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How to address the interviewer in German/French or other languages that distinguish formal and informal “you”?

Anonymous A


I’m a not native German speaker but I will have my interviews in German. In this language you can distinguish between “du” (you as you would address a friend”), and “Sie” (you as you would address a stranger, which is the polite form).

My questions concerns which form to use: do I remain with the formal polite form of “Sie” throughout the interview independent of how the interviewer addresses me or do I change to the friendly form of “du” as soon as the interviewer does this?

I believe a similar issue exists in other languages as well so please share your tips even if you don’t know German but e.g. French.

Thanks a lot!

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replied on 03/05/2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 50+ candidates secure MBB offers

For interviews in German the rule is crystal clear: you ALWAYS go with "Sie". No exceptions. :)



Francesco replied on 03/04/2018
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Hi Anonymous,

I can speak for my experience in Italy, where interviews are also formal as in Germany and have two pronouns to address formal (“Lei”) and informal (“Tu”) relationships. Here in Italy, you always start interviews with the formal version.

It actually never happened to me that the interviewer moved from the formal “Lei” to the informal “Tu” without notice. When the interviewer wanted to move to informal, he/she always anticipated it was ok to keep the conversation informal. After that, it was ok to use the informal version (“Tu”), since he/she explicitly mentioned to proceed in that way.

Having said that, if the interviewer had moved from formal to informal without notice I would have stick to formal until a request from the interviewer side, as a form of respect.



Vlad replied on 03/05/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School


In the countries where you have that peculiarity in language and especially in the countries with hierarchical management culture you should always use a more polite way of communication.


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replied on 03/04/2018

Hey anonymous,

Always go formal except if clearly expressed by the interviewer upfront - consulting is a very informal world in the relationships between the consultants themselves, but very very formal otherwise. And you don’t want to be the one causing a really bad impression since the first minute



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