Before the interview

To quickly attain your goal of signing an employment contract, make sure you are thoroughly prepared for your job interview.

Get ready for the D-Day

  • Carefully check over your CV in order to have your work record clearly in your mind (you will certainly be asked to comment on it point by point). You may also want to re-read any work certificates that are particularly positive. Also revise the job description as well as your cover letter. Memorize all the information that you are sure to be asked at the interview.

  • Prepare yourself to answer any questions on any gaps in your CV or any sections that may be unclear.

  • Prepare examples that will allow you to demonstrate your skills, your know-how and your ability to manage multiple tasks.

  • Gather information on the company (e.g. turnover, number of employees, market position, name of the founder, country in which the head office is located, name of the CEO, etc.).  Based on this information, prepare a few questions about the job or the company, the work methods, the organization, etc. and write these down.

  • Carefully prepare your materials the night before.

  • On your writing pad, put the name and number of the person whom you are meeting, along with the company's address.

  • Find a salary scale for your profession in order to be able to indicate your salary expectations. (salary calculator in French, German or Italian)

    • It is better to indicate a salary range rather than a precise amount.

    • The gross salary is what is usually discussed.

    • Some companies refer to an annual salary, others to a monthly one; calculate both and jot them down on your writing pad so you won't be caught off guard.

    • Always keep in mind the minimum amount you wish to get. But think it through if you are offered a lower amount. Sometimes it's worth considering a company's employment benefits and downgrading one's salary expectations (for instance, if your health insurance as well as your family's are covered by the company, if there is free child care, etc.)

 

Download the checklist for the interview

Commonly asked questions

Practice answering the recruiter's questions.

  • What do you think about your work record/are you happy with your work record?

  • Why do you want to change jobs?

  • What failures have you experienced in your career so far? How do you explain these?

  • You have worked for three different employers over the last five years. How long do you expect to stay with us?

  • How did you fit in at company XYZ?

  • What did you do between April and September XXXX? (a question that is asked when there are chronological holes in the CV)

  • Tell me about your profession.

  • What were your greatest achievements?

  • What were the best results you obtained?

  • What did you learn during that time?

  • Why did you choose to study that? Or, why did you not pursue advanced education?

  • Why did you quit your studies?

  • Did you work during your studies?

  • What do you value about your education?

  • What did you do between high school/secondary school and university? (a question that is asked if there is a hole in your CV.)

  • What is your level in German? Be prepared to speak upon request and to answer spontaneously in the languages that you know.

  • Why didn't you pursue ongoing training in this area?

  • Why did you choose this profession?

  • What do you know about this industry?

  • Do you know the main competitors in our industry?

  • How do you see your career developing in the coming years?

  • Have you ever considered re-training?

  • Why did you decide to re-train?

  • Don't you think you're overqualified for this position?

  • Where do you see yourself in three/five/ten years?

  • Do you ever take work home with you in the evenings or on the weekends?

  • How do you deal with pressure at work?

  • Why do you enjoy teamwork?

  • How do you function within a group? (What role do you like to play within a group?)

  • How do you react to conflict when it arises in your department?

  • What do you do if you have a disagreement with your supervisor?

  • What character traits irritate you the most?

  • Why did you choose our company?

  • Why did you respond to our ad?

  • Why would you like to work for us?

  • What do you know about our company?

  • In your opinion, what constitutes a good ……… (the job you wish to have at the company)? Referring to the adjectives you provided, the recruiter will ask you whether you possess those specific skills. (Use examples to illustrate your response.)

  • What contribution do you think you can make here? Why should we hire you?

  • Are you in touch with other companies?

Be careful about using jargon and abbreviations specific to your profession. If you are speaking with a human resources representative, there is a good chance that this person will be unfamiliar with your field and therefore won't understand your language.

During the interview, the recruiter may try to test you to observe how you react to certain situations. To this end, the recruiter may ask you some personal questions that you are not legally required to answer (refer to article 328b C.O.)*. Prepare your answers to avoid becoming confused in this situation.

  • Do you have a girl/boyfriend?

  • Why did you get divorced?

  • Why aren't you married?

  • Do you belong to a union?

  • Etc.

Don't leave these questions hanging; even if they are intrusive you should give an answer. However, the way you respond will reflect your personality, so don't go to pieces!

It is tricky to take a stand on this issue. In most cases, it's a private matter and accordingly you have the right to hide the truth. On the other hand, in cases where the position being sought is physical in nature or poses a risk to the pregnancy (waitress, handling toxic materials, etc.) the employer is entitled to a truthful response.

*Art. 328b 3. Use of personal data
Employers may only use data regarding an employee if they concern the employee's ability to do the job or if they are necessary to carry out the employment contract. Furthermore, the provisions of the Federal Law of 19 June 1992 on the protection of data are applicable.

To give you some ideas, we have created a short list of questions that you can jot down on your pad before the interview.  Don't forget to record the recruiter's answers.

  • In which department is the job?

  • Where is the job positioned on the company's organization chart?

  • How many people will there be in my team/department?

  • Who will be my supervisors/subordinates?

  • What projects are currently in progress?

  • What is your company's development policy?

  • What is the corporate culture like?

  • Is this a new position or a replacement?

  • Will training be required for this position?

  • What will be my responsibilities or my tasks? What is the job description?

  • What are the prospects for growth in the job?

If the recruiter does not broach the subject, don't raise the issue of salary or employment benefits during the first interview.

Some questions should generally wait until the end of the interview, when the recruiter will ask you if there is anything else you would like to know:

  • What is the next step in the recruitment process? (Record the answer precisely)

  • Who will be getting in touch? You or the company?

  • When is this likely to happen?

A phone call can boost your chances

A phone call can give a serious boost to your application. However, it has to be prepared just as carefully as a face-to-face interview.

There are two types of situation in which a phone call can be useful:

  1. You are calling the company before sending in your application. In this case you can mention the phone conversation in your cover letter.

  2. You are calling the company about ten days after sending in your application file.

Tips and tricks for a successful phone interview

Goal: obtaining an interview

A phone call aims at the same result as a cover letter: obtaining an interview. Therefore, make sure to put the odds in your favor by preparing carefully, for example following a guiding thread of questions you want to ask and information you need to get.

Straight to the point

The phone call should be rather short. The person you are talking to shouldn't feel like they are wasting their time talking to you. Get straight to the point, namely getting an interview.

Documents you should keep in reach

  • Your CV (with relevant information highlighted)

  • The job ad

  • A piece of paper and a pen

  • Your organizer

  • A copy of your cover letter or email (if you have already sent it)

Controlling your voice

  • Speak with composure and slowly.

  • Articulate.

  • If possible, slightly drop your chin to prevent your voice from rising up.

  • Remain calm and polite.

  • Smile! (communication experts know very well that a smile can be heard though the phone.)

Topics that should be avoided on the first phone conversation

  • Salary.

  • Vacations and other benefits offered by the company, even if they are publicly known.

  • Don't get too personal. For example, avoid talking about hobbies, even if you have found out while googling their name that the person you are talking to is a water-ski champion.

  • Avoid commonplace topics (such as weather, traveling, sports, etc.) that are not related to the interview and will give the impression that you are not serious or that you are wasting the interviewer's time.