Being invited to an interview is marvelous.

First, there is the overwhelming feeling of joy, with all the hormones dancing up and down like crazy.

Each interview is a promise of being close to the job of our dreams at last. We already feel the hard time of the job search falling away from us. We daydream of having the job already and being on-site in the office day after day.
We already feel the hard time of the job search falling away from us. We daydream of having the job already and being on-site in the office day after day.

In this article, you learn about

the challenge of the first interviews and why job seekers have high expectations that are unrealistic. We take a look that there’s a lot about the technical requirements that you only learn in the interview, and why the human factor might add to some surprises. And I share 4 hacks how to learn speed fast your learning to interview like a pro.

The challenge of the first interviews

We all feel that way when we get into a new situation. We are excited. It doesn’t matter if we’re a newbie or an old hand at conducting interviews.

After all, interviews are important, we shouldn’t fool ourselves.

Therefore, when this inner turmoil comes, how do we deal with it? With the excitement that we are acting and talking stupid stuff. That we don’t appear as professional as we’d like to?

Can you help with the clammy hands, the voice tipping over in tension, or feeling as if everything you say sounds strange and off-key?

Rest assured that it’s not only you. It’s the same for all of us.

The only remedy I know for this nervousness is practice. Practice in real situations.

Say goodbye to false claims

Preparing for an interview is important, no question at all.

There are many false expectations among job seekers about an interview, fueled by articles and tips on how to „win over“ recruiters and the „need to secure“ the job you need with a perfect interview.
What expectations does a candidate have about an interview? It may be, „I need to ace the interview and get an offer.“

However, when I ask a recruiter or hiring manager at a hiring company what their expectations are for the interview, their expectations are quite different: „I want to get to know the applicants and see if they fit our broad picture of a candidate – and if it’s worth going further.“

Interviews reveal the true requirements of a job

For the interview, the most important thing is the technical qualifications and skills. The company has already published these in the job ad, yet in a form that tends to be very general and abstract.

We first learn a little more about the job we are applying for in the interview. Recruiters give us an overview of the job, although it’s the questions they ask applicants at the interview that are of real relevance.

From those questions, a new picture of the specific job and its requirements emerges that is closer to reality.
As an applicant, you may find out that the job is not at all what you had in mind. That the focus of the company lies on something that does not correspond to your preferences or inclinations.
It’s a normal result if the interview proves that the expectations of the applicant and the company do not match. n. Dann passt es halt nicht.

The human factor in the interview

Let’s take a moment to explore what the word “ interview” means in the first place.

It’s actually two words: INTER – meaning something between two people and VIEW… So an interview is an opportunity for applicants and company people to meet, see, and talk as human beings.

There is no one right answer to many of the questions asked in a job interview. After all, it’s not like taking an exam.

However, the further we get in our careers, the more important the contexts, the insights, and the way we actually approach and execute the ability to „analyze“ problems become.

Mindset of attending interviews to learn

If we think of interviews as an artificial situation in which unique individuals meet, we’re not surprised to see that some of these human constellations go really well – and some feel wooden, artificial, or awkward.

What we need to practice is our flexibility and confidence to encounter all sorts of human constellations. It’s a skill to learn and practice. Und es braucht auch eine gute Portion Glück dabei.

Of course, there is nothing against landing a job in the very first interview 😍

Let me invite you to join me on a journey of discovery on how to gain interview practice with refreshing ease.
That way, when an invitation from your dream company comes fluttering in, you feel pensive and confident smiling to yourself.

Hack #1: Apply to lemon companies first

Dog playing with sour lemon

Lemon companies are companies you don’t plan to work for. You apply to gain experience with the application process.

Lemons are great, but who wants to bite into them?

And lemon companies are those that are ok, kind of. But we don’t fancy starting a job with them.

In podcast episode # 6 I shared my method to test and Re-Design your job searching strategy and why it’s such a helpful strategy to first apply to companies you are not excited about.

The same goes for interviews. You want to have learned how to deal with your own excitement first.
Simply because the opposite of you is the hiring manager, two team members, and the supervisor are sitting across from you. And they look you in the eye. Maybe they stare. They don’t smile.

And you need to learn to cope with such a situation first. Let your body feel all the stress hormones. You might want to have a few tries presenting yourself in the German language, even though you cannot answer technical questions in German yet.

I love Denzel Washingtons‘ speech for recent grad students. He encourages us to have the courage to fail. And fail, fail, fail…and exactly this is what having lemon interviews is all about.

If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying.

To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.

Fail and fall forward.“

Denzel Washington

Hack #2 Prepare what’s needed – but don’t be a perfectionist

Some parts of any interview are very much alike. This is such good news, as you can prepare for it and apply it for any further interview.

One essential part of the interview is to showcase your professional skill set, experience, and how you fit the new role, team, and company professionally.

Hooray, the stage is yours. Don’t be shy but show what you’ve got.

This is what you want to prepare:

  • How to introduce yourself
  • How to explain what you have accomplished at university
  • The professional and technical strengths and skills you’re good at

It’s not needed to search the internet for days searching for the perfect way to answer these questions.

We all want to be unique, don’t we?
Being unique starts by giving our own answers.

On the other side of the table, Recruiters have developed an allergy against the so-called perfect answers from the so-called experts. They’ve heard it all before.

Have the courage to give your own answers. And this way you will be just fine.

Hack #3 Learn from the recruiters‘ questions, reactions and facial expressions

Pay attention to the reactions of the recruiters.

Be alert to watch and perceive how they react. It will provide you with the most valuable feedback ever. Don’t expect to get an answer for every question, though you might get one or two hints that help you fall forward.

  • how does the HR, recruiter, functional manager or CEO, or Geschäftsführer respond to you?
  • what do they ask
  • how do they guide you through the interview
  • where do they probe, where do they ask for more details?
  • what is important, where do they want to learn more about you?
  • what impresses them about your background?
  • where do they doubt?
  • where does the voice of HR change,
  • where do they look skeptical?
  • is there specific feedback in the conversation where the HR misses or wishes for something?

Interviews are a chance to literally ‘see’ new aspects of how German recruiters tick, what they fancy and want from you as a candidate.

Hack 4 Lessons Learned after every interview

Lessons Learned are key to ensuring we learn and grow. Not only when a project has ended and we review in the team what went well and what needs to be improved.

It’s also a great tool to provide ourselves with the feedback we need.

What I ask my clients after every interview is:
First to get rid of the cortisol and stress reaction of the body, by going out for a run, to the gym, or having a comfy call with a friend.

Then sit down, to take a google doc or – if you write by hand – a ring binder, and write down everything that comes to your mind about the interview. Go through the Checklist of “Interview Lessons Learned”, and answer all the questions.

The other day it’s time to sort all the notes until you have distilled the essence of what you need to learn and improve. In our next coaching session, we will discuss these specific aspects and find solutions for a compelling self-presentation.

Don’t forget to request the reimbursement of the travel costs done. It’s nice though if you wait until either you’ve rejected the job or the company itself decided on another candidate.
As of now, it’s not possible to join a mentoring program, you can use the checklist of the interview lessons learned on your own and start reviewing your interviews with this approach.

Then take action. Focus on what you need to improve.

Enjoy growing in your career°

Deine Nicola