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Prepare for an interview: 10 tips for 5 phases

The personal interview is the last hurdle before the dream job - but you can only master this if you prepare for the interview.

Unfortunately, job interviews are tricky. Within a few minutes you should say the smartest thing that has ever come out of your lips, should sparkle with inspiration and commitment, should be personable and motivated, make the best possible first impression and, on top of that, subtly emphasize why this is the unique opportunity for that Company is to hire the best people for the position.

Without preparation for the interview, it can hardly be mastered, because there is also nervousness and pressure. But the good news: You can prepare an interview and start the job interview with the best possible prerequisites ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Prepare for an interview? Therefore!

With the invitation to a personal interview you are one big step closer to the job and have already left most of the competition behind you. You cannot rest on that yet, because now it is a matter of consolidating the positive impression and convincing the HR manager over the long term. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is difficult for many job seekers.

Once you, as an applicant, sit in the interview, this often happens: Due to the unusual situation and the great nervousness, you hardly know that everything is going differently than planned. Some candidates try to talk themselves away from nervousness - but unfortunately this can also mean losing the chance of the job.

  • On the one hand, because you are stringing together a series of irrelevant information;
  • on the other hand, because you are talking about your head and soul. The coherent story of the top talent that has been prepared beforehand suddenly becomes fragile, the other side first doubts in the job interview - and when in doubt, the following applies: contra reo.

After all, other applicants are waiting out there ...

Fortunately, it doesn't have to come to that. If you prepare for the interview, you will be able to master exactly these difficulties and appear confidently. Thanks to the preparation, you will know what to expect, reduce your nervousness and will not be surprised by some questions from the HR manager. In short, by preparing for the interview, you will significantly increase your chances of getting the job.

The second piece of good news: Good interview preparation isn't just the be-all and end-all - it's not rocket science either. We'll show you what you should be prepared for in an interview.

Interview process: 5 typical phases

For example, most job interviews follow a classic pattern and are usually divided into five interview phases:

  1. Phase 1: small talk
    Duration: approx. 5 minutes
    ➠ Brief greeting
    ➠ Introduction by name
    ➠ Ask about arrival & condition / drinks
  2. Phase 2: getting to know each other
    Duration: approx. 15 minutes
    ➠ Employer introduces himself
    ➠ Company / culture / products
    ➠ Description of the position and position
  3. Phase 3: self-presentation
    Duration: approx. 10 minutes
    ➠ Previous professional career
    ➠ Major milestones and successes
    ➠ strengths related to the job
  4. Phase 4: Inquiries
    Duration: approx. 10 minutes
    ➠ Questions about the content and requirements of the job
    ➠ Questions about expectations & performance measurement
    ➠ Questions about development opportunities
  5. Phase 5: Completion
    Duration: approx. 5 minutes
    ➠ Thanks for the interview
    ➠ Further steps / deadlines
    ➠ Farewell

In order to optimally help you to prepare for your job interview, we have summarized the classic phases again as a PDF.

You can save this or print it out so that you can take a look at the most important points again and again while you prepare for the interview after the invitation.

Preparing for an interview: 10 tips

You have now completed the first part of your preparation for the interview. You know exactly how such a conversation takes place and what is roughly in store for you. Of course, that's not all you should prepare.

After all, you want to present yourself from your best side and convince the recruiter that you are the best person. So that you can do this, we have numerous tips on how you should prepare for an interview:

Research information about the employer

Before you start an interview, you should find out as much as possible about the company. You have already done a little research before you apply, but you should go into detail again when preparing for the interview. How many employees does the employer have? At which locations is it represented? In which industries is the company active? What products or services are being produced? What values ​​does the company represent?

The more you know, the better. You really want to work there, so you should know the employer. You can find a lot of information online on the company's website.

If possible, you can also prepare for your specific interlocutor. You can often find a short profile on Xing, LinkedIn or the employer's website. Similarities with the HR manager can definitely be an advantage. Perhaps you share a common hobby or have attended the same university.

Prepare a self-presentation

You have already learned about the "self-presentation" in the discussion phases. This is a classic part of every job interview and is therefore extremely easy to prepare. In advance, think about how you want to introduce yourself and what you can tell about yourself in order to convince the HR manager. You can get on as follows, for example:

Thank you for the invitation and the chance to introduce myself here. My name is Maria Muster, I am 27 and would like to focus on three experiences in my self-presentation. From my point of view, these show most clearly why I fit in with the job: ...

A good rule of thumb is: "I am - I can - I will." If you structure your self-presentation into these three areas, all relevant information is included: a brief introduction to yourself, a description of your training, qualifications and skills and an outlook on how you want to use them to generate great added value for the employer.

