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Job interviews - the unwritten rules

Attending a job interview may seem very similar across cultures. However, there are certain expectations and norms that recruiters and managers expect candidates to meet – the so-called unwritten rules of the job interview.

We have gathered some of the unwritten rules that internationals coming to Denmark do not usually know. 


Tests are widely used and you may be asked to conduct both practical and personal tests, and you may be facing several rounds of interviews beginning with a first interview with a recruiter and ending with the final interview where you meet the manager.  


Being on time is very important. But, what does it actually mean to be “on time” in Denmark? If you are invited for an interview at 10:00, it means that you will be sitting at the desk ready to start the interview at 10:00. Take into consideration that the train might be delayed, or there might be a queue on the motorway. But being “on time” also means that you cannot arrive too early – it is a sign of you being able to manage your time by not being too early or too late. 

The interview begins at the reception desk

Be aware that you make an impression once you enter the premises of the company. Greet everyone you meet – the cleaner, receptionist – it makes a great first impression. 

Informal atmosphere

The atmosphere at most Danish companies is generally speaking very informal compared to other cultures. On a personal level, everyone is considered equals, even though you may have different job titles. Therefore, the interview is conducted as a two-way conversation. It is considered polite to be active and engaged during the interview – or conversation. Prepare questions. You are welcome to have them written down, so that you can focus on what is being said during the interview, instead of you trying to remember your questions. Be active and engage in the conversation, and do not be afraid of asking questions during the conversation. It is more or less expected, that you do so. Both you and the recruiter are eager to impress each other, and at the same time both are interested in finding out, if you are a good match. Many companies believe that by making the interview situation as comfortable as possible, you will perform better and be able to show the company who you are. Recruiters will not only explore how you match the job, but also how you match the company culture. Companies in Denmark usually believe that if you match the company culture and have fun at work, you will be able to perform better and thereby make a better profit for the company. 

Saying yes to coffee and to shaking hands

At the beginning of the interview, you shake hands with everyone present – and you have to do the same again at the end of the interview. The polite way of shaking hands in Denmark is the short-and-firm handshake. It is not a sign of politeness to give a weak handshake, nor is it to try to break the other person’s hand. Please remember to keep eye contact while shaking hands, which signals politeness. Accept coffee or water if offered to you – it is part of the cosy atmosphere / hygge. Some say that this is actually the first thing the company offers to you, sort of the first gift, and therefore it is polite to accept it.

Find more tips to nail job interviews in the module "Contacting companies and succeed in job interviews" in Workindenmark's online course on job search

This article was first published in Workindenmark's newsletters for job seekers.

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