Every interview is different. And yet, they are similar. You, as the applicant, should show yourself from your best side in a few minutes, bring eloquence, knowledge, and thoughtful questions with you. You are under high pressure and constant stress. Not an easy task! If you prepare carefully, your chances will increase. This is how you get through the interview.
What matters in the interview
Interviews are the gold standard in the application process. Yet, according to recruiting agencies, 87 percent of recruiters still select new employees in a traditional job interview. This is what matters in the interview:
Those who go into the interview prepared show professionalism. Those who are unprepared, on the other hand, signal a lack of interest. Thorough preliminary research is essential to be able to shine in the interview. No, you don’t need to know every tiny detail about the company. But the basic data do: historical background, industry, product range, locations, current developments, and challenges. In times of the Internet, it is not difficult to collect essential information.
The interview should show that you meet the must requirements of the job. On the one hand, there are the hard skills: a software developer should be able to program, a biologist should work in a laboratory, and a taxi driver should drive a car. In addition, soft skills are also essential. Motivation, social intelligence, resilience, reliability. Your basic attitude, your work ethic should be impeccable – and visible to the outside world. More than 70 percent of HR managers mainly rely on the impressions of an applicant’s soft skills gathered in the interview.
Accuracy of fit
In the modern US, this is called today: Cultural Fit. HR professionals are particularly interested in whether an applicant will (presumably) fit into the team or not. Admittedly, he often lets himself be guided by his intuition – and my sympathies. Best of all, there is as much correspondence between the company and the applicant as possible. When the mindset, work ethic, values , and interests are similar, the chemistry is right. In the interview, try to clarify to the HR manager that you are a team player that colleagues enjoy working with. Of course, an affinity with the industry or a direct relationship with the company is also helpful.
Applicants can do a lot wrong in an interview. They recognize that things are going badly when, among other things, it is over quickly. An interview usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. Good job interviews take longer; bad ones are over in no time – often after 30 minutes.
There are endless possibilities for applicants to knock themselves out of the running. For example, if you string together info after info, that is unfortunately completely irrelevant to the job.
Or if they reveal too much and destroy the image of high potential. That is why good preparation for the interview is so important. Never go into the job interview unprepared – then you can leave it alone.
An interview is usually divided into five phases:
Discussion phase: greeting and small talk
For many, the horror begins without delay. The small talk phase is supposed to relieve tension, but it is pure stress for nerve bundles. The well-known problem: the first impression already has a decisive influence on whether we like someone or not. And the small talk at the beginning of an interview has a decisive influence on the first impression. So please don’t underestimate the start – regardless of whether the HR manager wants to chat with you about the weather or asks how you got there.
The best thing to do is to be very calm and relaxed. However, the HR manager does not usually hold you against the hint of how nervous you are. So play with open cards.
At first, don’t go into the office with your outstretched hand first. Wait until the person you are speaking to offers you their hand and then grasp briefly but firmly. Introduce yourself by name, look in the eye, smile as you go – this is how you briefly introduce yourself. Radiate self-confidence, so stands up straight and walk, and don’t talk too softly. But not too loud either – and don’t overdo it – self-performers don’t go down well.
Discussion phase: getting to know each other and self-presentation
“Tell us a little bit about yourself!” “What is your career path?” This is how the HR manager often introduces the introductory phase in the interview. He wants to find out more about you, your personality, and your stations.
The best thing to do is practice your self-presentation at home before the interview. A good self-presentation takes no more than three to five minutes. First, you state your name and age and then your education, experience, and professional focus.
Assume that you already know your resume. So don’t rattle your stations down, but set priorities. You put the successes and qualifications that are particularly important to the fore – and your personality.
Discussion phase: Presentation of the employer
Now it is the employer’s turn. What does he do, what does he expect, how does he work? He should now provide information about this – at least to some extent.
Please do not put your ears on draft now – not even if you are already well informed. There are plus points for you if you ask intelligent questions or make meaningful comments.
Show that you are listening and have dealt with the company – without interrupting your conversation partner!
