The Dos and Don’ts of a German Job Interview


We’ve handled the preparation for the interview and in this article, we look at the execution. (READ: 10 Tips on Preparing for a German Job Interview) Feel free to share more tips in the comments below:


1. Don’t Bad Mouth

Avoid bad mouthing ANYONE, not your current mean boss or your former lecturer/teacher who gave you bad grades because they didn’t like you. Leave the negative energy at home.


2. Don’t Discredit Your experiences

If this is your first job, don’t sell yourself like you are at the mercy of the interviewer. Share the experiences you had at past jobs. The job at McDonalds could be used to show that you’ve learnt how to manage your time better as you had to go to school and study simultaneously. Also if you took time off to take care of kids, you shouldn’t dismiss this as time you did nothing….you were managing and coordinating domestic affairs….if that isn’t a job, I don’t know what is.

3.  Don’t bore your interviewer stiff.

When you realize the interviewer is bored by your long monologue, cut it short and simply ask “Is there anything specific you’d like to know about…(whatever the topic was about)”.



1. Be on time, 

This might even require you to arrive the night before the interview so as to familiarise yourself with the town. Some interviewers might get into a discussion on how you like the town, so it helps to have had a look the night before. Give yourself some extra time. Germans love being on time, but don’t be too early either. 15-25 minutes before the interview is a reasonable time to be there.


2. Dress appropriately

Be decent. If you choose instead to “be yourself” be ready for the consequences. Germany is a “schuhblade” society meaning they tend to judge and label people. These labels can take forever to change so be careful which label the interviewer puts on you. Appropriate attire is relative, depending on your field it can mean anything. Either ask the interviewer before coming to the interview or if you know the company and its culture, follow on that. A suit can go horribly wrong in a relaxed, laissez faire company and jeans can be equally out of place in a conservative environment. If not sure, ask.


3. Carry extra copies of your CV and cover letter

Some interviewers will use this as a trick to see how well prepared you are for the unexpected. Carry at least 2 or 3 extra copies of both the CV and cover letter. I always try to carry copies of both the German and English CVs. If you forget to carry the cover letter, it’s not the end of the world but always carry copies of the CV.


4. Remember All You had researched

Research is nothing if you don’t remember any of what you found out is it? Found out the company is about to launch a new product, ask about the excitement within the company related to it. Found out your interviewer will give a keynote speech at an upcoming event, ask how the preparations are coming along. Of course these questions should be posed during the small talk bit and not when they ask if you have any questions for the interviewer.

On the serious bit, all that info will come in handy to answering questions like, Why did you choose this company? Where do you see yourself in a few years? You could also tailor some of your answers to suit the position and the company policy.

On the salary expectations, you’ll also need to pull out that info you got from the internet once they ask you about it. Some experts say you always give a range of the amount you expect in a year while others say, you only give a specific figure. I’d say this depends on your field and your intuition. Judge what works better for you.


5. Present your BEST self

Women, I know most of us are modest and avoid blowing our own trumpets BUT interviews are the only places you have to blow your trumpet or lose. Don’t be shy to tell the interviewer of your many accomplishments. Put your best foot forward. Research says, men will use 80% of the time to explain about the 20% they know and present it in the best light possible while most women will only use 20% of the time to explain why the 80% they know is not good enough. STOP it!!


6. Be kind and friendly to the secretary

You will never know the value of a secretary until they are the reason you don’t get the job. The secretary might not interview you, but how you treat her might find itself with the boss. If after the interview the boss asks the secretary, “What did you think of that person” and the only things she has to say are negative, I’m sorry but you might not get a call back for that position.

Naturally you are expected to treat everyone equally, but some of us seems to have missed that class, so at the very least, treat the secretary kindly.


7. Keep a leash on your emotions

You had a tough childhood, you’re going through a difficult time, we understand all that but this is an interview and NOT a therapy session. Keep it moving.

Also some German interviews find it funny to provoke interviewees in a quest to see how well they handle stress. In case you meet one of this kind, don’t get mad and don’t turn offensive. Some can even use insults to see how long you can handle it. I’m not saying you should tolerate it, but when it becomes too much for you, walk out with your dignity interact. Let them know that is not behaviour you can work with and you don’t think that is a company culture you can enjoy working for and walk out. They will respect you. I’m not sure if you will want to return, but I know I wouldn’t.


8. Have a list of questions to ask the interviewer

Remember the questions you prepared during your preparation, this is the time to pull them out. It looks “intelligent, and well researched” on your part. Saying your have no questions at the end of the interview does tend to come across like you actually had no expectations coming to the interview in the first place. If you actually can’t think of a single question anyway, better reply with “You’ve answered all the questions, I had” rather than “No I have no questions”. You should also feel free to ask questions during the interview rather than wait until the end to ask them all. For example after touring the offices, it’s easier to ask then where your desk would be instead of waiting.


9. Maintain eye contact.

There’s a fascination with eye contact in the Western world. So please remember this. Some believe when you look them in the eye, you can’t lie. (I bet they have never met those street preachers for pata potea, who pray for your cash to double. They will look you in the eye, call god’s name and then steal your cash…but I digress)


10. Carry a Notebook and Take Notes

Take notes of anything the interviewer says that you think is important. Also just note down anything they say that you might want them to expand or explain later on. I’m also hoping the notebook will have the set of questions you had for the interviewer so that you can tick off the questions they unknowingly answer and you can also note any other questions that come up.


For Skype and Phone Interviews:

  • Wear at the very least a nice top. You can keep your torn jogging pants on but have a professional “top” on.
  • 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.



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