Job interviews How to survive any assessment

A candidate waiting for a job interview

Every job interview and assessment always starts with good news: “We would be pleased to meet you in person.” So you’ve made a good impression and overcome the first hurdle. You’re a great candidate. Congratulations! Feelings of joy are bubbling up inside of you – but perhaps you’re also weak at the knees, your stomach is growling and there’s a bead of sweat on your brow.

After all, the true endurance test is yet to come. During the job interview, you will have to withstand the probing questions asked by the HR manager; you will have to expose your strengths and weaknesses to the world at the assessment centre – tests no one is likely to enjoy.

But don’t panic. You can do it! We show you how to prepare thoroughly, how to keep your stage fright under control – and then land the job.

Job interviews: the best way to prepare


Go online and familiarise yourself with the company, scan through the website for valuable information. A person who can do no more than pronounce the company name correctly and knows nothing about the company philosophy, its products or distinctive characteristics won’t exactly be greeted with a great deal of interest.


Lay out an appropriate outfit for your big day. An appropriate outfit will differ considerably depending on the industry. Banks prefer a conservative outward appearance, whereas you might make a negative impression in the media industry if you wear a suit and tie. If you’re completely unsure about the appropriate attire, follow the cardinal rule: better overdressed than underdressed. If absolutely necessary, try calling the secretary or asking for information from employees on Xing or LinkedIn.


Set the alarm clock extra early, leave on time and always be at the reception desk ten minutes before your appointment. Arriving too late is a good way to paint yourself into a corner that will be hard to get out of.


Even Steve Jobs never gave one of his legendary speeches completely off the cuff. Better to know ahead of time what you are going to say later. At least consider roughly how you will answer the most common interview questions. You will have plenty of other opportunities to improvise anyway.


Try out your talking points on your partner, brother, sister, boyfriend or girlfriend – or even in the mirror. The more often you practice, the more confident you will be. In addition, your practice partner can point out potential flaws in your arguments.

Etiquette for applicants: what to remember

The moment of truth has come when the receptionist invites you to enter the lion’s den. To perform well during the job interview or assessment, you should pay special attention to the following:


It should be firm, and certainly not limp. The first thing you should signal upon greeting each other is that the person who walked through the door is self-confident and knows what they want, namely, the job.

Eye contact

Look your interviewer directly in the eye. A person whose glance constantly drifts away from the interviewer and stares at the wall makes an impression of insecurity.


Sit up straight. This means not being sprawled or huddled in the chair, folding your arms or constantly fiddling with your face.


Above all, you should demonstrate competence and strong leadership. Also remember that the HR manager may have to work with you for several years. And who wants to encounter a stick-in-the-mud with no sense of humour each day at the office? Which is why you should show your best, friendliest side – and smile often.

Parting company

The first impression may often be decisive – but the last is not without significance either. Make a dignified exit that includes a friendly thank you and the express wish to meet again soon – assuming you have not fully lost interest in the job in the meantime.

What to expect during the assessment

Nervousness and being under constant observation. A day at the assessment centre is pure horror for most candidates. These tortured souls often don’t know what to expect.

Each assessment has its own dynamic and consists of entirely different elements. For example, a group simulation in which you have to collaborate on designing a new product. Or a written intelligence test. Or the famous inbox test that requires the applicant to work through his or her inbox as effectively as possible under stress and time pressure.

However, the assessment standard includes the following three exercises above all others..

The three most important assessment centre exercises:

1. Interview: HR managers will sound out your motivation, strengths and weaknesses.

2. Role play: These are usually group or one-on-one discussions in which the participants take on an assigned role. Initiative and an eagerness to make decisions as well as respectful interpersonal skills and empathy will score you points.

3. Presentation: Roughly comparable to giving a presentation at university. Those who are adept at giving presentations and using flip charts prudently will walk away with a point victory.

Checklist: 10 questions every HR manager likes to ask

  1. Why do you want this job?
  2. What do you know about our company?
  3. Why should we employ you?
  4. What have you done up to now?
  5. What were your duties at your last company?
  6. What achievements are you are especially proud of?
  7. How would your colleagues at your last company describe you?
  8. What is your biggest weakness?
  9. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  10. Do you have any questions for us?

Checklist: 5 questions you should ask every HR manager

  1. Why has this position become vacant?
  2. In your eyes, what makes a good employee and colleague?
  3. Why are you working for this company?
  4. How would you define success in this position?
  5. Where is this position located within the company organisational chart?