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job interview in Germany

 The job interview: let’s convince them!

You were invited to a job interview? Congratulations! This means that you awakened the employer’s interest: he/she wants to meet you in person. On the basis of the interview, he/she wants to find out what type of person you are and if you fit into the existing team. For you, this means: be friendly and outgoing and present your capabilities in a believable way.

Going with confidence into the job interview

A positive attitude is the most important thing. For this matter, you have to be sure that you want the position and that you are the right candidate for it. Before you go to the interview, try answering the following questions:

  • What aspects of this position motivate me?
  • Why am I looking forward to this job?
  • Why do I want to work in this company?
  • Why do I want to take over this job?

This is what awaits you

Did you have a good journey here? Have you had something to do with us in the past? Personnel managers like to begin the interview with questions that ease the situation. An introduction into the actual matter frequently takes place by approaching your CV, in other words, through questions about your academic background, previous jobs and experiences. What do you do when you are not working? You should also be prepared to answer questions about your private life. Further possible topics can be your health, the current political and social situation or daily events. Over the course of the interview, your conversation partner will go more into the details of the vacant position and will introduce the job and the company to you. At the end of the interview, you will have the opportunity to get all your questions off your chest.

Questions about questions

You ask, I answer: this is how a job interview could look like, but it does not have to be like that. It will be more pleasant for both parts if the conversation arises by conveying each other’s questions. When asking your questions, try asking very open questions (What? Who? How?), instead of questions that can only be answered with a yes or no. How much do you want to earn? What is one of your weaknesses? You should also expect uncomfortable questions to come up. This is why it is all the more important that you prepare yourself for the interview and plan some possible answers.

Some of the most frequent questions posed in a job interview are the following:

  • What do you know about our company? Why are you applying for a job with us?
  • Tell us something about you! How would you describe yourself?
  • What tasks have you had so far? Where do your strengths lie?
  • What career goals do you have? What salary expectations?
  • What do you do on your spare time?
  • What reason is there to employ precisely you?
  • Why did you come to Germany?
  • Do you want to stay in Germany? Do you feel comfortable here?
  • Do you have family here? Are there any plans of moving your family to Germany?

Questions about the following topics must be answered truthfully:

  • Academic career and school-leaving qualifications
  • Marital status
  • Any impending surgery or previously authorized course of treatment
  • Any acute infectious diseases
  • Severe disabilities (with disability card), including equal opportunities
  • Police clearance certificate, if relevant for the job position

A consciously given false answer would count as an act of wilful deception. These questions will not always come up and there is no obligation to automatically indicate these aspects during the application process.

Answering questions about the following topics is not mandatory:

  • Family planning (children) or sexual issues
  • Private relations or marriage plans
  • Union involvement and membership or earlier work council activities, unless the employer is a trade union or employers’ association
  • Political views, unless the employer is a political party
  • Religious views, unless the employer is a religious community
  • Completed military or community service
  • Chronic or acute illnesses that do not interfere with your job performance
  • Pregnancy, unless the workplace is not appropriate for pregnant women
  • Debts, unless it is a ‘money sensitive’ workplace (e. g. a bank)
  • Living conditions (e. g. shared accommodation)
  • AIDS, if it does not concern areas with high risk factors (e. g. nuclear power stations, hospitals)

Even when you do not have to answer these questions, you have to expect that the employer will still bring them up during the interview. Whether you decide to reply or not, is your own choice. However, if you refuse to do so, it will diminish your chances of getting the job position.

Questions for the company

Do you still have questions for us? At the end of your interview, you will have the opportunity to get your questions off your chest. You should take advantage of this: it will show your interest in the job and the company and it will prove that you are well prepared. All your questions were answered during the interview? Then point this out and do not ask any more questions. This is definitely better than posing embarrassing questions without an obvious purpose, only because you had the need to say something more.

You can ask questions about

  • the workplace and field of tasks,
  • the work conditions and hours,
  • future colleagues, superiors or clients,
  • promotion prospects or further training opportunities.

Only if they turn up, you should address the following topics:

  • salary to be expected if not regulated by a collective agreement (inform yourself well in advance!)
  • leave regulation and overtime (arrangements?)
  • assistance with the accommodation hunt, in case a change of residence is necessary
  • company facilities (children’s day care, cafeteria, etc.)

Dos and Don‘ts

Outfit

Thinking about putting on shorts and trainers for a job interview? Better not! You should dress appropriately according to the job and the company: not too simple but also not too elegant. In most cases, you will not go wrong with a tie and a suit, however this will strongly depend on the job. Headscarves are allowed.

Tip: If you were to go to work in this company, you would put certain clothes on. The best outfit you have from this set of clothes is what you should put on for the job interview.

Rhetoric

You know the name of your interview partner? Then let him/her know this and call him/her by their name when you greet them and when you leave. A simple ‘Guten Tag, Frau Müller’ (‘Good day, Ms. Müller’) will suffice. If possible, speak clearly and not too quickly during the interview, all the more so if you are very nervous. Use pauses and preferably wait for the questions to come, instead of talking about something uninteresting only because you had the need to say something.

Odours

The nose thinks too: previous to the interview you should try and avoid consuming very pungent spices or drinks, like garlic or alcohol. You should also avoid using a powerful perfume.

Body language

The handshake moulds the first impression. Therefore it should neither be too limp nor too firm. Remember to maintain good eye contact, without staring at your counterpart permanently.

Difficulties understanding

If something was left unclear or you do not understand a question, do not be afraid to ask for clarification. It is better to clear everything up, so as to avoid any misunderstandings or embarrassing situations. Either way, speaking up will signal that you are interested and want more information.

Gaps in your CV

Make sure that your curriculum vitae does not have any time gaps. If you went through non-studying or non-working periods for whatever reason, make sure that you are able to justify them. Big time gaps that you cannot justify, will look bad and your potential employer will be wondering if you are a reliable person.

Private questions and gifts

You are under no obligation to answer private questions like if you have a partner or if you want children. Furthermore, it is not expected from you to give or send a gift or thank you note to a potential employer during or after the interview!

Beverages

A cup of coffee or a glass of water – you can accept these without a moment’s hesitation. If your journey was long, it is even possible to ask for it. It is also all right to accept an invitation for lunch at the canteen. You want to drink a glass of wine with your lunch? Better not! You should stay away from any kind of alcohol during your interview.

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