Do yourself the favour of being well-prepared for your job interview so you can leave your prospective employer with an authentic and professional impression.
Contact us and find out how you can best prepare for the challenge of a job interview and which questions you might need to answer. Make sure to check our events calendar for more information.
Gather information about the business and the advertised position, e.g. online or in professional journals.
- Get directions to the business and allot enough time for the trip.
- Bring copies of the most important documents with you.
- Prepare a short presentation on yourself and your prior experience that you can make in under five minutes.
- Think of some questions that would demonstrate your interest in the position.
- Prepare answers to common interview questions.
- Remember to be attentive and friendly.
- Introduce yourself and make an effort to remember the other participants’ names.
- Be sure to use appropriate pressure for handshakes, keep eye contact and smile.
- Demonstrate you have a sense of humour and are polite.
- Accept a beverage (at least water), if offered one.
- Write down important details.
The interview structure
You may encounter both structured and partially structured interviews. Very seldom are interviews conducted spontaneously. Structured and partially structured interviews usually take place in the same order:
- Greeting each other and starting the conversation
- You present yourself (e.g. “Tell us a little about yourself...”)
- Reasons and motivation for applying (“...and what led you to apply for this position with us?”)
- Skills and suitability for the position (How relevant are your competencies for the job requirements?)
- Presentation of the position and responsibilities
- Your questions
- Close of the conversation
In order to be as objective as possible, all applicants taking part in structured interviews are asked (nearly) the same questions. Partially structured interviews have set main topics and goals, however, as an interviewee, you have greater freedom to influence the conversation. The interviewers also have more time to respond to the answers you give.
Your clothing should fit both the business and the field of work where you apply. You can find out how the business expects its employees to dress by checking the company home page for pictures of its employees.
Please make sure the clothing’s colours match. Women should often choose either a pant or dress suit or a combination of skirt and blazer. Take care to dress modestly. And don't apply too much make-up.
Men should wear a suit with a dress shirt and tie (as necessary). Facial hair should be shaven or neatly trimmed.
All shoes should be clean and not be worn out. Women’s heels should be limited to 5 cm or less.
“Less is more” with respect to accessories. Too many accessories tend to detract from the applicant’s (your!) face.
You should definitely feel comfortable in the clothing you choose.
Biography-related questions ask about actual events and thus
– provide concrete examples for the applicant’s behavioural patterns,
– give an impression of how the applicant usually approaches certain problems and
– prevent the applicant from simply providing examples of social conventions or textbook knowledge instead of examples of authentic behaviour.
Ability to respond to conflict appropriately:
“There are certain situations in which it is very difficult to please everyone involved. Please describe one such situation that you experienced with customers or colleagues.”
“When did you last work in a team?”
“Which role did you take on? What went well? What went less well?”
These questions are based on the assumption that the expressed intentions are closely related to actual actions at a later time.
Applicants are asked how they would act in certain situations:
“What would you do, if...?”
The answers are then evaluated based on a prepared list of possible answers.
“An employee has been out sick for two weeks with back pain. You are on your way to an important appointment. On the way, you pass through a new housing complex and see that this same employee is helping carry a heating element into an unfinished building. What would you do?”
Questions about strengths and weaknesses
– stay authentic.
– explain a successful strategy or positive perspective for addressing a weakness (successful strategy: “I have lost track of all the tasks related to a certain project before; since then I always create an overview for myself and make a plan for the related tasks”; positive perspective: “I am often too nervous to speak English, although I am good at it. In order to overcome this nervousness, I asked my British roommate, if we could speak only English together and he agreed.”)
– But... : “I do need quite a while to wake up in the morning, BUT I am very productive in the evening...”
– If possible, please provide examples for strengths.
Some classic questions
– Why do you think this job is right for you?
– Why should we choose you for the job?
– Why is our company your first choice?
– What are your strengths and weaknesses?
– What was your greatest success and your biggest failure?
– Where do you see yourself in five years?
– Which five adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
– What questions do you have for us?
Only questions related to the applicant’s suitability for the position are allowed in job interviews. If you are asked objectionable questions anyway, it may also be just to test your personal boundaries. Whatever the case may be, just respond in a friendly and self-confident manner, without necessarily answering such questions. You may also lie.
– questions about your relationships or family
– questions about your health
– questions about your sexual orientation
– questions about membership in a union, political party or religious organisation
– questions about your financial situation
– questions about why you left your previous jobs
– questions about previous salaries
– questions about a criminal record
For certain types of jobs, however, some of these questions are allowed, for example, whether childcare providers have a criminal record.
Why is a tennis ball covered in felt? How often do the hands of a clock overlap in a 24-hour period? How many diapers are sold in Germany each year?
These kinds of questions are meant to test your ability to work under stress. How do you react when faced with a complex task?
Knowing the right answer is less important than how you approach the problem and look for a solution.
– Try to think unconventionally.
– Ask what is behind the question.
– Look for an unusual solution.
Important: It is not about finding the right solution but rather the appropriate strategy.
Downloads and links
- Absolventa.de: tips for job interviews (in German)
- Berufsstrategie.de: job interviews (in German)
- Monster.de’s Karriere-Journal (in German) The 10 most common questions
- Sueddeutsche.de: objectionable questions in interviews
- Sueddeutsche.de: bizarre interview questions
- Zeit.de: using the ABBA-formula to answer interview questions
- Karrierebibel.de: are piercings and tattoos allowed?
- Sueddeutsche.de: the right outfit