Caution: When preparing for the interview, you should not memorize anything word for word. This may give you a sense of security, but it feels incredibly stiff and not at all authentic.

Write down the most important things

One important aspect of preparing for an interview is all too often overlooked: write down a few bullet points, take notes and take them with you during the interview. HR professionals expect and know candidates are prepared - so why not show that you've done just that very thoroughly.

You can even go into it and, for example, emphasize how much you like to be prepared and organized to bring a strength into focus. On the other hand, of course, you shouldn't read all the time and scroll through each question.

Internalize your application

You can assume that your interlocutor has also prepared for the interview and knows your application documents well. It is all the more important that you do the same! If the recruiter asks questions about different stages on your résumé, you should know what he is talking about and can react to it.

When preparing for the interview, you should therefore not only collect information about the company, but also carefully study your own documents again. Your experiences and strengths in particular could be questioned.

Bring your application documents with you

In order to be on the safe side when preparing, it is an expert tip to bring copies of your own application documents with you to interviews - preferably in multiple copies. Those present should prepare the interview themselves and have a copy ready for themselves, but this is by no means always the case.

The whole thing has numerous advantages: You demonstrate your professionalism and preparation, make a good impression and can thus convince in job interviews. If you don't need the copies, just keep them in your pocket - or you can use a sample of your application to put it on the table in front of you, to read it again at individual stations, to clarify the relevant passage with a gesture, or to yourself to take some notes.

Know the most common questions

Every interview is different and yet there are some typical questions that are likely to be asked. A good opportunity for you to prepare for the interview. Some stress questions are feared and create great pressure. With the right preparation, you can reduce stress and avoid getting caught on the wrong foot with a tough question.

In the following you will therefore find a selection of the most frequently asked questions from HR professionals. In order to be able to prepare for the interview, you don't have to formulate a perfect answer for every single one. Often it is enough for you to give some thought and put together a few suitable examples from your previous résumé that show your skills in practice.

Popular openers

➠ Tell me something about yourself.
➠ Why should we hire you?
➠ What can you do for us that others cannot?
➠ Why do you want this job?

Questions about application motivation

➠ What are your goals in this job?
➠ What do you know about our company?
➠ What do you know about our industry?
➠ What did you earn before?
➠ What salary do you have in mind?
➠ Would you be ready to move?

Personality, strengths and weaknesses profile

➠ What are your strengths?
➠ Name three positive things that others attribute to you.
➠ What negative things would one say about you?
➠ What are your weaknesses?
➠ What have you implemented so far and how?
➠ What is your biggest mistake - and what did you learn from it?
➠ Which three positive character traits are you missing?
➠ Where would you like to develop professionally?
➠ What are your lifelong dreams?

Questions about the way of working

➠ How do you motivate yourself?
➠ How would you describe your work style?
➠ What do you use to organize yourself?
➠ How do you prove your trustworthiness in the team?
➠ How do you feel when you get a "no" answer?
➠ How do you deal with changes?
➠ What will you do in the first 100 days of this job?

As usual, you can download the complete list of these typical questions from us as a PDF free of charge, print it out and use it for offline preparation.

Train your body language

You say a lot about your body language, even if you aren't even aware of it. Your counterpart, on the other hand, perceives body language very precisely and interprets a great deal - often to the disadvantage of the applicant. Surveys show that, for example, a lack of eye contact, a lack of smile or a limp posture are no-gos and, in the worst case, lead to a rejection.

Therefore, practice your body language when preparing for the interview. See your own impact in the mirror, ask friends or family for honest feedback on your appearance. And practice avoiding mistakes in body language: These include nervous fiddling with your hands (for example with your hair, tie or blouse), a slack handshake or arms folded in front of your body. But the most important thing is: always smile.

Prepare several questions

To prepare for the interview it is essential that you think about your own questions to the HR manager. You always get the chance to do so and should take advantage of it. It is also a test that taps your interest and shows whether you have prepared the interview.

Why you should always ask your own questions

➠ They show real interest.
➠ You are proving that you are prepared.
➠ Smart questions underline your intelligence.
➠ You learn more about the job and the company.
➠ Who asks, leads - the conversation.

But always ask “clever” questions. There are also stupid ones. Please do not ask how many employees the company has (you should have researched that yourself) or when you can take your first vacation (says a lot about your attitude towards the job). The 10 best questions of your own include:

  • How do you define success for this position?
  • What do you expect from the ideal candidate?
  • What distinguishes your best employees?
  • What is the most frustrating thing about this job?
  • How would you describe my boss' leadership style?
  • How would you describe your corporate culture?
  • How is your performance measured and evaluated?
  • How do you promote talents and strengths?
  • Why do you enjoy working for this company?
  • When can I expect your decision?

