Job Interview

Job interview – how do I prepare for a job interview?

Auch bei der Bewerbung gilt: authentisch bleiben

The interview is pending: wow, congratulations! You have cleared the first major hurdle and are shortlisted for your dream employer. Are you looking forward to it? Yes, of couse! But at the same time there are doubts and fears: Don’t do anything wrong now! One hears and reads so much about the fact that HR professionals “grill” the candidates in the interview. Is that actually true? Here you can find out how you can go to your interview relaxed and well prepared. Our tips and checklists will help you make the most of your interview opportunities.

There is a lot you can do yourself to be convincing in an interview. Read more about this below. But one tip is more important than any other: stay yourself! The first and foremost job interview is about whether the company and you are a good match. It’s a bit like flirting: is the spark jumping over? Whether this succeeds is usually decided in the first few seconds. Humans are biologically calibrated to quickly assess their counterparts. After that you are either sympathetic – or not. The most important message from this for your job search: An interview is not an examination. If you get a rejection after that, you probably haven’t done anything wrong. The chemistry between you and the company just wasn’t right. It is not your fault. Do not take such rejection personally and do not let yourself be unsettled. In another job, with another company, you are exactly the right person with your skills and your personality!

Is the chemistry right in the interview?

A few fractions of a second or up to a minute and a half: The scientists are not entirely in agreement about how quickly the first impression one person gains of the other can be determined. One thing is clear: it’s quick. And usually the first impression is also the lasting one. You can only influence to a very limited extent whether a certain person likes you or not. After all, you have a little leeway. And it is always worthwhile to take advantage of this opportunity during an interview.

But what does that mean anyway: to convince with a good impression? Does it have to do with manners, clothing, body language and choice of words? Yes, it has. But possibly different from what you previously thought. Because it’s not just good manners, serious clothing or fine words that are important. Even if you are a true mother-in-law’s dream, that does not mean that you are also sympathetic to the HR manager or your future boss. What makes us so attractive in the eyes of other people is resemblance. Through evolution we have evolved to judge people by how well they suit us. We treat strangers with caution and distance. But if you send the right signals, we identify you as one of us.

Nervous? Practice helps against stage fright

Do you experience stage fright before your interview? A little nervousness strengthens concentration. But avoid too much of it. This is most likely to succeed if you are familiar with the situation in which you will find yourself. So: practice the interview. The more you do this, the more relaxed you will be when things get serious. You can hire a professional coach to practice. The downside, of course, is the cost you incur. On the other hand, good coaches know very well how interviews work. You benefit from this great experience. Thanks to their psychological training, coaches can also support you individually in convincing you with your personality. Not every tip is equally suitable for every applicant. If you don’t want to be a coach, then practicing with friends or acquaintances will help. Maybe there are some of them who have already completed an interview themselves? Then ask them to sit down with you and play through the conversation. The more realistic the better.

Be honest with yourself

Be attentive and honest with yourself. If you run into problems, don’t push them away, but take the opportunity to develop solutions in good time. For example, are you missing the answers to certain questions? Is your self-presentation too lengthy and vague? Do you have no conclusive examples of your previous professional achievements ready? Do you get nervous about stress issues? You may notice all of this as you practice – in time. You have the opportunity to work on it so that you are as fit as you can for the real interview. Don’t memorize the answers word for word – the questions may be different from what you expected. But prepare thematically. Consider examples of your previous successes. Think about what you want to define as your strengths and weaknesses. Make it clear to yourself what your motivation is for your dream job.

Practice self-presentation

A central element in every job interview is the self-presentation in which you present yourself and your skills as positively as possible. In any case, you should practice this self-presentation carefully beforehand. To do this, define your special abilities and qualifications again for yourself and think of specific examples and anecdotes with which you can convey them. At the same time, consult the requirements profile of the advertised position and make it clear to yourself which of your competencies are particularly important for your dream employer. The structure of your self-presentation should be based on the common formula “I am – I can – I want”. The focus is on “I can” because this is where you convey the skills that are most important for your future job. “I want” means not only that you say where you want to develop, but above all how you will use your skills for your new employer. Develop a structured story from the description of your training and career path, your professional highlights and successes and your special qualifications for the advertised job. It should represent the inner logic that shows why you ended up where you are now. Remember this story in key words, not in memorized sentences, so that you remain flexible in the interview and can adapt to the interview situation.

How to tame negative feelings

Before you go to the interview itself, listen once more to yourself: How are you feeling? Expectant, tense, excited? Afraid, panicked, despondent? We still have a few tips for you on how to deal with negative emotions.

a - Fear

Try to understand what you are afraid of. Play through the interview in your mind and pay attention to when and where the fear comes in. For example, are you worried that you will not be able to relax while making small talk? Are you worried that you will not appear sympathetic to the other person? Do you think the HR manager will corner you with his questions? The more precisely you know the trigger for your fear, the better you can deal with it. In most cases, it helps to thoroughly practice the situations that frighten you: small talk, the right answers to questions about your competencies – whatever. Let your sparring partner put you under stress during such training sessions – the sooner you will be able to keep calm in every situation later, when things get serious. In some cases, it is possible that the fear touches deeper aspects of your personality – such as a lack of self-esteem or a social phobia. You should definitely seek professional advice from a coach or a psychologist in order to overcome such problems and develop yourself further.

b - Excitement

Excitement and nervousness before the interview are not negative feelings – on the contrary. They create the basic tension that you need so that you are fully focused and concentrated. If you have learned from previous experiences that stage fright is almost impossible to control right before the appointment, then practice beforehand to control your breath. With one or the other breathing technique, for example from Qi Gong, you can get a grip on excessive excitement. And if the nervousness in the interview leaves you speechless – don’t panic. Openly state that you are excited and about to have a little blackout. Most HR professionals do not experience this for the first time and understand it.

Interview checklist

1 – Organizational preparation

  • Did you immediately confirm the appointment in writing or by telephone?
  • Do you know what to wear? Is everything clean and ironed?
  • Have you packed a copy of your cover letter and curriculum vitae as well as the letter of invitation and any other documents (certificates, references, etc.)?
  • Know the way to the company and know how long you need to get there without running into time constraints (take into account rush hour traffic).
  • Was the contact person named in the invitation? Did you make a note of this name?

2 – Content preparation

  • Have you read your résumé and cover letter yourself again, especially with regard to what makes you different from other applicants?
  • Have you gathered all available and important information about the company?
  • Have you made bullet points about your previous professional successes and defeats or personal strengths and weaknesses?
  • Have you already considered any questions you might have for the company in advance?

3 – Conduct during the conversation

  • Smile in a friendly and confident manner.
  • Adopt an open posture.
  • Speak loudly and clearly.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Avoid long monologues and do not interrupt your conversation partner.
  • Don’t forget that this is a job interview for you. Even in a relaxed atmosphere, you shouldn’t “let yourself go” or chat about too much private or trade secrets.