Business, work and life in Germany in English

How to be interviewed for a job in Germany in person and by phone: questions, how to behave, how to prepare, appearance(dress code)

§ Preparing for a job interview (an employment interview)

So, while looking for a job in Germany, you have managed to find proper vacancies and prepared the resume as well other applicant’s documents, circulated them among the respective companies and received an invitation to be interviewed. On the one hand, such an invitation does not yet guarantee your employment, because it may have been received by other applicants, too; on the other hand, it means that your qualification is appropriate for the given company, but such a question as whether you personally will be appropriate for the given job remains open. Exactly therefore the employment interview is required. The major objective of the interview is to assess your personality and, to some extent, your qualifications and interest in doing this job.

Although the interview is always connected with nerve-taking emotions, the good preparation and the knowledge of the interview procedure, as well as typical questions to be discussed there will help you to feel positive and not too nervous.

For the employers, the major goal of the interview is to assess your personality, interest in the given job, and your qualifications.

So, during the interview, you will be assessed through the prism of the three following positions, for which you should be prepared in advance, such as:

Proceeding from the objectives as pursued by the employer, you need to be well prepared: first and foremost, to know thoroughly your biography, your past jobs and taken positions, as well as the performed tasks. It will be good to prepare several examples of specific situations, in resolution of which you were involved, or which can emphasize your personal qualities and abilities. You should think through most thoroughly as what you can say about the tasks given to you in your previous workplace.

It is also important to have in advance the good knowledge of the company and the job that you want to get. Collect the maximum possible amount of information about the company, their history, goals, products or services. If, when asked a question “Why do you want to work at our company?”, you say that you need to earn your living, you will most probably be turned down. The employer must see the applicant’s interest in the company’s successful operation, willingness to learn something new, and interest in the company’s activities. Think well as what professional objectives you have.

As to your personal qualities, you should not demonstrate those you don’t have, as getting employed is not a key to all problems, and if you don’t fit in terms of personal qualities, it would be better if this fact becomes evident during the interview rather than after the start of your work as in the latter case your dismissal would follow rapidly. Nevertheless, it would be worthwhile to show saliently your strengths and weaknesses in relation to the job being claimed by you. Your nervousness, manifested in the interview course, may spoil and distort the impression of you and therefore it makes sense to prepare thoroughly, as such preparation will pay back. The information below on this page will help you to get ready for the interview.

Come on time - best of all, 10 minutes before the start of the interview.

§ The way the job interview in Germany is held

The scenario of employment interviews is always the same, although in some cases some elements may be excluded and some added. As a whole, the scenario includes the points as presented in the table below. The applicants have to come for the interview at the appointed time – best of all, 10 minutes before the interview starts. Most probably, you will be asked to wait a bit – so, please, wait patiently. On an average, interviews last from 30 minutes through to 1.5 hours.

Table 1: Procedure of the interview.

Words of greeting and small talk When you are approached by your interviewers – normally, an official of the Personnel Department and the Chief of the Department, in which you are supposed to be employed – they will ask you a couple of questions, such as if you managed to find your way easily, or something about the weather. Hand-shaking is not usual at some offices in Germany, therefore, having said “good to see you“, wait before your interlocutor stretches his/ her hand first. Then, after you proceed to the interview room, you will be offered to have a seat and a drink. It would be inappropriate to refuse, and you may choose any drink except an alcohol one. You will also be introduced in the course of the forthcoming interview.
Information on the company and the vacant job Listen attentively. It would not make sense to ask too many questions, but it would be worthwhile to ask for some brief clarification. Listen with the evident interest.
The applicant tells his/her story: personal history, qualities, and abilities It would not make sense to tell your life story in detail. Speak on the main points briefly, for no longer than 5 minutes! Telling about your abilities and work experience, take into account what is expected from you as an employee in the vacant job description. The interviewers will ask additional questions on whatever they will consider important. You may highlight such points as:
  • Your name, surname, and age;
  • Your origin, when and why you arrived in Germany;
  • Which educational institution you have graduated from, and, especially;
  • The acquired work experience;
  • Why you want to work at the given company.
While speaking, you may use a board and chalk, a beamer or other available tools.
Interest in the job Most probably you will be asked why you have stopped working in the previous place of employment, and why you want to work at the given company. Your responses have to be such that the interviewers would see your interest in working at their company as well as your liking of their company’s activities or products.
Employer’s questions For the questions that you may be asked during the interview, see on this page below
Applicant’s questions For the questions that it would make sense to ask the employer, see on this page below
Conclusion and taking good-bye Concluding the conversation, the interviewers will tell you what would be the procedure of selecting the applicant, and when you would receive the company’s decision on your case. Then they will thank you for the meeting and conversation, say good-bye and most probably shake your hand. In response, it will be polite to thank them for their time and express your willingness to work for their company, and then to leave the room quietly.

