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The interview

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You cannot be prepared for everything, nor do you need to be. However, you should expect some standard questions to come up.

Questions about your CV

If there are any gaps in your CV, you ought to have an explanation for them.

Honesty is of the essence here. The same is true regarding unusually long periods of study. If you engaged in voluntary activities at the same time, this may sometimes even work to your advantage.
To begin the conversation, it is useful to be able to give a brief summary of one’s own CV. It is particularly helpful to incorporate your interest in the position at hand at this point. In any case, you should make sure that your interest in this specific job is clear throughout the conversation.

It is possible that you will be asked to introduce yourself and present your CV in PowerPoint format or with the aid of a flipchart during the interview. You will usually be informed beforehand if this is the case. The presentation should cover all the significant points on your CV.

Your expectations of the job

How thoroughly have you prepared for the interview? Use this question to show that you have gathered information on the company and base your expectations on the facts you have researched.

Questions about abilities and interests

Expect to be asked about your strengths and weaknesses. Avoid naming weaknesses which could be considered strengths, such as impatience or perfectionism. It is better to be honest, although you should not overemphasise weaknesses, and match each weakness with a strength. The same applies to questions on successes and failures. Choose successes which are relevant to your future field of work. With failures, you can of course branch out somewhat into other areas. Nonetheless, they should be relevant to your work and hence enable you to cite lessons learned.

Salary expectations

Try to gain an idea of the typical salary for your prospective position before the interview. Do not broach the subject of pay yourself. It is not unlikely that the employer will bring it up.If questioned, you should suggest a general salary range and be able to justify it. This always represents the gross annual salary. Refer to your qualifications, motivation and your professional experience. If a slightly smaller offer is made, you can negotiate but not insist on the larger sum. In this case you should bring up the subject again following your probationary period, or after a year’s employment at the latest.

Assessment centres

Many larger companies use various selection techniques and tests to find out how qualified the applicants really are, after interviews. Use of assessment centres for employment tests is a relatively recent phenomenon in Germany. The more senior the position you are applying for is within the company, the greater the likelihood that you will be asked to complete the test.

As a general rule, assessment centres last 1-2 days and have approximately 8-12 participants. Applicants are asked to demonstrate their qualifications in various situations as part of a systematic analysis. Scenarios include group discussions, role-plays, presentations, case studies and many more – applicants are constantly challenged and assessed. The main assessment criteria are personality, demeanour, social competence, motivation and the ability to take the long-term view and think analytically.

The point of an assessment centre is to allow the company to form an impression of you while interacting with other people under pressure to perform. But here too, it is important not to be intimidated. Simply view the assessment centre as a demanding workshop at which fun can be had too.

Interview preparation

If you are invited for an interview, you have done everything right so far. To ensure that the interview is a success as well, bear in mind the following guidelines.

Research your prospective employer

It is essential to be well-informed about your potential employer. The company website is the first port of call. It is also helpful to use search engines or dedicated news searches to find current information. In the course of all your research, you should keep an eye out for current projects and issues which you might be able to contribute to.

Dress correctly

The environment of your prospective workplace is key when it comes to clothing.
Naturally, your clothes ought to be clean and well-kept, and you should feel comfortable in them. In the financial services sector (banking, insurance, consulting), it is advisable to dress more conservatively (suit/skirt or trouser suit).

Travel with time to spare

You must not be late on the day of the interview. By planning your journey early and allowing extra time, you should be prepared for almost any eventuality. Bear in mind that delays can occur because of traffic jams, late trains, long walks within company premises or – in some sectors – security controls.
If the interview is to take place early in the morning, you might consider arriving a day early and staying in a hotel.

Bring documentation

Essential items to bring with you to an interview are the job advertisement, a copy of your application and your interview invitation. To be on the safe side, it is advisable to bring certified copies of all certificates and references mentioned in your application (and perhaps included only as simple copies).