It seems like because of the epidemic the Zoom, Skype or Whatsapp interviews are more and more common. Also here in Germany the employers tend to avoid contacts and opt for ways of gaining the first impression without having to meet someone in person. But maybe you are just like me four years ago when I was applying for a Social Year in Germany still in Morocco without any chance to travel to Europe without the working visa. Maybe you are looking forward to spending a year in Germany as an Au-Pair and you will be soon talking on phone to your German host family for the very first time. Let me share with you my experience with such interviews and some advice on things I would do completely different now.
Why is the interview so much more challenging than casual talking to some people we have never met before? Well, it´s all about the pressure to meet the expectations and to make a good impression in order to be accepted. Because of how much is on stake, the failed interview can sometime be a soul-crushing experience.
That´s exactly what happened to me during my first phone interview. At the same time as I was applying for the Social Year, I was also considering the Ecological Year, and honestly, I hoped more for my success at the later, because I imagined to stay at a farm where the animals don´t expect me to talk to them in grammatically perfect sentences in German. Well, the owner of a horse farm I have contacted back then apparently did.
Actually, I don´t even know, what she expected from me. Back then I was only able to introduce myself in German and there were probably not many questions I was able to understand in German. After some greetings she said something I didn´t understand at all, but I figured out, it must be a question so I better ask her what she meant by that. That was the moment it hit her that she isn´t talking to a native german person, she constated that I don´t undertand and finished the interview. Right now I think, it was just rude of her not even having tried, but at that time I thought it was all my fault and no chance I may be ever accepted anywhere in Germany.
Soon after that I had another interview, this time for the Social Year, and you can imagine, I even didn´t feel like making the call. I was sure, that will be another compromitation. However, there were completely different people at the other end and they really understood, that it is not easy to learn a language without ever going to a foreign country, and also that it is a reall challange to understand native speakers, even when they speak clearly and slowly. That time, it wasn´t any better than the horse farm interview. I wasn´t able to say too much and my every other sentence was "I wasn´t able to understand you acustically" (in German), but the reaction was very positive and I got my contract.
Thinking back about those experience, I would be more honest about my actual German level. Making an appointment for the interview I would say that I am still learning, it is getting better, but I will probably not be able to understand every question, so that the person interviewing me isn´t shocked like the horse lady in the first interview. Many people are ready to speak English (or willing to bring someone who is happy to talk English with foreigner whose German is not sufficient for serious talks yet). Unfortunately, there aren´t many Germans speaking French. Many have learnt at school, but I haven´t meeet to many ready for a talk in French, definitely more luck with English.
Other than that I would definitely prepare answers for some most common questions like: Can you tell us something about yourself? Why would you like to have this job? why in Germany? Why us? Do you have any experience in this field? What´s your hobbies and plans for future?
I also strongly advice to practise talking to natives, I really mean to practise an interview with Germans you know. Maybe you have some friends from Germany on Facebook. I am sure many of them would be happy to play a role of the interviewer. It doesn´t take so much time, but it helps you so much. The very first interview is no more the first, after you have practised with someone before. If you don´t know anyone you can practise with and you will have an interview in German soon, you can also contact me. I am not a native speaker of German, but I am sure to find for you someone who can practise with you over zoom.
Last but not least, be sure to be perfectly prepared. Think of possible questions and your answers, research the company you are interested in, make sure to know your job description very well. A few weeks ago I had a phone interview for a vocational training in a very nice company. I was prepared to introduced myself, and I did, but I had no idea that I am expected to be talking for a few minutes only about my education and my interests. I was also asked, if I have seen the website of the company. I said I did (that was true), but then I was asked what I have read there. Of course I haven´t expected such a question and I could hardly recall anything in detail. In fact my answers were for sure rather disappointing and I had to admit that I don´t remember too much anymore.
Finally, remember that if you get a job or not, doesn´t define you as a person. If after the interview they choose some else or say, that you are not the right one for the position, you are not less valuable at all. They have chosen someone else and you can choose to apply somewhere else, too. It is perfectly normal to have some completely failed interviews, but I am sure if only you stay persistent, you will succeed to get your contract. I wish you good luck and let me know, if you need any more help with the preparations for the interview.