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Career Services at the University of Zurich

Interview Process

Table of contents

You have been invited to an interview and have every reason to be pleased. Now, in order for the interview to run well, you need to be well prepared.

On the employer side, i.e. HR managers and direct superiors - the object of the interview is to gain a picture of you, to obtain more precise details on your expertise and personal skills, to find out more about your goals and interests, and to see if you would fit into the team.

How loose or structured an interview is depends on the company. A frequently used model is the ‘semi-structured’ interview at which several interviewers are present. Structuring an interview raises the quality and comparability of the discussion and gives a better idea of how successful the candidate will be in the job.

In practice, semi-structured interviews differ in structure, length, content, and assessment methods, but the basic structure is often very similar, as seen below:


Before the Interview

  • Research as much as you can about the company.
  • Refresh yourself again on the job ad and your application documents, be aware of your strengths and motivation for the position, and draft suitable answers to the questions that may be asked.
  • Prepare the right clothes: They must be appropriate for the job and you should feel comfortable.
  • Imprint the names of those attending the interview on your mind to avoid a nervous blackout.

While your aim is to show yourself in your best light and to demonstrate interest and involvement, you also have the chance to gain added information about the job, the company, and employment conditions.

The Interview

  • Greet the attendees by name with a firm handshake, and a friendly smile.
  • Do not sit down until invited to.
  • Sit upright on the chair (expresses confidence) and stay relaxed.
  • Listen carefully, demonstrate your interest, and hold eye contact with those present.
  •  Don’t settle for simply answering questions but use the chance to sell yourself.

Possible Course of the Interview

Start of the talk

  • Informal section with the aim of creating an open and friendly atmosphere.
  • Tip: Be friendly, use your interviewer’s name, and if you don’t catch a name, ask again.

Applicant’s presentation

  • You will be asked to talk freely about your career, e.g. “Tell us in around 5 minutes about the key stages of your professional development.”
  • Competencies like presentation technique, organization, and communication skills will be assessed, as well as timing.
  • Tip: At home, practice a short (5 minute) and a long (10 minute) presentation.

Free discussion

  • Questions on your resume (gaps, bases of decisions), e.g. “After earning your Matura, you didn’t automatically choose to study. Why?” You spent an exchange year in India. How did this come about? What drove you to do this?”
  • Tip: Be honest, prepare for questions about gaps.

Professional interest, choice of profession, and choice of company

  • The company will test how well you have done your research and how you imagine the job to be. Does it align with what the company envisages?
  • Questions on motivation and your choice to apply, e.g. “What was it that appealed to you about the job? Why did you choose to study biology?”
  • Questions on your self-assessment skills and your knowledge of the business, e.g. “How do you expect the staffing situation in Swiss banks to develop over the next few months? And why? What can you tell us about the latest bank regulations?”
  • Tip: Research the organization and follow the latest developments in the press.
  • Ask questions about the job. Did I understand the position correctly? Clarify as many issues as possible to enable you to make the final decision: Will I like this job and will I be successful?

Biography-related questions

  • You will be questioned about your experience with relation to the job requirements. For example, interviewers may ask for examples for given situations, e.g. “Can you give us an example of a larger task that you tackled recently?  How did you plan it and carry it through? What was the outset situation? What exactly did you do? How exactly did you proceed? What was the result? In hindsight, would you do anything differently?”
  • Tip: Be honest; practice examples at home. Take your time in the interview to think of a suitable example. Listen carefully. Do not give an example of your organizational skills when asked about planning.

Realistic information about the job

  • Now it is the interviewers who generally speak. Candidates will receive balanced and realistic information about the job and the company and will also have the chance to ask questions.
  • Tip: Ask questions! The more you know about a job, the easier it will be to make your decision. It is not only a question of whether the company would like you, but also whether you would like the job.
  • Listen attentively. You will need this information for the following stage.

Case questions

  • This is where interviewers find out how you would react in certain cases. One to three competencies are allocated to each case and these are assessed on the basis of your answer. As a rule, the cases cover situations that frequently arise in the job and which impact overall success,  e.g.: “A long-standing customer calls you in a rage. For the third time running he has received an incorrect invoice from you. (Info: You are responsible for this customer and recruit candidates. The invoices are created and sent by the Service Center. In other words, it’s not your fault). What would you do?”
  • Tip: Be honest, think carefully how you would react, and give reasons for your conduct. Listen carefully. Such issues are important for your final decision too.

End of the discussion

  • Feedback will be issued and agreements concluded.
  • Tip: Keep to the agreements you make.

A well-structured interview held by trained staff helps both interviewers and applicants alike to make their decision.

After the Interview

In the best case, you will be invited to another round of interviews, or you will be offered the job directly. This will be followed by clarification of your starting date, final salary, and employment conditions.

In the worst case, you will receive a rejection. However, rather than feeling gloomy, analyze the outcome of this application: What was the reason? Did you make mistakes or were the others simply better? Ask the employers to explain why you were rejected.

Weiterführende Informationen


Interviews - How to Succeed

See the download for our advice on interviews compacted into four pages. Try practicing the interview with your family or friends.

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