Discussion phase: questions
The interview is slowly coming to an end. Now comes the classic question from the HR manager: Do you have any questions for us?
Either way, your answer should be yes. If you don’t ask any questions, you may have already been disqualified. With questions, you can prove that you are seriously interested in the company and the position.
However, not every query is automatically a good one. Real killer questions are better avoided: Please do not ask any questions about special services or vacation regulations – they would not throw a good light on you.
Discussion phase: conclusion and farewell
That’s it, and your interview is over. Say goodbye politely, but not without inquiring about the further process, when you can expect an answer, and how you will be contacted.
Highly recommended: Thank your host again at the end of the interview. Thank you for your time with me. I was pleased about it—something like that. A thank you expresses appreciation – and good manners.
Good preparation is essential. If you just recite the points you have learned, the HR manager will see them right away. Your answers and arguments must not appear rehearsed in the interview. The art is to mix the right mixture of self-expression and self-promotion and add a speculative mass dash. You want to convince professionally, but above all personally. It is your character that interests your counterpart. The facts from the resume are already known.
How to make a good impression in the interview:
You can work out a few nice anecdotes before the job interview. Because the right question is sure to come, but tell it – even if it’s difficult – as if it came to your mind on the spur of the moment. As pictorial and realistic as possible.
Don’t say too much, but don’t say too little either. Provide concise and concise examples. And initiate a dialogue, for example, by asking: Shall I tell you about another project that I have led?
Observe body language
Possible signs of boredom. Is your conversation partner’s gaze wandering, or he hardly takes any notes? If you notice this during the interview, try verbally up a gear and go on the offensive.
One question stands out from the cannonade: the question of weaknesses. She is probably the most famous, perhaps also the most feared. What are your main weaknesses? The answers are now similar and are often like this: “I’m too impatient.” “I’m too perfectionist.” “I’m a workaholic.” Not good! But it is one that applicants have naturally long since adjusted over the years.
These are nothing more than phrases that come from unfortunate guidebooks. So please don’t answer like that! You only show that you want to fool the HR manager and do not stand by your weaknesses. Because that you have some is inevitable because it is human.
Everyone has weaknesses and inadequacies. And every HR manager in the world knows that. So don’t pretend you don’t have any in the interview. In addition, a recruiter who expects pure perfection from an applicant and wants to be served has or would have missed his job.
So our advice: answer honestly in the interview, but link honesty with good intentions. So you are free to reveal a weakness (as long as it is not drinking addiction or notorious laziness), but at the same time, say how you can get this weakness under control.
Example: In all honesty, I’m always pretty nervous when I have to call someone I don’t know. And even if telephoning will not be one of my main tasks here, I am consistently working on this problem.
Of course, you won’t be faced with every single question. But if you go through this list of questions and find a good answer to each question, you have good cards.
These are the most common interview questions:
- Why did you apply to us?
- Why should we take you?
- What can you do that other cannot?
- Tell us a little about yourself.
- What do you know about our company?
- And what about our industry?
- Why are you currently unemployed?
- What are your goals in your job?
- What was your last salary?
- What salary would you like to earn with us?
- Would you move for the job?
Personality, strengths, and weaknesses
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How would your fellow students describe you?
- What ideas have you already implemented?
- What are you most afraid of?
- What was your biggest mistake, and how did you deal with it?
- Which character traits would you like?
- What do you dislike about other people?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What was your most outstanding achievement outside of your job?
- What big dream do you have in life?
- What tools and techniques do you use?
- How do you build trust within a team?
- How do you react when you get a no for an answer?
- How can I imagine your working style?
- How do you deal with change?
- Which problem was too difficult for you, and what did you do then?
- What would you like to achieve in your new job in the first month?
An essential point in the interview is to ask questions. You should heed this in any case. You have the opportunity to do so in the questionnaire phase of the interview. Make sure you use this chance! The interviewer will most likely actively ask you to do so. A good HR manager can tell from your queries how professionally you have prepared yourself, what you already know about the company, and maybe even what priorities you are setting. Here are other reasons why you should always ask (good) questions in the interview:
- You show interest.
