Don’t say these things in your German job interview

Don’t say these things in your German job interview

by Erin McGann

Updated November 7, 2022

You’ve been looking for a job, and landed an interview! But what should you expect and what kinds of things will be different from a job interview in the United States or the United Kingdom? It will really depend on the individual company, but there are a few things you should be ready for.

Don’t say these 4 things in your next German interview

‘Oh, I didn’t know there would be so many people here!’

Jobs in Germany are, on average, more stable than in the US, in particular. The interview process is understandably more involved, because this isn’t a we’ll-see-how-it-goes-for-three-months type of thing. Don’t be surprised to see at least three people in your interview. And because so many documents are required with your CV – like school leaving certificates and references – employers have a pretty full picture of your experience before you arrive. For most workplaces, you can assume you’re in the top five candidates if you’ve been invited for an in-person interview. 

‘I don’t know much about the company – why don’t you tell me’

It will not surprise you that demonstrating your preparation is a big part of the interview process. Don’t show up without knowing something about the organisation, what their recent successes are, and how your skillset fits into that. But it’s not just about them – be prepared to talk about yourself. Have your German small talk facts ready to go: how many people live in your hometown? How long did you have to travel to get to the interview? What are your hobbies? 

‘I was the best marketing intern they ever had!’

This can be a tricky line to walk. In the UK, for instance, a very understated approach to one’s accomplishments is the norm, and even making self-deprecating jokes. This is not going to help you in Germany, where many people will just take your comments at face value, rather than realising you’re being polite, British style. However, the very American overly confident style will also not go over well, as your average German interviewer will not believe everything you have ever done at work was ‘amazingly successful’. Aim for a middle ground of being honest and bringing up successes you’ve had at previous jobs. 

‘WHY do you want to know if I’m married?’

On German CVs, it’s not uncommon to state your marital status along with whether you have any children, sometimes even their names and birthdates. This is not required information, and since 2006 it is illegal for employers to ask you about your plans to have a family, but it still may happen. If you feel like the question is fishing for whether you’re going to go on maternity leave sometime soon, feel free to politely decline to answer it. However, it’s not uncommon for interviewers to ask in a friendly way, even wanting to know what Kita or school your child attends. This is an attempt to connect with you, and while you can still deflect, it might be a good way to find out if the company is family friendly if you do have children. 

On average, job interviews in Germany are quite similar to interviews in other English-speaking countries. Dressing neatly and professionally, arriving on time, and being prepared will all demonstrate your fitness for the job. 

Of course, improving your language skills will go a long way to improving your chance of netting that all-important interview, so book your next few Lingoda classes in right now!

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