exige avant tout un esprit d’équipe et un caractère minutieux. C’est d’ailleurs exactement ce que m’a apporté mon travail au sein de l’agence de voyage.

(According to me, this type of position requires first and foremost team spirit and a detail-oriented personality.)

8. Quels sont vos points forts ?

(What are your strengths?)

This is the moment to sell yourself—within reason, of course! When responding to this question, be confident (but don’t exaggerate) and state only the qualities relevant to the job at hand (two or three will suffice). It won’t suffice to simply list your strengths, however; you’ll need to provide some evidence.

Here’s an example:

Je suis persévérant(e) et résistant(e). En effet, j’ai participé à un tournoi de golf l’année dernière, et j’ai échoué au premier tour. Je me suis beaucoup entrainé(e) et l’année suivante, je me suis réinscrit(e) et j’ai gagné la compétition. Je ne me suis pas découragé(e), et je pense que c’est une qualité nécessaire pour être cadre ; il ne faut pas avoir peur de l’échec. Au contraire cela doit être une source de motivation.

(I’m persevering and tough. I participated in a golf tournament last year and I struck out in the first round. I trained a lot, I signed up again and I won the competition. I didn’t get discouraged and I think that’s a necessary quality to be a manager; one shouldn’t be afraid of failure. On the contrary, it should be a source of motivation.)

9. Quels sont vos faiblesses ?

(What are your weaknesses?)

Ahh! La question qui tue  (the fatal question)! Responding to this question too literally is a no-no. This moment in the interview is neither the time to divulge your deep-seated insecurities or anxieties, nor the time to patently present yourself in a negative light without qualification (“I’m impatient” or “I’m always late”).

Conversely, pretending you don’t have any faults is not the way to go, either. Don’t be that person who says, “My worst quality is that I work too hard, I care too much and sometimes I can be too invested in my job.” The key to responding to this question is striking a balance between self-awareness and a desire to improve. Here are some examples:

Je suis un peu timide, mais lorsque je commence à me sentir bien dans un groupe, je suis capable de m’investir.

(I’m a bit shy but as soon as I begin to feel at ease in a group, I’m able to give (my work) my all.)

J’ai une petite tendance à être soucieux/soucieuse lorsqu’on me confie un travail très difficile ou complexe, mais c’est par souci de bien faire les choses. Lorsque je me trouve dans cette situation, je valide mon travail plus souvent auprès de mon supérieur.

(I have the tendency to get anxious when I’m entrusted with a very difficult or complex job, but it’s due to my wanting to do things well. When I find myself in this situation, I check in with my superior more often.)

10. Avez-vous des questions ?

(Do you have any questions?)

Pretty much every job interview ever will end with this question. Even if everything seems crystal clear, you shouldn’t say non  (no). Of course you have questions!

Think of this question as an opportunity to show that you’ve really thought about this position and convey how curious and enthusiastic you are. Keep reading for some ideas of questions you can ask. 

Questions to Ask Your French Interviewer

Asking a question like this shows that you’re already projecting yourself into your (hopefully) future position and are eager to work with others.

Is the company hiring because an employee went on maternity (meaning they will eventually come back) or because someone has just retired (meaning they have exited the job market)? By asking this prudent question, you’re conveying concern for your future evolution in the company.

If you’re applying for a management position in which you’re expected to be a self-starter (and it will be up to you to plan the work days of others), such a question may be frowned upon.

If, however, you’re applying for a position in which you’ll be working under someone else’s orders or supervision, this question conveys a conscientious disposition. After all, doing good work means knowing what work there is to be done.

After Your French Job Interview

Shake on it (again)

At the end of the interview, get up from your chair and shake your interviewer’s hand firmly while smiling and looking straight into their eyes. Afterward, you should say a cool, calm and collected “Je vous remercie beaucoup”  (I thank you very much).

Thank you note

An interview isn’t over once you walk out the door. Sending a short (5- to 6-line) follow-up email to your interviewer allows you to express your appreciation for their time and consideration. It’s a good idea to wait about 48 hours; you’ll be less anxious and on edge, and it will give you time to compose a concise, unemotional message.

In your message, you should reiterate the highlights of the interview (Did your interviewer mention that a series of new products are in the works? Mention your excitement to be a part of such an innovative environment) and then reassert how your skills fit those required for the job. 

Proper Behavior During French Interviews

  • Use vous (you – formal). Throughout your interview, you should address your interviewer in the formal register. If on the off-chance you end up with a super laid-back interviewer who addresses you with tu (you – informal), continue to use the vous form unless they say, “Tu peux me tutoyer” (You can address me with the tu form). This is also the time to use those complex sentence structures.
  • Use handshakes instead of kisses. While it’s true that la bise (cheek-kissing) is a mainstay in French society and common among colleagues, you should not use this greeting in a job interview. Instead, you should firmly shake hands with the interviewer while making eye contact. 
  • Keep your stories to yourself. In certain Anglophone contexts, it’s not uncommon for a bit of small talk to take place before getting down to business. In French contexts, however, small talk is less customary and your interviewer will be unlikely to ask you many questions about your personal life.

Resources for Your French Job Search 

  • Job Teaser is a great resource for all things job-related. It offers a database of open positions plus a collection of videos to help job hunters get their heads in the game. 
  • UNESCO jobs listings. If you want a job with an impact, check out UNESCO’s regularly-updated job listings. Their mission is to promote world peace and justice by way of education, science and culture.
  • Europass. A must for expats, Europass is your one-stop shop for those who need to write CVs, cover letters and convey their skills and qualifications in a way that conforms to the expectations of the French job markets.
  • Polite salutations. This list contains the proper openings and closings for your lettre de motivation (cover letter). These salutations will also be helpful in crafting the thank you message to your interviewer.
  • The right words. For the vocabulary necessary for navigating the French business world, check out this post and this post. And see this list of 206 adjectives to add a bit of extra oomph to your cover letter.
  • Body language. Your handshake, gestures and even posture are a part of your communication. Get more familiar with natural French communication by watching videos of interviews and other everyday scenarios. 

 

With a bit of foresight and effort, I’m sure your French job interview will go smoothly.

Remember that you have the skills to succeed, and give yourself a pat on the back for taking on the challenge in a foreign language!

And one more thing...

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FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:

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For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:

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Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."

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All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

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