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Five Common Interview Questions for CISL Career English Students

February 16, 2017

CISL’s Career English students work closely with the Career English Coordinator to find the host company that meets their professional goals. Students also work with the Career English Coordinator to prepare for their interview, which all students must complete before being accepted to a host company. An interview? Yikes! To many, this is intimidating in their native language . . . but it’s exceptionally intimidating in English! Before going on your interview, make sure that you know how to answer these five common interview questions.


Five common interview questions

#1: Tell me a little about yourself

What they’re looking for: This is one of the typical questions to begin an interview. The interviewer is allowing you to “break the ice”: to warm up a little, speak about yourself and your background, and maybe include some of your interests.

Tips: Don’t speak too long . . . but don’t give a short answer either! Tell the interviewer where you are from, what you are doing in California, and how long you’ve been here. You can also include a little about your academic and professional background.

Example language: It’s a good idea to learn some phrasal verbs and idioms that make your speech natural.

  • I was born in Berlin, but I grew up in Munich.
  • I’m a fourth-generation Venezuelan living in Spain.
  • I have a passion for design and I’m a huge anime fan, so I majored in Graphic Arts at college.

#2: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

What they’re looking for: How well can you describe what you’re good at (and what you’re not so good at)? In most cases, the interviewer is looking for honesty when speaking about your weaknesses and humility when speaking of your strengths.

Tips: This is one of those questions that is really difficult to answer, so be sure to think of your answers before your interview . . . and be honest! Try to avoid cliche phrases like “I’m a hard worker.” This is boring and unoriginal.

Another tip? Don’t give a “weakness” that is actually a strength. This is called “humble bragging,” and it’s really annoying! An example of a humble brag is this: “I would say that one of my faults is that I’m always early. I’m always the first one to arrive at work in the morning and to arrive at every meeting. It makes everyone else feel like they’re behind me.” That’s not speaking of a fault: it’s speaking of a part of your character and trying to make yourself sound good!

Example language: Language of speculation is used here: words such “I suppose” and “X could be considered” are useful.

  • I suppose my greatest weakness is that I tend to take charge of group projects. I need to work on my teamwork a little and be more trusting of my colleagues.
  • One of my strengths is my loyalty to my co-workers and my company.


#3: What was your favorite/least favorite thing about your last job?

What they’re looking for: An answer to this question helps the interviewer get a picture of your ideal workplace.

Useful tips: Don’t speak poorly about your former co-workers or boss, but be honest.

Example language:

  • I loved my old job, but I was unhappy with the hours I worked. I would prefer a more set schedule and more weekends off.
  • The best thing about my last job was that they trained me very well. I felt very prepared on my first day.

#4: Where do you see yourself in five years?

What they’re looking for: Are you a person who has personal and professional goals and a clear vision? If so, then you can easily speak of your plans for the next few years!

Useful tips: Be clear and specific. What do you aspire to, and how will you achieve these goals?

Example language:

  • In the next five years, I definitely see myself . . .
  • I’d love to . . . . in the next few years.
  • I’ll most certainly . . .

#5: Why did you leave your last job?

What they’re looking for: Can you diplomatically explain why you chose to leave your last company? This is a skill necessary for competent and capable employees.

Useful tips: Sometimes you left for a logical reason: you moved, you got a new job offer, etc. Sometimes, it just wasn’t the right fit for you. Be honest, but don’t give too many details.

Example language:

  • I loved my old job, but I didn’t see much ability for advancement in my position.
  • I left my position because I moved here.


#5: Do you have any questions for me?

What they’re looking for: Did you do your research about the company? This is your chance to show this!

Useful tips: Do some research ahead of time, and come to the interview prepared!

Example language:

  • I do! On your website I saw . . .
  • I certainly do. I was wondering if . . .
  • Sure! Could you please explain . . .

For more information on how to enroll in CISL’s Career English program and gain experience with an American company, contact CISL!