In our in-depth article on interview questions, we list more than 80 counter-questions to recruiters (you can find some in this free PDF). Of course, you don't have the time to put all of these up. It also depends on what really interests you.

Pay attention to the correct dress code

Anyone who appears wrongly dressed in the interview has bad cards right from the start. The applicant shows that he does not fit the employer. No wonder that many applicants are at a loss in front of their closets. There is no uniform dress code for job interviews for all industries and employers, but there are a few basic rules:

The dress code should be well-groomed and match the industry. In some areas, a suit and tie is an absolute must, in others it doesn't have to be quite so formal. Ideally, doing research on the employer can help you find out what the dress code looks like. In addition, you should feel comfortable in your outfit and be able to appear authentically.

Find out how to get here

On the day of the interview, you are nervous and focus on many things at the same time. In order to avoid further stress, you should inform yourself in advance about the exact arrival. This is also part of the process when preparing for an interview. Are you coming by car? Are you taking the train? How much time do you have to plan for the journey?

Prepare for an interview in English

In many companies it is now common practice to conduct the entire interview, or at least part of the interview, in English. If this is the case, the preparation for the interview is even more important. Of course, the same tips apply here as were already mentioned above. In addition, there are a few more tips for preparation:

  • Start by translating your application documents into English. It is particularly important that you have the sections of your résumé ready in English.
  • Check out the company's website in English. This will complement your German-language research.
  • Acquire the necessary specialist vocabulary for your industry. The company website will tell you which vocabulary is necessary and which you should definitely be familiar with. Look up these in a specialist dictionary and get an overview of the most important terms.

Prepare questions: Dealing with the weaknesses

We would like to devote ourselves to one question in particular so that you can prepare for the interview. It's arguably one of the most hackneyed interview questions, "What is your biggest weakness?"

Actually, you shouldn't ask the question anymore. Most applicants have been counting on it for a long time and immediately sing a few answers that have been optimized in the wind tunnel. You won't really find out anything - except maybe who has read which application guide beforehand.

If the question still arises, however, you should definitely not answer this way: “I am a perfectionist” or “I work too much”. Fatal!

At some point these phrases were printed somewhere in an unfortunate guidebook and have since spread. Please forget such sayings as quickly as possible. Anyone who answers like this will not convince anyone. HR managers certainly not. They tend to react negatively to such answers.

Ultimately, applicants only reveal one thing: They cannot stand by their deficits and also cannot deal with them constructively. If anything, there is only one wise answer to this question (or countless individual answers):

Honesty paired with good intentions.

So feel free to admit a weakness (it doesn't have to be kleptomania), but also explain how you deal with it constructively. So for example:

I have problems speaking in front of a large audience. But I also know that I have to get a better grip on that. So I started taking a few speaking courses.

Honesty is the best. And each of us not only has parade disciplines, but also shortcomings. Pretending you don't have one is not only not authentic - nobody will buy it from you. And a company that rejects you because you are a person with a few quirks, but who accepts your shortcomings, doesn't deserve you either.

Job interview taboos: Don't address these topics

In addition to the points mentioned, which you can talk about or discuss in the interview, there are also a few topics that you should better omit. This includes…

  • The private life
    As long as the HR manager does not specifically ask you about it, your leisure activities should not be mentioned. First, because it is simply not your employer’s business what you do in your free time. Second, because as a rule you can hardly score any points. Talking about hobbies really only makes sense if you use them to document skills that are also in demand at work. But even in that case it would be better if you can prove this through professional and not personal success.
  • A termination
    If you've been fired from past jobs, that's not necessarily a thing YOU should address. However, some HR managers specifically ask about it. Then you mustn't lie, but you can try to put the matter into perspective: You may have been the victim of austerity measures and redundancies. Or you and your employer have agreed on a termination on your part because the unemployment benefit is not blocked for three months. And if you have been fired for making a serious mistake, please say so too - but with the addition that and what you have learned from it and will not commit this mistake twice.
  • The payment
    It does happen that one talks about salary expectations in the job interview. However, if the new employer falls well short of your expectations of a fair salary, you shouldn't comment on that for the time being - just think. Otherwise you might slam a door prematurely that could later be important for your career again. If the offer is too small for you, it is better to ask casually about other extras, such as bonuses or company cars. You can always weigh up at home.
  • Bad experiences
    For example with colleagues, with the boss, with customers. That falls under the heading of gossip - or worse, defamation. Never speak negatively about your old jobs or employers. That always leaves a stale aftertaste. Especially since your future employer could also become your ex-employer. And he doesn't want you to talk about him like that later. Rather, show gratitude for the many opportunities you have learned. It's ambiguous, but it sounds better.
  • The boss
    What has just been said applies even more to former superiors. Even if these were tormentors, people smugglers, hundred-assassas - if possible, do not talk about their weaknesses (looks disrespectful) and also not about fought conflicts (looks unruly). It is better to emphasize their strengths and role model, which you still follow today as an example. And seriously: Even the worst tyrant can still be found somewhere on the positive side. The rest is silence.