§ Your looks – what clothes to put on for the interview

The outer look says much on the person, and the impression of it lingers in memory for a long time. The interviewers will immediately pay attention to the clothes, skill of behaving, voice and words. The clothes and the outer look have to be clean, tidy, and correspond to the position you are applying for.

Style of clothes for the employment interview

For the work in the executive positions as well as at financial or large-size companies, the classical style will be appropriate for men – a suit, a shirt, a necktie, leather shoes and a belt. In other cases, the style may be more casual; trousers and jacket may be of different color, and the necktie is not required. However, the clothes must be iron-pressed, and shoes polished.

For females, the rules are the same: the classical style includes the suit with a skirt or trousers, and a blouse. However, the too shirt skirt, or too tight or open clothes, as well the naked parts of the body, or red-color clothes are not welcome. Cosmetics, hair-styling, perfumes, and jewelry may not attract attention.

If you are not sure about the dress-code of the company, you may find it out in advance, by telephone or by visiting the company’s website or its page in a social network.

§ How to behave in the course of the interview

The manner of the applicant’s behavior is very important. The following list shows (1) what is desirable, and (2) what is inadmissible in the course of the employment interview:

§ What questions the employer would ask the applicant

At the employment interview, they usually ask typical questions. Knowing the latter, you can get prepared in advance so that during the interview not to make any hotheaded or odd statements. Further on, you will see the list of the questions, some of which are usually asked at interviews in Germany. Think over your responses to them, taking into account the goals pursued by the employers while conducting the interview. It is not forbidden to use your notes during the interview.

Besides, the applicant will be most probably asked questions designed to verify his / her qualifications. This depends on the respective profession and the scope of tasks.

The interviewers would most likely consider the applicant as an insincere person, if responding to such questions as “What are your weaknesses?” s /he responds that such ones do not exist. It is necessary to think well what shortcomings can be named as well as what positives can be added thereto.

For the salary-related question not to take you unawares, define your desirable salary in advance. Find out on the Internet how much, on an average, employees of your profession earn in Germany, and how the land lies at the given company; the websites, which present reviews, references, opinions about employers in Germany, can often be quite informative on the level of salaries in companies.

Prohibited job interview questions in Germany

The German Equality Act (AGG) prohibits discrimination in hiring for employment, in which connection you may refuse to respond to some questions. The prohibited questions are as follows:

§ What questions the applicant would ask the employer

You should think through in advance as what questions you want to ask the would-be employer. The questions should express your interest in the given company as such as well as enable you to collect the relevant information that will help you to decide whether it makes or does not make sense for you to work at the given company. Please, pay attention to the following list of typical questions.

§ What is to be done after the interview

In the course of the employment interview you may make notes – in particular, when the interviewers respond to your questions. You may as well make notes right after the interview, not to forget important details. Following the interview, analyze the obtained information in order to take decision on your work in the given company. Some applicants e-mail a brief message of thanks for the conducted interview.

By the end of the interview, the hosts usually say when you may expect the company’s decision.

§ Telephone talk – telephone interview

In the course of job placement in Germany, sometimes it happens to be necessary to call the company in order to clarify the points of your interest. Besides, depending on the kind of the job and the company, it might be expected by the latter that the applicant will make a phone call and thus enable the employer to assess the applicant’s freedom of communication and the quality of his / her presentation of the company in the phone talks with their clients. However, many applicants are less enthusiastic about making telephone calls, or are not well prepared for calling. Thus a good job can be missed.

Besides, having received the applicant's resume, the would-be employer may make a call in order to specify some details, to have a better idea of the given person, or to check the way s /he reacts to telephone calls. If you receive such a call at improper time, it is not a problem – you may just say so and ask when you could return the call.

The following pieces of advice will help you to prepare for the telephone conversation in the course of looking for a job and to conduct such a conversation correctly.

Preparing for the telephone talk
  • Identify the purpose of your call, the desirable result of the given call, and the questions that you want to ask;
  • Have at fingertips: a sheet of paper for taking notes, the vacant-job description, contact person details, calendar, your resume and your biography;
  • Select the time and place for the phone talk so that nothing would distract you;
  • Be in good mood and smile;
  • If the talk is expected in a language other than the applicant’s native one, it would make sense to put it into rehearsal beforehand.
During the telephone talk
  • Friendly words of greeting;
  • Introduce yourself, tell the purpose of your call, and specify the vacant job of your interest;
  • Speak clearly, legibly and sufficiently loudly, do not speak too quickly and too much, do not interrupt your interlocutor;
  • Record the name and surname of your interlocutor and address him / her by the surname;
  • Do not argue with the interlocutor – however, you may request to specify the reasons or to clarify some points;
  • Your questions and answers have to be brief and relevant;
  • Be polite and positive irrespectively of your interlocutor’s mood;
  • In conclusion, thank the interlocutor.
After the telephone talk
  • Record the results of the conversation, your interlocutor’s name, and the arrangements made;
  • It will not make sense to make additional calls for a very little of ever reason.

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