The traditional job interview is still the most common way of screening applicants. While the increasingly well-known assessment center method and the similar approach of personnel information sheets are also used, they tend to be limited to larger companies, as they are more expensive and time-consuming.If you receive an invitation to a job interview, you can breathe a little sigh of relief already: it means that you have mastered the first hurdles and stood out from a deluge of applications. Your job now is to prepare, practice the interview, prepare for questions you may be asked, choose an appropriate outfit, organize your journey to the interview location, and book accommodation if necessary. Do not underestimate the preparatory stage—it can easily take a few days. If this is your first job interview, it might take even longer.
Generally speaking, the goal of a job interview and an assessment center (for hiring an employee) is to determine whether the applicant is a good match for the advertised role and the company. This goes both ways: it is also an opportunity for you to decide whether you want to work for the company and in the position in question. Consequently, it is not just the applicant but also the company wishing to make a positive impression. Even when a company deems an applicant unsuitable for a position, they may well encounter the person again later, for example, as a customer or business partner.
The job interview helps your potential employer to get an idea of your personality. It is a personal conversation with one to three people, in which your personality traits, dedication, motivation, competence, and adaptability are examined. Of course, your appearance, manners, and eloquence play a very important part in this.
It helps to familiarize yourself with the requirements of such an interview. What does the employer want from you? What will you wear? What questions might be asked? Prepare answers to common questions such as “what are your weaknesses?” (What am I currently working on? How can I present this in a positive light?) and “where do you see your career in five years?”. Prepare your answers at home and take the time to write them down in bullet points. Of course, you will not be taking your notes to the interview, nor will you learn them by heart. But sitting down and focusing on yourself and your thoughts about the job for a while will help you answer more confidently and really mean what you say. It does not matter whether you get the questions you expected.
Think of concrete situations in the past in which you were able to prove your strengths. Regarding your “weaknesses”—or “areas of development”: think of ones that are not necessarily required for the position in question and consider how you have dealt with them so far. Other typical questions are:
- Why do you want to work with us, specifically? What attracts you to this position?
- What do you imagine work with us to be like?
- What new ideas do you have?
- What skills and experiences from your studies and your previous jobs will you contribute?
- Tell us of a concrete situation in which you were able to use those skills and experiences.
Make sure you seriously think about the questions you want to ask the company. You can write them down on your notepad, which you will be taking to the interview anyway to jot down answers or dates. Be careful, though: do not ask questions that were already answered during the interview!
We have put together a checklist of the most important things to remember. Tick the items on it one by one so you can keep your thoughts focused on the actual job interview. If you were to keep every single tip and well-meant piece of advice in mind, you’d have no brain capacity left to think about the interview!
- Prepare questions for the employer
- Dress appropriately (this does not always require a suit!)
- Organize your journey and accommodation
- Know your résumé and bring it with you
- Bring a notepad and pen
- Bring a handkerchief
- Get a good night’s sleep before the interview day
- Don’t tense up (practice relaxation techniques)
- Be natural and authentic