4 faux pas in job interviews

  • Look at the clock
    If you keep checking the clock, it either says that you are bored or that you wish the interview was finally over. Both grossly rude. And an insult to the interviewer.
  • Leave the cell phone on
    If the cell phone rings during the job interview, there are three things to do: apologize, push the call away immediately, switch off the cell phone. But it is better to do the last point beforehand. That alone expresses the necessary appreciation.
  • Babble
    Sure you're nervous. But do you get to the point? And quickly? After all, in the interview it is not only crucial to address the primary topics, but also to formulate them concisely. So be careful not to text your listener. Most of them are talking about head and career. Speak slowly and clearly. That proves sovereignty.
  • arrogance
    There is a fine line between showing self-confidence and arrogance. In order not to be mistaken for the latter, applicants should always listen carefully. This includes clever (!) Queries as well as reactions to moods in the room. But the quality of the answers also shows how much someone aligns himself with his counterpart.

Ending an interview: tips for leaving

You should prepare not just the main part, but the entire interview. This also includes the farewell and the right exit. So far have you made a perfect impression? Then please don't screw this up when you say goodbye.

The interview is not over yet: Before you leave the room, hold out your hand to the other person again, look them in the eye and say goodbye perfectly.

Means: Thank you for the invitation, the nice conversation and the pleasant atmosphere (even if that is not the case) and leave with a safe and firm "goodbye" that you literally mean. Then please leave the building upright and with enough body tension until you are out of sight - only now can you relax completely, collapse or look around.

You can also mention at the end of the interview that you really want the job. Some HR managers like to hear that and you show your enthusiasm for the company again.

However, the line on which you balance is narrow. Too much enthusiasm can quickly look like too much need, like a lack of alternatives and acute job difficulties. Anyone who then appropriates the attitude of a supplicant will certainly not increase their attractiveness.

However, there are also a few elegant ways that we do not want to withhold from you:

  • Directly: “I am now certain: this is the job I really want. What else can I do to convince you that I am the best cast for it? "
  • Indirectly: “… For these reasons I think I am the best candidate for this position. Do you need further information to make me a specific job offer? "
  • Offensive: “I'm really very interested in this job. What would keep you from offering me the position straight away? ”Or even more aggressively:“ How can I convince you to give me an employment contract? ”
  • Defensive: “I would and I would like to start the job next week. What would be the next step there? Do you have any unanswered questions? What else do you need to make up your mind soon? "
  • Understanding: “I would love to work for you. As you can see, my strengths lie primarily in _____ and _____. What would be the next steps in your selection process? "
  • Emotionally: “After what I learned about your company today, I am even more excited to be able to work for you. I therefore hope to receive positive news from you soon. "

These, too, are only suggested wording, please. Ideally, such concluding remarks tie in directly with what has been said. In addition, it should go without saying that you should only express your enthusiasm for a position if you actually still want it - and not secretly look around for other jobs.

Unless you are a great acting talent, you would feel the discrepancy between verbal and real euphoria - and that could have a rather negative effect.

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Even more interview tips
➠ Interview: All the tips

Job interview process
➠ Interview preparation
➠ Application questions + answers
➠ Job interview clothes
➠ Introducing yourself
➠ self-presentation
➠ End the interview

Interview types
➠ Second interview
➠ Assessment Center
➠ Stress interview
➠ Job interview English
➠ Video interview
➠ Telephone interview

Typical questions
➠ These 100 questions can come
➠ 25 trick questions + answers
➠ Stress issues
➠ What are your weaknesses?
➠ What are your strengths?
➠ Why should we hire you?
➠ What was your last salary?
➠ Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
➠ Why did you quit?
➠ Inadmissible questions
➠ Inquiries to HR managers

Tips & Tricks
➠ Practice interview
➠ Interview mistakes
➠ White lies in the job interview
➠ body language tips
➠ Overcome nervousness
➠ Where to put your hands?

➠ Confirm the interview
➠ Postpone the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Follow up after the conversation