What do you need to keep in mind to have a successful job interview in Germany? A few key points are to learn German, arrive on time, and be well-prepared. Here are some tips on precisely how to do that from an experienced expat in Germany.
How to have a successful job interview in Germany
1. Learn German
No matter what language your job interview is in, it’s extremely worthwhile to learn German in preparation for it, as well as at your job itself. Although it is becoming more common with employers to speak languages aside from German in Germany, your job prospects will dramatically increase when you can speak German. It’s truly the number one skill for finding a job in Germany. I personally and many others I know have applied for English-speaking jobs and were still required to have the job interview in German, so if you want to ace it, then this is the most important asset you can bring to the table.
2. Arrive early
In Germany, arriving on time means arriving early, which is absolutely crucial for job interviews. Arrive at least 10 minutes before the interview time, if not more, because timeliness is an important part of German culture. When I was applying for jobs, I tended to find the building location as much as an hour in advance and then wait in a cafe nearby and drink a coffee. This way you ensure that you’re not delayed due to transportation or not being able to find the address. Better safe than sorry!
3. Address the interviewer formally
If your job interview is in German, you’ll want to address everyone there with “Sie”, the formal version of German, or the equivalent of using “Mr and Mrs + Last Name” in English. The only exception here might be if you’ve spoken to the interviewer in advance and they used “Du” or a first-name basis with you. If you’re unsure about which one to use, start with the formal version and they’ll tell you if they prefer to speak informally.
4. Dress suitably
First impressions matter a lot in Germany, especially when it comes to appearance. For a job interview, you should dress business formal, which means slacks or a skirt, as well as a nice blouse or button up shirt and business jacket. Leather shoes are the most suitable and always make sure your clothes are ironed as well. German culture tends to prefer white, black, blue, and grey tones for business clothing as opposed to brighter colors, though this can depend on the company culture as to how creative or formal they are.
5. Bring copies of your CV and other documents
It can often be the case that the person you speak to at your interview is different from the person who initially recruited you. In order to lessen any chance of confusion, I always recommend bringing copies of your CV and other important documents (such as your educational certificates) to the interview. In the event the interviewer has them prepared, it still gives off a good impression that you are organised and well-prepared.
6. Research the company
This point I would say applies to any job interview in the world, but is especially important for Germany. The German job market is highly competitive, so as an applicant you need to cover all bases in order to stand out and prove that you’re the best candidate. A great way to do precisely that is research the company before the interview, even if it’s just a phone interview. Research aspects like their company values, types of employees, products and services, projects they’re working on, markets they operate in, etc. The more you know about the company, the better you can relate your skills to what the company requires for the job position.
7. Keep eye contact
Eye contact is viewed differently among different cultures and in Germany, it’s one of the most important ways to show respect. Respect in general is an integral part of German culture, so no matter who you speak with at the interview, address them with eye contact. Maintaining eye contact is also a sign that you are confident about your own skills as well.
8. Prepare questions
Always prepare a few questions to discuss with the interviewer. These can stem from your research or come up during the interview. In either case, they show that you’re interested in the position, because you want to understand all the details. Common topics to ask questions include:
- Benefits (holidays, sick leave, bonuses, public transportation, etc.)
- Home office flexibility
- Particular job skills
- Company culture
- Contract terms
One tip that I’d add for expats if your job needs to be connected to a work visa, convey this early on in the job interview process so that your employer understands they’ll also need to fulfill particular requirements from the foreigner’s office (Ausländerbehörde).
9. Give a salary range
When your job interview involves discussing a salaried position, another point of preparation is knowing your salary expectations. Sometimes job applications will already require you to state this, but this can change once you learn more in detail about what the job requires and what your other benefits are. It often requires at least three interviews before you receive a work contract in Germany, so use these interviews to learn as much about the job as possible in order to provide the correct salary range. The correct salary range depends on the job, and you can find more information on this topic at glassdoor.
10. Have patience
Patience is truly a virtue in Germany, because most companies aren’t quick to make hiring decisions. After you have your interview, the interviewer might state a time frame that they will provide you some feedback and surpass this date. But don’t fret! If this happens, it’s a good idea to check in with your contact there. You never know who fell ill, who went on holiday, and what other priority issues that will arise that can cause delays.
On that same note, it’s quite common to take 6+ months to find a suitable job in Germany, because again the market is highly competitive and has many applicants. So, always keep your CV updated and fill out many applications. Eventually you will find the job you’re looking for if you’re persistent enough!