You’ve got an interview for a job in German? Well done! But are you clued up on what’s expected and is your German interview-ready? I’ve done four or five interviews in German. Sometimes I got the job, sometimes I didn’t. Here are some of the German job interview phrases and tips that I wish I’d had from the start.
Basic German job interview vocabulary
“You can’t start too basic” is one of my learning mantras. So let’s go over some essential German job interview vocabulary:
die Firma / das Unternehmen – company / enterprise
die (freie) Stelle – vacant position
die Stellenausschreibung – job advertisement
sich bewerben bei / für – to apply at / for
die Bewerbung – application
das Bewerbungsschreiben – letter of application
das Bewerbungsgespräch – job interview
der Bewerber / die Bewerberin – job applicant
der Lebenslauf – CV / resumé
die Berufserfahrung – professional experience
das Gehalt / der Lohn – salary / wage
der berufliche Werdegang – career
die Stärken und Schwächen – strengths and weaknesses
der Arbeitgeber – employer
der Arbeitsstil – working style
Do-s and don’ts in a German job interview
✔ Be over-punctual
✔ Dress neatly and appropriately
✔ Shake hands
✔ Use formal language
✔ Keep eye contact
✘ Don’t use “du”
✘ Don’t kiss cheeks
✘ Don’t forget to say “bitte” and “danke”
Before heading off to your interview, take enough time to choose your outfit. I probably went a bit over the top when I bought a new suit before an interview for a management consultant role in Munich. While formal wear does make sense in a role like that (or at a bank or law firm). Often, it’s not absolutely necessary to wear a suit or skirt. Just make sure your clothes are appropriate to the occasion in your sector.
It’s never a good idea to arrive late for an interview in the English-speaking countries, of course. Even more so in Germany, Austria and Switzerland! The term “Germanic punctuality” exist for a reason and employers in these countries place high value on punctuality and reliability. Arriving at the last minute (or later) will only stress you out as well as making a bad impression. So make sure you know your route and arrive at reception at least ten minutes early.
In German speaking countries, people never kiss cheeks when doing business. Kissing and hugging is reserved to relatives, friends or acquaintances. A firm handshake, in contrast, is always welcome. It radiates self-confidence and strength.
And last but not least: a more formal style of language, lots of eye contact and good manners are an absolute must during a job interview.
Formal German greetings that impress
Always keep in mind that your job interview starts as soon as you enter the office building. That’s why you should greet everyone who crosses your path in a friendly manner. The best way to do this is:
For interviews in the morning, you can also use:
In Southern Germany or Austria you’re likely to hear Grüß Gott instead of Guten Tag, which is especially used in formal settings or when greeting an older person.
When applying to a larger company, you may have to check in with the receptionist or secretary first. But don’t worry – here’s an example of what this may look like:
A: Guten Tag! Mein Name ist Olivia Jones. Ich bin hier für ein Bewerbungsgespräch.
A: Hello! My name is Olivia Jones. I’m here for a job interview.
B: Guten Tag! Bitte nehmen Sie kurz Platz. Herr Müller ist noch in einer Besprechung.
B: Hello! Please sit down for a moment. Mr. Müller is still in a meeting.
Noticed that the receptionist uses Sie instead of du. Let’s find out why that is.
Why you should use “Sie” in a German job interview
Remember that, unlike English, German has two different forms of “you”. Du (Ihr in the plural) is informal and used when talking to friends, relatives and younger people. There’s also a trend towards using du in advertising, on social media or blogs.
Sie (singular and plural) is formal and is therefore the best choice for job interviews and conversations with strangers, older people, clients or your (hopefully soon-to-be) boss.
Unless you’re offered the du, you should always use Sie during your job interview.
Anything else would be disrespectful and could create a bad impression.
Winding back a couple of steps: also make sure to use Sie in your Bewerbungsschreiben (letter of application) and other formal letters.
Frequently asked German interview questions
You should already have done thorough research before the application. Now you’ve got an interview, it’s time to make doubly sure that you’re well-informed about your potential employer and the role. Check out the website again, search for relevant press reports about the company, and re-read the job specification and your application.
Be prepared to talk about everything on your CV / resumé (der Lebenslauf) and on the application form.
Here are a number of questions that you could well encounter in a typical job interview in German:
Warum haben Sie sich für diese Stelle beworben?
Why did you apply for this position?
Was können Sie über sich erzählen?
What can you tell about yourself?
Wie sieht Ihr beruflicher Werdegang aus?
Can you describe your professional experience?
Was sind Ihre Stärken und Schwächen?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Wie würden Sie Ihren Arbeitsstil beschreiben?
How would you describe your working style?
Was unterscheidet Sie von anderen Bewerbern?
What makes you stand out from other applicants?
Wären Sie bereit, für diese Stelle umzuziehen?
Would you be willing to move for this position?
Warum haben Sie Ihren letzten Job gekündigt?
Why did you quit your last job?
Wo sehen Sie sich in fünf Jahren?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Wie würden Sie sich selbst beschreiben?
How would you describe yourself?
Was sind Ihre Gehaltsvorstellungen?
What are your salary expectations?
Haben Sie noch Fragen?
Do you have any questions?
Take enough time to prepare your answers for such typical questions. Always think of some questions you yourself. might want to ask. By asking for detailed information about the position or the company, you’re showing an interest in your future job. You’re more likely to land it as a result.
Useful German job interview phrases
As we saw in the questions, at the beginning, the interviewer usually wants to know why you applied for this exact position. Here are some phrases to get the conversation get started:
Ich habe mich für diese Stelle beworben, weil …
I applied for this position because …
… ich nach einer neuen Herausforderung suche.
… I am looking for a new challenge.
… ich mich beruflich weiterentwickeln möchte.
… I would like to develop professionally.
… ich schon viel Erfahrung in diesem Bereich habe.
… I already have a lot of experience in this field.
Asking about strengths and weaknesses is still very common in job interviews in German. How about the following ideas as you think about the right words?
Ich zeichne mich durch meine Genauigkeit, Zuverlässigkeit und Kreativität aus.
I am characterized by my accuracy, reliability and creativity.
Manchmal bin ich etwas zu perfektionistisch.
I sometimes tend to be too much of a perfectionist.
As mentioned above, it’s important to ask questions about the company and your future position at the end of each interview. Here’s what you could ask your interviewer:
Wie hoch ist das Gehalt für diese Position?
What is the salary for this position?
Was werden meine wichtigsten Aufgaben sein?
What will be my main tasks?
Wie viele Mitarbeiter hat Ihr Unternehmen?
How many employees does your company have?
Conversation skills are a key to German job interview success
Don’t forget, a job interview is a conversation not a test.
Both sides want to get to know each other. For you to do your best, you need to be ready to talk about the employer, the role and yourself. Well, less yourself than how your experience and skills can help the employer! Why should they hire you? What’s in it for them?
Use the vocab and phrases that you’ve just seen to help you polish up your German before the big day.
If you can, practise interview scenarios with a fluent German speaker.
Remember: a good conversation is not all about speaking. It’s no good preparing a string of polished German job interview phrases to use yourself if you can’t understand what the interviewees are saying. Listening skills are so important that I’ve put them centre stage in my free five-part email method training series for intermediate German learners and in my flagship German course, the Weekly German Workouts, where we put my methods to work to get you ready for more confident German conversations in a matter of weeks.
You can check out the course here:
And follow the link below to get the free email training, which introduces the methods, so that you can start using them right away for yourself:
|Discover how YOU can use Dr P's free Weekly Workout Routine to get ready for more confident German conversations in a matter of weeks. Click here to get the training !|