Business English Career English CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco Featured Vocabulary

Sales Vocabulary + CISL’s Career English Program

January 24, 2017

CISL is proud to offer students the Career English program, where students master business English and communication skills before spending time in an American company. Past students have experienced architecture, marketing, event planning, and even real estate through CISL!

One of the most requested areas of interest for students is sales and marketing. Do you know these common sales and marketing related terms and expressions?


Sales and Marketing Vocabulary

Cold call

Definition: (verb, noun) to call a person or company that you do not have relations in hope of beginning a new business relationship.

Example: We estimate that 70% of our cold calls are not successful . . . but 30% are!

Example: The first time I cold called someone when I was at my host company, I was so nervous! But my English got better each time I did.

Conduct (research)

Meaning: (collocation) to do research (on the market, customers, competitors, etc.)

Example: We conducted extensive research before choosing our logo.

To close (a deal/sale)

Meaning: (verb) to finalize an agreement or sale.

Example: After closing the deal, we celebrated with a little champagne!


Follow up

Meaning: (phrasal verb) to make contact with someone after a meeting.

Example: He made a follow up call to see if they were still interested in the product.


Meaning: (verb) to begin something, to put a plan into effect.

Example: They implemented their new marketing plan in January 2017.



Meaning: (adjective) original, advanced (ideas, plans, etc.)

Example: Her innovative marketing plan led to her promotion.


Meaning: (noun) a tip; a potential client or sale.

Example: I have three leads to look into today.


Meaning: (verb) to make something better; reach its potential.

Example: After optimizing the website, we saw sales increase by 15%.



Meaning: (adjective) the ability to make money/be profitable.

Example: They were worried about the profitability of the new product, but in the end it was incredibly successful.


Meaning: (phrase, acronym) “return on investment.”

Example: The ROI on social media marketing is becoming easier to track.


Meaning: (adjective) carefully planned; with purpose.

Example: They asked us to design a strategic sales plan . . . in two hours!

For more information on CISL’s Career English, contact the CISL Career English Coordinator.

Business English Career English CISL San Diego English for Engineers Featured Vocabulary

English for Engineers: Vocabulary for Dimensions

January 14, 2017


English is quickly becoming the language of engineering, which is why CISL now offers the English for Engineers program. With this program, Upper Intermediate and Advanced students learn the skills necessary to help them succeed in an English speaking Engineering environment. Among other things, students learn:

  • Language related to engineering (such as design, procedures, and processes)
  • How to express problems, solutions, and communication related to capabilities, limitations, problems, solutions, regulations, standards, etc.
  • Practice working with written instructions, drawings, and notices
  • Grammar, vocabulary, and writing and speaking skills focused on discussing quality, repairs, maintenance, technical requirements, regulations, standards, suitability and relative performance

Finally, students learn vocabulary about engineering and technology, such as dimensions, precision, and causes and effects. The CISL Blog has already looked at Five must-know English Adjectives for Engineers. Today we are taking a look at some college Engineering vocabulary regarding the dimensions of an object. Do you know all of these words?

Engineering Vocabulary: Dimensions


The measurement of a surface or piece of land.


Which is more difficult: calculating the area of a square parking lot . . . or skateboarding?


The distance or measurement from side to side of something


The width of the river changes during different parts of the year.


The distance around something


Which of these can you calculate the circumference of?


The distance from the top or surface to the bottom of something


The depth of the ocean scares many people . . . but not surfers!


A straight line passing from side to side through the centre of a body or figure, especially a circle or sphere.


Having a level surface; without raised areas or indentation


This flat land is perfect for playing sports, running, or biking.


The measurement of someone or something from head to foot or from base to top.

It’s amazing to think of the height of these large skyscrapers.


The measurement or extent of something from end to end; the greater of two or the greatest of three dimensions of an object.



A straight line from the centre to the circumference of a circle or sphere.

Remember high school math?


The distance through an object, as distinct from width or height.

Have you ever read a really thick book?


The amount of space that a substance or object occupies, or that is enclosed within a container.

Is it possible to calculate the volume of the ocean?

