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Session 3

Have you ever had a job interview that went really badly? What could happen in the worst interview ever? In this session, you'll hear an interview based on a true story. You'll also have a chance to explore the pronunciation and form of question tags.

Sessions in this unit

Session 3 score

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  • 0 / 8
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 5
    Activity 2

Activity 1

What’s the worst that could happen?

Be careful who you are rude to on the train

Have you ever had a job interview where everything seemed to go wrong? Maybe you froze in front of the interview panel. Maybe you spilt coffee over your suit or dress. Maybe you actually bumped into your interviewer and swore at them earlier in the day.

Recruitment professional Matt Buckland was on a crowded tube train when someone shoved past him and shouted abuse at him. Who showed up for an interview with Matt later on in the day? The same person who was rude to him on the train!

Matt posted a tweet about the event and it quickly went viral on social media.

At BBC Learning English we thought this was a great story, so we recorded our own version of the interview. Neil and Harry recorded it and we changed the names. We made a role-play of what we thought happened.

While you listen to the interview, answer this question: Was Simon well prepared for the interview questions?

Listen to the audio and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Mark
Hello, Mr Peters. I’m Mark Rutland. Thank you for coming in.

Simon
Cheers. Sorry I’m late.

Mark
Indeed. Please, do take a seat.

Simon
Right. Nice one.

Mark
So, Mr Peters…

Simon
It’s alright. Just call me Simon.

Mark
…Simon. What makes you think you’re the right person for the role?

Simon
Er. Good question. Basically, my skills. I think I’ve got all the skills that you need for the job.

Mark
Right. What we’re really looking for here is someone who can push the envelope.

Simon
Yeah. I can push envelopes. I love to push envelopes.

Mark
I want someone who can think outside of the box.

Simon
I think outside the box all the time.

Mark
A blue-sky thinker!

Simon
Blue sky – I’m basically a blue-sky thinker. That’s me.

Mark
Right. OK. I’m sorry. I know you, don’t I? We haven’t met before, have we?

Simon
Erm. No. I don’t think so. This isn’t really relevant, is it?

Mark
Hmm. You look familiar. You don’t live around here, do you?

Simon
Um, er, no. Er. This isn’t part of the interview, is it?

Mark
No. No, no, no. But, I’m sure I recognise you. I can’t put my finger on it. Hang on a minute. You were on the Northern Line this morning, weren’t you?

Simon
Yes. Yes I was.

Mark
I thought so. You pushed past me while I was going up the escalator. You swore at me!

Simon
Er, well. I’m sorry. This isn’t going to affect my interview, is it? I mean, we can forget about it, can’t we?

Did you get the answer to the question? He wasn't so well prepared - Simon just repeated back the things the interviewer asked him:

Mark
Right. What we’re really looking for here is someone who can really push the envelope.

Simon
Yeah. I can push envelopes. I love to push envelopes.

This recording is based on an original BBC News Trending story.

Asking questions with question tags

We’re going to look a bit more closely at the questions you heard in the interview. These were actually questions made using question tags. Let’s remind ourselves what these are.

question tag turns a statement into a question by adding a 'tag'. This tag is a short 'yes/no' question that comes at the end of the statement and asks if it is true.

I know you, don't I?

How we pronounce question tags

The way we say question tags is important. It can affect the meaning that the listener gets when they hear a question tag. Question tags can be pronounced with rising (going up) or falling (going down) intonation. When you say a question tag with rising intonation, you are really asking a question: you want to know the answer. When you say a question tag with falling intonation, you are checking something you think is true or just making conversation.

You're the new secretary, aren't you? (With rising intonation: really asking a question; you want to know if they are new secretary.)

You're the new secretary, aren't you? (With falling intonation: asking a question to start a conversation or if you think they are the new secretary and want to check.)

To do

Listen to the interview again and pay close attention to the question tags (they are in bold text in the transcript). Is the intonation rising or falling - is the speaker really asking a question, or checking something they think is true?

Spot the (real) questions

8 Questions

Were all the question tags in the interview really questions? Listen and then drag the question tags to the correct box

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Spot the (real) questions

8 Questions

Were all the question tags in the interview really questions? Listen and then drag the question tags to the correct box

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Next

We've had a look at the intonation of question tags - how we say them and how this affects the meaning. Now it's time to see if we can spot some question tag errors. Try out the next activity!

Session Grammar

  • Question tags turn a statement into a question by adding a 'tag' at the end.

    The way we pronounce the question tag with rising or falling intonation can change the meaning.

    Rising intonation is when we say the tag with our voice going up. Usually this means that we are asking a real question - we want to know the answer:

    You're the new secretary, aren't you? (With rising intonation this means the person asking the question doesn't know if they are the secretary or not.)

    Falling intonation is when we say the tag with our voice going down. Usually this means that we think we know the answer and are checking, or we want to start a conversation:

    You're the new secretary, aren't you? (With falling intonation this means the person asking the question thinks they are the secretary and they want to check this. They may also want to start a conversation with the person they are questioning.)

Session Vocabulary

  • froze
    (here; informal) forgot what you were thinking, saying or doing

    bumped into someone
    met someone by chance

    swore
    said something rude

    recruitment
    an industry based on finding the right person for the right job

    professional
    someone who works in a particular area

    tube
    an informal name for the London Underground

    shoved
    pushed past

    shouted abuse
    shouted something rude

    tweet
    a message on the social networking site, Twitter

    viral
    extremely popular, especially when circulated quickly and broadly on the internet

    swear
    say something rude

    role-play
    a drama activity where you pretend to be someone else

    role
    (here) job, position in an organisation

    push the envelope
    go even further than others and do things that might be new or even risky

    think outside of the box
    be creative and not limit your thinking

    blue-sky thinker
    someone who has ideas which are very original, even if they are not practical or realistic

    I can’t put my finger on it
    (phrase) I can’t discover why there is something strange about this situation

    Northern Line
    a line on the London Underground that runs north to south

    interviewee
    someone being interviewed