Trying to get a job of an interpreter at a conference, film festival, business meeting, or other event? Let’s have a look at six questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting position.


Tell us something about your experience with interpreting

Try to pick two or three most relevant jobs you had. One when you interpreted at a similar event, or dealt with the same field of business/art, is a perfect choice for your answer. When you have no similar experience in terms of topic/setting, you can at least talk about experience with similar scenario. For example, interpreting French for English businessmen, if that’s the situation you’ll deal with in the new job.

And what to do if you have no experience at all? In this case, you should mention anything that proves your language skills. Your stay abroad, your translating experience, foreign girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. The key is to show confidence. Unless you believe that you can handle the job, they won’t believe it either.


Why do you think you can be a good interpreter?

Start with excellent language skills. But that’s just the start… Say that you believe to be a good listener, to have an ability to understand the non-verbal communication of people, that you can think quickly, react promptly, and won’t interrupt the fluency of the meeting with your work.

Another alternative is saying that you’ve done this job many times before, and always received nothing but praise from people who hired you. Bearing this in mind, you have a good reason to believe in your interpreting skills.


What do you know about [field of business/art]?

Knowledge of technical terms can prove crucial in many interpreting jobs. Obviously, the answer is easy when you specialize in the field. In such a case you only say how long you’ve been involved, and what you learned, and how you applied it in your previous interpreting jobs. Easy as that.

If you have no experience with the field, however, the battle is not lost. You should be honest, saying you have no experience. At the same time, however, you should tell that you have enough time to prepare for the work, and plan to research about the field, learning the technical terms, understanding the business.


What would you do if you did not understand someone while interpreting their speech?

The right answer depends on the context. When you interpret, for example, in a film festival, and one of the foreign directors says something that’s not 100% clear to you, you’ll do fine skipping the part of the message, or even saying something that doesn’t necessarily have to be correct. In this case it doesn’t matter for the audience, and to keep the flow of their speech and stick to the schedule is maybe more important.

Situation changes completely if you interpret on a business meeting. Every word matters, every nil counts. Tell the interviewers that you’d give the person additional questions, or ask them to elaborate on their sentence, to be sure about their message.

* Special Tip: Are you stressed about your upcoming interpreter interview? Check our simple guide on How to overcome interview nerves.


What would you do if the situation became hostile in the meetings?

Everything can happen in a business meeting. And though you may have excellent negotiating skills, you should probably not intervene–unless the person who hired you asked you to intervene.

Your job is interpreting. Not negotiating, or arguing. Tell the interviewers that a bad atmosphere would not affect you. You’d keep doing your job in a best possible way, interpreting the message of both meeting parties, in a neutral way, without showing emotions, without letting emotions to affect you.

Man tries to explain his salary expectations to the interviewer.

What are you salary expectations? / What payment model do you prefer?

Things can get tricky when it comes to compensation for interpreting work. First of all, it is hard to estimate how long the meetings will take. Secondly, even afterwards, it is difficult to calculate how long exactly you sat with them (or stood) interpreting their language.

What I suggest is trying to get paid on a per day, or per hour basis. For example, if a conference lasts three days, you can ask for $200/day compensation. Even though you may spend only few hours interpreting each day, or even less than an hour, you still have to spend your day at the event, and be ready to do your job. Most employers will agree to pay you on a per day basis.

When we talk about a one day event, a per hour payment model will work just fine, with the same terms.

Ready to ace your interpreter interview? Not yet? Continue your preparation with – your best job interview coach since 2011:

Matthew Chulaw
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)