For more information on CISL’s English for Engineers (and to learn more about the Career English program, where you can spend time in an American Engineering firm!) contact CISL.

Business English Career English Featured Grammar

Grammar Lesson of the Month: English Tenses Used in Interviews

January 1, 2017

With Career English, students first improve their English in the CISL classroom and then spend time with an American company, where they continue improving their English in the professional environment. But between time at CISL and time at their Host Company, students must experience the “dreaded” interview! To prepare for an interview, most people practice the “typical” interview questions, such as “Why do you want to work for this company?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” But for a CISL Career English student, interview prep also consists of English grammar practice. Learn these tenses in relation to the questions you may face, and you’ll be prepared for an interview in no time!


English Tenses for Interviews

The Simple Present

Use the Simple Present to talk about general truths or states.

  • I am from Germany.
  • I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Communications.
  • I study at Converse International School of Languages.

The Simple Past

Use the Simple Past to talk about things you did or completed in your home country.

  • I went to school in Berlin.
  • I completed my studies last year.
  • I was an intern for a large bank in my hometown.
  • I wrote my final research paper on currency exchanges and world market trade.


The Present Progressive

Use the Present Progressive to talk about your current state here in California. This is not linked to a time that this state began (see below).

  • I am currently studying at CISL.
  • I am living in Little Italy with a lovely roommate.

The Present Perfect/Progressive

Use the Present Perfect or Present Perfect Progressive to talk about things you are doing now that started in the past.

  • I have been studying here in San Diego for five months.
  • I‘ve interviewed with two companies so far.
  • I’ve been having a wonderful time here in California.
  • I’ve had the chance to see many parts of the state since I arrived.

Need more practice before your interview? Check out some of our other articles!

Is one of your goals in 2017 to use English to further your career, then check out CISL’s Career English program!

Business English Career English CISL San Diego

Meet our Career English Host Company, Gaslamp Event Management!

October 28, 2016
CISL’s Career English Program provides students with the opportunity to spend time at an American company and use their English skills in a business setting. But what’s life like for a Career English student? We decided to interview one of our CISL Host Companies, Gaslamp Event Management, Inc. to learn a little more about the environment our companies provide for Career English students.

Gaslamp Event Management, Inc. is an award-winning event planning and hospitality consultation service located in Downtown San Diego. It’s also been a host company to students from around the world: since 2009, students from France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria have had the chance to spend time with GEM!


GEM specializes in four areas: event planning, hospitality consulting, marketing and promotions, and talents (such as modeling). With this unique combination of specialties, GEM can provide comprehensive services for San Diego’s nightlife, corporate and nonprofit events, and hospitality. Examples of GEM-run events include Gaslamp block parties (such as ShamROCK, San Diego Monster Bash, and Gaslamp Mardi Gras) the Padres Opening Day party, and events at popular SD bars such as FLUXX and Vin de Syrah. Impressive!

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What does GEM look for in a potential host student? The company is perfect for students aspiring to work in event planning and event management, tourism, and nightlife. Students should of course be fun, outgoing, and creative, and they should love social media: a student at GEM is expected to run its many social media sites (including the Facebook pages for its modeling company, Downtown Dolls and Downtown Dolls SD, Club VIP, and its company page, Gaslamp Event Management) its pages for events (such as Irish 4 a Day, the San Diego Zombie Crawl, and Gaslamp Mardi Gras) and its Instagram pages for Club VIP, Gaslamp Events, and Downtown Dolls. Phew!

Our student, Katrin, spent time with Gaslamp Event Management, Inc. as part of her Career English Program. Read all about Katrin’s experience with marketing and event planning: there was never a dull moment, and the opportunities to improve her English skills were endless!


With GEM, Katrin had an important role in event planning and social media correspondence. She loved her experience!

To learn more about CISL’s Career English Program, contact CISL’s Career English Coordinator. Our Host Companies are eager to provide you the experience of a lifetime at an American business! But before joining, make sure you read the following articles to prepare you for your time as a Career English student!

Photos from Gaslamp Event Management, Inc.