After someone requested for a few tips on preparing for an interview, here are some. They might not be specific to Germany, but I hope they help either way.
1. Reread the job advert to understand the job description and requirements
Keep a copy of the job advert after applying for the job, whether it is downloading the pdf version of it or taking a screenshot. Most companies take down the job ad once the application period is over, thus rendering you without any references during interviews or the group chats, you may end up being invited to.
Rereading the job ad will help you know how to answer the questions asked and what information to put across during the interview. If they need someone who’s worked with databases, this is the time to talk about your experience with databases instead of going on and on about how much you love programming or something similar. It also gives you a visual of the company logo, in case you need it for Point 2.
2.Research on the company, department and even interviewer.
Don’t be afraid to google the person who’ll be interviewing you. Check their LinkedIn and Xing Profiles try and find out what they are passionate about. Don’t check their facebook profiles, you might find stuff you shouldn’t and learn of passions you don’t need to think of during the interview 😉
You should also do a lot of research on the company and the department as well, find out what activities the company is involved in and what they are renowned for. Is it a manufacturing company, what do they manufacture? What type of company is it GmbH, gGmbH, KgaA, AG? Some companies have confusing names, or names shared by other companies but in varying fields e.g. Ceres could be the juice manufacturing company, or the environmental rights consultancy firm. Find out which one of the companies named you’re interviewing for. I wish I can rewrite this again, please find out more about the company BEFORE the interview. There’s nothing more irritating than interviewing someone for a job in a company that sells maize and they keep talking about their passion for selling shoes.
Of course this isn’t a problem when you’re applying for jobs in huge companies like Siemens, Nokia, MTV but it might be tricky when you are applying for a job at companies that aren’t in the public eye.
3. Go through your CV and cover letter
This is to ensure you have your own facts right. If you have gaps in your CV this is the time to think up concrete answers to use at the interview. Ensure there are no discrepancies between your CV, cover letter and what you say at the interview.
4. Check the internet for common interview questions and try answer them
Some questions are very common during interviews but tend to catch us unawares every time. Questions like Why company X? (Check point 2); Where do you want to be in 5,10yrs? Do you plan to return to your home country? You have to figure out how to answer these questions diplomatically. You shouldn’t lie but you don’t have to tell the whole truth either. You can give an answer without expressing your true feelings on the matter, this will require you to also “read” your interviewer and figure out what answer they expect.
5. Visit the company premises the evening before the interview
This is to familiarise yourself with the procedure. Some companies require that you take a “safety” class before you enter their premises, very common for factories and companies working with chemicals. If you aren’t aware of this when you show up for your interview, you might miss out on point 2. If you’re coming from out of town, arrive early and look around to see if you would be comfortable settling in the area.
6. Research on the salaries for such a position and for someone with your qualifications
Most companies will ask for your expected salary, make sure you have researched on how much someone in your position should earn. This will save you from either asking for too much or too little, either of which doesn’t reflect too well. A good tip, is to always give a range rather than a specific amount. Instead of saying I would like to earn 55,465 euros a year, just give a range of people in your position 55,000 – 60,000 euro per annum. Germans prefer to give the annual salary rather than the monthly one.
7. Prepare some questions
An interview is not just for the company to find out if they would like to have you on board, but for you to judge whether you would like to work for that company. If there is something you wanted to find out about the company that you couldn’t find on their company website, the interview is the perfect time to find out. Use the opportunity to also gauge whether you want to commit yourself to work for them.
8. Take care of the logistics (babysitter, quiet room)
With most companies holding phone or Skype interviews before risking money to invite you to their premises, it is imperative that you make sure you organise yourself before the phone/Skype interview.
- Wear at the very least a nice top. You can keep your torn jogging pants but at least have a professional “top”
- Have a blank wall behind you, if you are like me with interesting pictures on the wall, you might end up distracting the interviewer that they do not hear anything you say
- Sit upright at a table, you can also sit on the floor but don’t be leaning on chaise or lying down, this affects your voice and your train of thought
- Block the time for the call and find a quiet place for it.
- If you have kids, find someone to babysit for that hour or two.
- If you’re in an area with bad reception, go to a cyber that offers private rooms for calls. Buy enough bundles in case you’re on prepaid internet. If your house wifi is a mess, connect your device to the router with a LAN cable
- Charge your device or make sure it is plugged into a power supply, you don’t want your device to die in the middle of you presenting yourself.
9. Carry Extra Copies of your CV and Cover Letter
Print out an extra copy or two to carry along to the interview. This can help you take a look as you do the last minute preparations on the train, taxi or in the waiting room. Also sometimes, the interviewer forgets to bring along a copy and might want to refer to something on it. Interviewers are also not always that organised, imagine the impression you leave when you’re able to think ahead.
10. Ask questions
I’m not sure why but it seems most of us Kenyans tend to be frightened to death about asking questions and would rather do something utterly stupid rather than ask the question ahead of time and save ourselves the embarrassment. If you aren’t sure which language the interview will be held in, this is the time to ask. If you’re visiting a company with a HUGE campus and you aren’t sure where to meet the person receiving you, ASK. Some companies are kind enough to send you a map and an address BUT sometimes that address refers to such a huge area that you might want to ask just to be sure. Not sure if you should be dressed in casual or official? ASK before the interview.