Are you looking for a new job? Do you take the first hurdle and get invited to job interviews but then don’t manage to convince your interviewer of your capability? From my experience of more than 200 conducted job interviews I see certain negative patterns occurring repeatedly. But they don’t have to be in your way to a great and fulfilling job. Here are nine steps to overcome the most common job interview issues.
Co-Founder and Managing Director of Accedera GmbH
#1 Get prepared for questions
Every interview situation is new and agitating. For most people it means leaving their comfort zone. That’s why it is very important to prepare well to sooth some of the nervousness. Luckily interview situations often follow a similar pattern and questions are often the same. Use this to your advantage and prepare for these questions.
#2 If you don’t understand, ask!
I know that often German is an issue in job interviews. It’s a challenge to face such a stressful situation in a language you might not feel completely comfortable with. Here I have one advice: if you don’t understand the interviewer, ask!
For an interviewer it is irritating to ask one question and receive an answer to something completely different. It shows that not only did the person not understand – which is quite normal in a foreign language – but also that the applicant is not sufficiently capable to handle the situation adequately.
So, if you don’t understand a question or are not sure what has been said than either ask the interviewer to repeat or confirm the question by reformulating it: “Did you ask if…” Or if only one word was incomprehensible, ask specifically: “What does … mean?” All of these options show a better understanding then giving an answer that doesn’t match the question.
#3 Be aware of alleged weaknesses in your CV
Get ready to shine. Even when there are periods in your CV you don’t feel very shiny about. Are you aware of these periods? How will you present them? Interviewers mostly find your weak spots, especially if you point to them with your answers or also your body language. Make sure you don’t entangle yourself in a mass of unsatisfying answers which give way to negative assumptions about your person.
#4 Put some make-up on your truth (which doesn’t mean lying!)
This goes hand in hand with #3: there are different ways to present the truths of your supposed weak spots in your CV. Read these examples and decide for yourself which answer you like better:
Question: So, you have lived in Germany for four years now. Why have you only obtained a B1 level in German?
- Well, the language is very difficult (so you don’t learn languages easily?) and my former boss didn’t allow me to follow a course (of course, it hasn’t been your responsibility…). And since my girlfriend speaks … fluently (aha, not really big in leaving your comfort zone, are you?), I just sort of never needed it (interesting idea of integrating in a foreign country), but of course I would love to learn better (sure you do…NOT).
- You are right, I haven’t reached the level I would have liked to obtain by now (ok, he is aware of his shortcoming, that’s a first step). Learning German well at the advanced stage I am at right now requires continuous practice (true). My current job is in a very international environment so that I don’t have the chance to practice German in my professional environment (fair enough, some jobs don’t require German). Of course I feel quite comfortable talking German to my girlfriend’s family (great! Not only does he speak well on a non-formal level, he is integrated in a local family life), but this is not the same sort of conversation as on a professional level (he sure knows something about learning languages). In fact I have bought (ready to invest into his future, awesome!) the Babble App for my smartphone which allows me to make full use of free moments like my daily working commute (great! Makes the best out of limited possibilities).
Same person, same question, different answers – which one is more likely to get you the job?
#5 Delete weakening words from your vocabulary
Many people tend to weaken themselves by using weak vocabulary: I would like…, I think I could or I might, I guess…, I hope to fulfill…, maybe, actually, …
Using weakening vocabulary is an issue for both native and non-native speakers. Be aware of your strong sides and be ready to present them as such. These are the points you will be hired for, so give your interviewer a chance to see them.
#6 Be friendly and show your sense of humor
I like doing interviews, because I like to get to know people and their interesting life stories. So I always have a good time interviewing applicants. But upon self-reflection I do realize that I enjoy interviews more – and often attribute more competence to applicants – when applicants smile, laugh and show a little bit of their sense of humor.
The impression I have is that people who deal with an interview situation with confidence and humor will also be more likely to face the challenge of living in a foreign country better. So, don’t forget to smile every once in a while in the interview.
#7 Be prepared to negotiate for salary
This is a German peculiarity: often salaries are negotiable. If this is the case the job offer usually mentions that you should state your salary expectations in your cover letter. If they ask you for it, you should do it. And to do this, get prepared. Ask your friends about their salaries, Google search, analyze your own expectations and the financial possibilities of the company you are applying to. If you don’t, you might either not get the job or get it at a significantly lower salary as your colleagues. Even if the job offer doesn’t mention a negotiable salary, inform yourself about the usual salary range in this sector to know what you can and should expect.
Two helpful links are the Stepstone Salary Report and the Union Wage Agreement of Public Services (TVöD).
#8 Ask questions
This is something that happens all the time: applicants don’t ask questions in a job interview. And I don’t understand why. There are two major reasons to ask questions in a job interview:
First, receiving answers to your questions might actually give you valuable information that lets you decide if you really want this job.
Secondly, it shows your engagement and real interest. I mostly interview applicants who have not yet migrated to Germany and are thinking about changing their entire life by moving to Germany. How is it possible that there are no questions with such a huge step ahead of them? Shouldn’t there be a mountain of questions? It makes me wonder if the applicant hasn’t really thought about it yet and hence makes him/her less interesting to me.
Would you go to an exam without learning and studying for it? Probably not.
A job interview is not much different than an exam: you get rated on your capability to perform well.
However, many people don’t prepare for job interviews. I actually recommend taking a camera and a friend to role-play the situation. Afterwards watch the video and analyze how you have performed. Where you convincing? What did you feel like? How was your body language? Are there maybe cultural misunderstandings?
There are certainly more aspects to job interviews, but I feel that these are very common, but unnecessary hurdles to obtaining your dream job.
In German we say “Everybody cooks with hot water”, meaning that other people haven’t found any magic dust either but are working with the same basic ingredients as you. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that your water is just as hot as everybody else’s.
Part I: Five steps for landing a job interview in Germany
Accedera recruits amiable and qualified European personal for German nursery schools and remedial care centers. Accedera follows an integral approach in order to work towards a good start for both employer and employee. Through its talent pool Accedera accompanies all international applicants from the first steps of thinking about migration to finding and keeping a job in Germany.
Find out more about Accedera and their current job offers for foreign specialists on their website.