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Social Competence and practical experience as key to entering a career

What is important to an employer when choosing a new co-worker? And how can she/he be convinced to hire exactly me? Many young people, who with little or no job experience apply for a training opportunity or seek a job after finishing their studies, ask themselves these questions.

According to a current survey by the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) of approximately 2200 companies, social competences and practical experiences are often decisive if a graduate is or is not hired.

Experts point again and again to the three central aspects in the selection of a co-worker: competence, personality and performance motivation. With these points in mind, an applicant is invited to a job interview, is questioned during the interview and finally chosen.

Young people at school and university should bear this in mind and prepare themselves accordingly.

Professional competences

In the application as well as in the curriculum vitae and in the later job interview, the applicant must convince the employer that she/he can master the professional tasks.

The employer gets a first impression when studying the application. Already at this point, the applicant must clearly stress why she/he is up to the job. An inventory of one’s personal strengths should thus precede a convincing appearance.

An applicant will always be more convincing if she/he has collected initial practical experiences in the professional environment. Since especially school-leavers but also usually university graduates naturally lack job experience, it is extremely important to describe completed internships, sideline employment or voluntary engagements in the CV.

For example: Whoever applies for a practical training in the field of journalism should have written for her/his local newspaper at least once. Also, the membership in a club/society can actually be an advantage. “How can the carnival-majorette club be of advantage,” an applicant may ask herself.

The membership shows that she is a person who is very disciplined in her practice and does it regularly, is responsible in taking part in performances, likes being active in the group, has a balance to her everyday working world.


In a personal interview the first impression is decisive. Sympathy and personality play a not to be underestimated role in hiring. This is reflected not only in the appropriate clothes for the occasion and for the job, but above all in how one behaves during the job interview.

A polite “nice to meet you“ and a friendly smile and interest in one’s counterpart during the conversation will be approved of and are just as important as convincing answers to the subjects of team orientation and contact capacity. For example: Young people starting their career should also consider at this point where they have already proven their team ability, perhaps in the organisation of university events and so on.

By asking questions like: “What do you appreciate about your friends/colleagues?” or “How do you handle conflict situations on a normal school-day/at your work place?” the employer wants to find out what kind of person he is dealing with and if this personality fits into the team and the company.

Performance motivation

By asking questions like: “Why did you choose us for your job application?” or “Which of your accomplishments up to now are you especially proud of?” the interviewer is trying to uncover the applicant’s performance motivation. This has a particularly high value for the employment of young people and should therefore already be emphasized in the job application.

Many young persons apply for jobs in different professional fields. Often they are not at all sure if they really want to practise the job they’re aiming at and many times have not become acquainted with this kind of work in an internship.

On the other side, there are applicants who have shown in internships and first minor jobs that they can be motivated and reliable in their work, even over longer period of time. Many have consciously chosen these activities in regard to a certain training-placement or a specialized field after graduating from university.

The employer wants to find out how high the applicant’s motivation really is and if she/he has consciously concerned her/himself with the profession and the company.

In the same way, he would like to find out how high the applicant’s willingness to work and his/her learning ability are in general.

For school-leavers looking for training-placements as well for university graduates it is of importance: Preparation is fundamental. Lip-service is not enough if one wants to convince an employer about one’s motivation and competence. For this reason, before every application there should not only be an intensive assessment of one’s own personal and professional profile. It is just as important to collect first practical experiences.

When personal strengths and abilities can be convincingly demonstrated, the basis is laid for convincingly mastering a job interview to get a chance to enter the world of work.