How to make a strong application – Part 8: The interview
In our ‘How to apply for a job series, we tell you everything you need to know about choosing and applying for jobs – from the question “What do I want to do?”, to the perfect job application photo, to the interview stage.
You have mastered all hurdles so far and now have the face-to face chance to convince your potential employer that you are the best candidate. If you are now well prepared and skilfully avoid blunders, you are well on your way to your new job.
The five phases of an interview
According to the career bible website karrierebibel.de, the classic interview lasts about 30 to 60 minutes and can be broken down into the following five phases:
The small talk phase
“How are you? Did you find your way here alright?” Interviews often start with these classic small talk questions. As unimportant as they may sound, this beginning can influence the entire course of the conversation. You should therefore be as calm and relaxed as possible. If this is difficult for you because you are very nervous, you can address that as well. Most people can empathise with this situation. What is important to remember is that during the greeting phrase you can do a lot right! Give your interviewer a short and firm handshake, introduce yourself by name, make eye contact and do not forget to smile. This gives an open and confident impression. Caution: people do not like showy self-promoters, so avoid exaggerated self-confidence.
The getting to know you phase
Here, it is important to give the fullest possible portrayal of yourself and your experience. Talk about your educational and professional background, your work experience and internships. Furthermore, you should not forget to talk about your interests and hobbies, as well as the qualities that make you the person you are. However: It is not about listing off all the stages of your life; it is about systematically demonstrating that you are the best candidate for the desired position and that you consider this position as the logical next step in your career. Although the second point is often forgotten, it is important: it communicates to the interviewer that you have a career plan and are specifically applying for this advertised position because you want to have exactly this job. Afterward, the interviewer usually asks follow-up questions. They often focuses on details about your practical experience, your motivation for applying, your goals for the future etc. You should be well prepared to answer such questions. However, there are also questions that you definitely do not need to answer. These includes questions about family planning, health, personal views or aspects of your private life in general. However, beware: even issues that are theoretically illegal can be addressed if they are directly relevant to being able to do the job. In this case, you have to answer these questions truthfully.
The presentation phase (company’s self-presentation)
At this point, you are informed about the company, the job you are currently applying for or your potential employment. Listen carefully and with interest. This is where a thorough preparation will come to your advantage. The professionals quickly recognise if you have done thorough research, in advance, about the company, its structure, products, markets and traditions.
The question phase
Phew, I did it!? No, not quite, because now comes an important point where you need to shine: the time to ask questions. Asking questions signifies, once again, your interest, and shows that you have listened attentively and given careful and detailed thought about your potential employer. Warning: do not ask overly direct questions about working atmosphere or prospects for promotion. You also should not ask questions about work schedule, holiday time, additional benefits, perks or early salary increases. The company usually addresses these issues at a later stage in the application process. It is good if you take notes during the interview and then ask detailed questions about the job.
The closure phase
In the last phase, you should clarify as many important deadlines as possible. If it has not already been discussed in the interview, now is the time to clarify what the next steps are, how long the selection process lasts and when you can expect to get an answer. Important: Even if the interview was for your dream job at your favourite company, continue to apply for jobs and ask around! It can never hurt to have several irons in the fire.
No go’s in the job interview
There are a few things that you should never do in a job interview. Looking at your watch, leaving your cell phone on, using clichés or slogans and acting arrogant are all no go’s. You should have a confident manner and get straight to the point when giving answers. Listening carefully, giving clear answers and asking relevant question also show that you are interested in the job.
Another point of caution is gestures: our non-verbal communication strongly influences the opinions others have of us. The top three gestures that particularly irritate HR professionals are lack of eye contact, failure to smile and fidgeting. Other problematic areas are poor body posture, a limp handshake, crossed arms, and fiddling with hair or face.
To make sure your next interview goes well, here are a few tips:
- Eye contact, introduction with first and last name, firm handshake
- Listen attentively
- Answer clearly and concisely
- Authentic demeanor – not rehearsed or artificial
- Be confident – not arrogant
- Show interest and motivation, take notes
- Ask for clarity if you did not understand something
- Sitting posture: engaged and upright – do not slump in your chair or cross your arms