- They show that you are prepared.
- You gain more information about the job and the company.
- They underline your intelligence.
- You can have a conversation.
But which are good questions? For example, this:
What is the biggest challenge in this position?
Firstly, the question shows that you have already dealt with the content of the position and are looking for solutions. Second, if you read between the lines, you will get wind of possible weaknesses in the company. Are your skills and strengths suitable for the position?
Why is the position vacant?
If it is a newly created position, you can directly pick up on a follow-up question: Why was it created? As the company grows, the workforce may no longer be able to cope with the job. But if you have been vacant for a long time, then the right candidate has not yet been found. Why not? You can ask this question to the interviewer – but also yourself.
What distinguishes your best employees?
So you ask the company to define talent and performance. And you want to know what the employer expects from you in the future. The answer mainly reveals something illuminating about the corporate culture.
Job interview clothes
First of all, there is no such thing as the perfect outfit for an interview. In conservative industries, it is better to appear formal. In creative industries, it can be more unusual. But maybe not. It always depends on the company in question.
You should always observe these basic rules:
Your outfit should be well-groomed, regardless of the industry. Motto: If you dress poorly, you probably work that way too. The outfit can underline your individuality. But: It’s more about the question of whether you are a good fit for the company. So pay more attention to the accuracy of fit than to individuality. That means: Adapt yourself – to a certain extent.
Professional tip: Always bring your application documents with you to the interview – if possible in multiple copies. You can pull them out of your hat in the worst case if one of those present has forgotten their documents. This has only advantages for you as an applicant: You prove your diligence, collect sympathy points, and leave an orderly impression. If you don’t need the copies, keep them in your pocket.
Job interview body language
No matter how convincing you are. If your body language is negative during the interview, your chances of getting the job to dwindle. And your body is always talking – even if your mouth stays closed. The non-verbal signals that you send out during the interview can be the main reason for your ultimate failure. According to the survey, the following applicant gestures are not at all liked by recruiters in the interview – in this order:
- No eye contact
- No smile
- Lax posture
- Sloppy handshake
- Crossed arms
- Fiddling with your face or playing around with your hair
- Waving your hands
Body language is one of the decisive factors in the interview. It begins the moment the applicant enters the company premises and ends when he has left it again. Before and after, you can make as many strange movements as you want, but in the middle, you should pull yourself together – if you want the job.
And another tip: Be polite to everyone on the way to the HR office. It is said that there have already been personnel managers who have asked the porter for his impression. Was the applicant polite, snippy, or even bossy? Make sure to tuck your shirt into your suit trousers, straighten your tie and straighten your blouse in good time – and not while entering the interview room.
Then politely introduce yourself and say thank you for inviting me to the interview, but don’t sit down just yet. Only when you are prompted to do so. Treat your interlocutors in the interview – if there is more than one – equally. Specifically, this means: look at everyone one after the other when you answer and then return to the person who asked the question.
But none of this will do you any good if you forget one essential thing: smile! Smile a lot in the interview; that earns you sympathy points. But, of course, not all the time and in such a way that it looks silly or artificial.
Bad topics to talk about in a job interview
You can tell a lot about yourself in the interview, ask good questions, but in return, you should also ignore one aspect or the other.
Among others these:
Some HR managers specifically ask for it. You shouldn’t lie, but you could put a termination into perspective. Perhaps you have been the victim of austerity measures or redundancies. However, you should not actively address a termination in the interview.
The love of money – drives people like hardly anything else. In the job interview, however, you should avoid paying. At least until the interviewer comes up with it himself. When the new employer checks your salary expectations, always state a range and not an individual amount. If the employer himself mentions the salary he is willing to pay, do not comment further. Just take note of it for the time being. But you can cautiously ask about bonuses or company cars, especially if the offer seems too small to you. But even then, you shouldn’t cancel hastily – you might regret it.
What you do in your free time is your private affair. That’s why you shouldn’t talk about it in the interview. And besides: you can usually not collect points in this way. The likelihood that the recruiter has the same preferences and hobbies as you are rather small. Exception: You have a hobby that perfectly underlines your abilities for the job.
