The Job Interview
So you’ve received an invitation to a job interview?
Then give yourself a pat on the back, because you have passed the first big hurdle. To hold your own in the interview, however, some preparation will be necessary. You now have the golden opportunity to demonstrate what you are capable of! The better you present yourself, the greater your chances are of being successful.
Collect information about the company
At the interview, most applicants are not adequately informed about the company advertising the position. As an applicant, you should make use of a variety of information sources in order to avoid this. A good place to start is usually the company website, which provides a good overview of the company with items such as business reports and technical articles. If there is little or no information available on the website, you can also request brochures, quarterly reports, etc. by post. With larger companies, you can also use search engines (such as Google News) or read up on the company’s current developments in business journals.
Preparing the content
At a job interview, it is essential that you present yourself in the best possible light. Here you should emphasise your strengths to score points. You need to convince the recruiters that they should hire you rather than someone else. You should be confident and respond to the employer’s questions with persuasive answers.
Attire and appearance
In certain sectors, such as insurance companies or credit institutes, conservative dress is common (suit, tie, etc.). Advertising agencies and young IT companies, however, prefer more casual dress. Depending on the field, a conservative appearance is preferred for activities with frequent customer contact. If you are unsure, follow this guideline: it’s better to be dressed too conservatively than too casually.
You should have the following documents with you at the interview:
- the invitation
- copies of the application
- the job advert
- a list of questions to ask the company
Punctuality is of the utmost importance at an interview. You should plan an ample amount of time for your journey in order to allow for delays. If the interview is scheduled for early in the morning, it might be a good idea to arrive the day before and spend the night there.
Conduct at the Interview
As soon as you are invited in, introduce yourself clearly by your first and last name. The interviewer, not the applicant, should initiate the welcoming handshake. Grasp the extended hand with a firm handshake. You can take a seat as soon as you are requested to do so. If you have forgotten the name of the interviewer or did not understand it properly, ask for it again. Throughout the course of the interview, address the person from time to time by his or her name. Decline any alcoholic beverages or cigarettes if they are offered. Non-alcoholic beverages can be accepted without hesitation.
During the interview, listen attentively to the interviewer and do not interrupt. In general, the applicant should be the one doing most of the speaking, but you should not monopolise the conversation. Some recruiters like to talk too, so don’t be concerned if you get less time to speak. If you do not understand something, ask politely for clarification. This is better than talking at cross purposes or being misunderstood. As an applicant, you should make an effort to speak concisely and clearly, avoiding the use of phrases, clichés and empty words such as "I’d have to say", "Well", etc. It is advisable to remain businesslike while speaking, avoiding exaggerated emotional outbursts, strong language, slang or foreign words if you don’t know their exact meaning. Being nervous tends to make a person speak more quickly, so you should strive to speak clearly and distinctly. Speaking too slowly, however, does not convey a dynamic impression either.
Questions you should answer:
- How did you hear about our company?
- Why are you applying for this position?
- Have you applied anywhere else?
- How do you envision this job?
- How would you sum up your CV?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why should we hire you?
- What do you know about us?
- Tell us about your most significant successes.
- How do you react to stress?
- What do you read in order to continue learning?
- What would you like to earn?
- What is the most difficult decision you have ever had to make?
- What do you do in your spare time?
Rather than answering the questions briefly in one sentence, tell something about yourself. You should especially mention the points that are relevant for the position.
Provocative questions you should answer at an interview:
- Who selected that suit for you?
- Do you think that you can make an impression with that jewellery or that tie?
- Why are you so nervous?
- Do you think you will find a job with these documents?
Questions that should be answered by the company at a job interview:
- Questions about the company to which you could not find an answer in the company report.
- Questions arising from the company report.
- Questions about the position, special requirements, reporting paths and job description.
- Questions about your predecessor, the reason for his leaving or the length of his continuance.
- Questions about the management system and agreement on objectives.
- Questions about benefits including remuneration, holiday, employee cafeteria, training, etc.
- How big are the teams?
- Are working hours fixed or flexible?
How the interview should end
- Allow yourself ample time for the interview. Make sure that you don’t have any other appointments on this day.
- Do not leave without assessing the interview yourself.
- Say that you thought the interview went well, the job is very appealing, the company interests you even more than before, the task is exciting, or whatever you think would be a fair, but positive summary.
- Put a sticker on the inside of the clasp on your briefcase, a knot in the leather strap on your handbag or whatever else will remind you of your summary at the very latest by the time you are packing up your things.
- Get your assessment now as well! Ask the interviewer how he/she found the interview, what the next step would be, what an evaluation of the interview would look like, etc.
- Before you leave, check that you have asked all your questions. After the interview is over, say good-bye to the security guard, receptionist and secretary and don’t forget to return your visitor badge if you were given one.
Please note that the above tips only apply to applications with German companies. Companies abroad may have different application procedures and regulations.