If your upcoming job interviews are in German, there are a few important elements to keep in mind. In addition to arriving 10-15 early, dressing well, and preparing follow up questions, you’ll also want to make sure you’re using the correct German grammar. So, here are a few tips on useful German grammar that you’ll need to prepare to have a successful interview.

All the German grammar you need for job interviews in German

Sie vs du

As opposed to English where we refer to everyone as “you”, German has an informal you “du” and formal you “Sie”. Taking note of this difference is absolutely essential for speaking German in general, but especially when it comes to job interviews, because you always want to convey respect.

Whereas using “du” means using the person’s first name, when you use “Sie”, you need to combine it with the third person plural form of the verb. For example:

Danke, dass Sie sich die Zeit für unseren Termin genommen haben. (Thank you for taking the time for our appointment)

When referring to a person directly, you should use Frau or Herr and their last name (the equivalent to Mr and Mrs).

I have encountered some contexts where we use “Sie” and the person’s first name, because things have changed little by little within German culture to become more informal. When in doubt and to avoid confusion, always start with “Sie” and then change to “du” if the person says it’s ok. They will say something like “Wir können uns gerne duzen” when they’d like to switch to “du”.

To add another quick note here, when you’re referring to someone in the “Sie” form, then the pronoun “your” becomes “Ihr” instead of “dein”. For example:

Wie geht es Ihnen? (How are you?)

Erlaubt Ihr Unternehmen Fernarbeit? (Does your company allow remote work?)

Auf welche Projekt konzentriert sich Ihr Unternehmen? (Which project is your company focused on?)

Modal verbs

You can also use the certain modal verbs to convey politeness, and in this case it’s the same basic concept found in English. Instead of using modal verbs like can and will (können and wollen), replace them with would, would like, may and could (würden, möchten, hätten and dürfen, könnten).

For example: 

Könnten Sie mir bitte weitere Informationen geben? (Could you please give me more information?)

Ich möchte den Vertrag besprechen. (I would like to discuss the contract.)

Ich hätte gerne einen Kaffee, bevor wir beginnen. (I would like a coffee before we begin.)

Darf ich eine Frage stellen? (May I ask a question?)

Use the word “bitte” often

Politeness goes a long way in basically every language, and is no less true in German. One of the most common words for politeness is “bitte”. This word has many different meanings depending on context, so you can use different forms during your German job interview to sound more polite. 

Here are a few examples:

Wie bitte? (Pardon?)

Könnten Sie das bitte wiederholen? (Could you please repeat that?)

Könnten wir bitte über mein Gehalt sprechen? (Could we please discuss my salary?)

 

“Bitte” also means thank you, as in:

Danke für den Kaffee. (Thank you for the coffee.)

Ja, bitte! (Yes, you’re welcome!)

Overall, you should always strive to convey as much politeness as possible in order to give a good impression, as German culture in general puts a lot of weight on politeness and formality.

Useful job interview-related phrases

Here are a few more job interview-related phrases that you might encounter or need to use during your job interview:

German English
Was können Sie unserer Firma bieten? What can you offer our company?
Beschreiben Sie Ihren beruflichen Werdegang. Describe your professional experience.
Was sind Ihre Gehaltsvorstellungen. What are your salary expectations?
Ich beabsichtige… I intend to…
Momentan verdiene ich xxx EUR pro Jahr. At the moment I earn XXX EUR per year.
Ich interessiere mich für… I’m interested in…
Warum möchten Sie für unser Unternehmen tätig sein? Why would you like to work for our company?
Was wissen Sie bereits über unser Unternehmen? What do you already know about our company?
Wo liegen Ihre Schwerpunkte? What are your strongest skills?
Können Sie mir zunächst etwas über Sie erzählen? Can you please tell me a bit about yourself?

 

Job interviews never follow a script, so there will of course be variations to these phrases. Before your job interview, I recommend practicing speaking German as much as possible so you get into the flow of things. In any case, the most important element is that you emphasize formal language structures as opposed to informal.

A note on perfect grammar

You may have noticed that this list doesn’t include using complex German grammar elements like the articles der, die, and das and cases such as Akkusativ and Dativ correctly. Unless you’re a German native speaker, Germans honestly don’t care if you have 100% perfect grammar (even German native speakers themselves make mistakes, too). What’s most important is that you try to speak in a formal and polite manner and do your best to convey your skills clearly. After all, language is a form of communication and effective communication is much more relevant for a job than having correct grammar.

Prepare for your German job interviews

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