If you weren’t on the same wavelength as your ex-boss or were in constant clinic with your colleagues – that’s not something you should talk about in the interview. In the best-case scenario, you are seen as gossip, in the worst case as someone who defrauds you. Always bring out the positive in your previous jobs. After all, at some point, your future employer will also be your former employer – and then you won’t want you to badmouth him.
Job interview mistake
You can do a lot wrong in an interview by disclosing secrets, badmouthing old bosses, and telling too many irrelevant things. But, unfortunately, not every mistake in the interview is a verbal one. But you can make big mistakes if you don’t open your mouth. So please spare yourself these three mishaps:
Leave the cell phone on
Not a deadly sin, but uncomfortable. Evidence of poor preparation. When the cell phone rings during the interview, the answer is brisk: say sorry, push away the call and switch off the cell phone.
Be master of your senses – and your body. Please do not cross your arms, tap your foot on the floor or chew your fingernails during the interview. Very bad: laughing scornfully or rolling your eyes – it expresses arrogance. Incidentally, this also applies to job interviewers.
Check the time
“Get out of here!” You send this signal to the HR manager when you look at the clock. Rule of thumb for the job interview: Never check the time. Don’t look at your cell phone, don’t secretly squint at the wall clock. You like to be here – a glance at the clock expresses the opposite.
End the interview
The interview is not over until you have left the room. In the end, you shake hands with the person you are talking to again (strong handshake!), Look him in the eye and politely say goodbye with a “goodbye,” which is meant. It is best to thank you for the excellent conversation (regardless of whether it is true). Then there is this: leave the building upright – and only relax when you are out of sight.
What you can think about: Whether you emphasize that you want the job at the end of the interview. In doing so, you signal interest, will, and self-confidence.
But be careful: if you act too aggressively, it can also sound like a need. According to the motto: Please, dear HR manager, give me the job, I need it! This is how you could express yourself:
- Variant 1: This is the job I want to have. I am sure now. Is there anything else I can do to convince you that I’m the best cast?
- Variant 2: That’s why I think that I would be the ideal person for this position. Do you need more information?
- Variant 3: I would like to start with you next week. Do you have any questions for me that could make your decision easier?
- Variant 4: I am very interested in this point. How can I get you to make me an offer?
- Variant 5: You now know my strengths and weaknesses. I would be happy if I could work for you – and if you want to too.
- Variant 6: I am very impressed by the position and your company. I hope to have positive news from you soon!
Of course, these are only suggestions for wording. What you say at the end should build on the content of the interview. It must match. And it is also clear: At the end of the day, you should only point out your interest again if you want the position – and not because you think you would be expected to do so.
After the interview
The nervousness increases day by day. But what if the company just doesn’t get in touch with you? Just wait and see? Not correct! There is nothing more you can do. You don’t have to stay in wait mode, and you can take action. For example, you can turn one or the other adjusting screw to influence or accelerate the application process positively.
For example like this:
Thank you letter
A letter of thanks is now de facto part of an application. Those who say thank you have several advantages: This sets you apart from other applicants. You can change the overall impression a bit for the better. You can do this simply by email. For example, you write how you found the interview and are still very interested in the position. You can also answer any open questions that may have been raised during the interview. Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to an early reply – but on no more than half a page.
Maybe you forgot to ask about it in the interview. Then do it now! Check how long the application process normally takes and when you can expect a decision. If three working days have passed since the interview, you can also inquire by phone. Better, because more confident: wait a week. If you still haven’t heard from the company three weeks after the interview, feel free to be a little brisk. As an applicant, you can expect at least a short confirmation of receipt. With all your enthusiasm, you shouldn’t get on the nerves of the HR manager. So please don’t overdo it.
What you shouldn’t do: Put everything on one card. That would be unwise. So keep listening to potential employers and vacancies after an interview.So you don’t lose any time, and in the best case, you have several offers to choose from. So keep accepting interview invitations and keep writing applications. Your chances of getting the dream job will not decrease.