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Personnel interview guidelines: rights, procedure, content, tips

The appraisal interview is an instrument of staff management. The focus is on the supervisor's feedback on the employee's performance and behavior. Both are assessed and assessed by the boss. This can include recognition and praise as well as criticism or even a warning. Here we show how you can optimally prepare for the feedback, which rights and obligations you have and which rules should be followed during the appraisal interview - from both sides: employer and employee ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Time: When can the appraisal interview take place?

If the boss asks for a report, it rarely means anything good. While the “employee appraisal”, “annual appraisal” or “feedback talk” still lead to a positive course of the conversation, one suspects the threatening scolding in the “personal appraisal”. The term sounds formally distant. Accordingly, many employees go into the appraisal interview with fear and a queasy feeling. But they don't have to.

When do I have to go to the appraisal interview?

  • During the work time
    In principle, the appraisal interview can be held at any time within regular working hours. But not after work, on vacation or on a day off or while the employee is on sick leave.
  • Even at short notice
    If the boss or employer arranges an appointment for the staff interview at short notice during working hours, the employee must comply with this.
  • With exceptions in your free time
    The appraisal interview can also take place outside of regular office hours. In this case, however, there must be “exceptional reasons”. In other words, reasons that make a conversation impossible during working hours. In addition, statutory rest periods (e.g. for shift workers) must be observed and any overtime paid. If none of this applies, the employee can decline the appointment and ask for another appointment.

However, it makes sense to announce the appointment two weeks in advance. In this way, each side can prepare appropriately for it.

Sample: Invitation to a staff interview

This is what an invitation to an appraisal interview can look like ...

Dear Ms. Mustermann,

I hereby invite you to a personal interview on DD.MM.YYYY at ZZ o'clock in the meeting room CC08 / 15.

The aim of the interview is to talk to you about your previous performance as well as your current job satisfaction and your future tasks.

The success of our conversation also depends on your contribution. I would therefore ask you to use the invitation as an opportunity to prepare the discussion thoroughly and, for your part, to reflect on your previous achievements and to bring up the points that are important to you.

I look forward to the conversation.

With best regards

Obligation to participate: do I have to come to the appraisal interview?

If the boss wants to talk to his employee about topics that relate to the content, place and time of the work performance, he may freely determine the place, time and content of the personal interview at his discretion. The employee is then obliged to participate. The obligation to participate is derived from the superior's “right of instruction” or “right of direction” regulated in Section 106 of the trade regulations.

Who stays away without excuse and ignoring the obligation to participate risks a warning. Repeated refusal to participate may even result in termination.

Exception: The supervisor's right to issue instructions only relates to the implementation of the employment contract in day-to-day work. If, for example, the personnel interview is about changing the employment contract (or even terminating it), the employee is no longer obliged to participate.

Location: Where can the appraisal interview take place?

As a rule, the place of the personal interview is the place of work of the supervisor or his office or a meeting room. If it is a larger company with different branches or branches, the manager can also order the employee to the head office - and oblige the employee to go on a business trip.

However, the travel time counts as working time and must be remunerated normally. The employer also bears the travel expenses. However, there must be factual reasons for this - for example, because the employee's home office or the construction site are unsuitable for such a conversation and do not allow a discreet atmosphere.

Content: What can I expect in the appraisal interview?

Usually, companies establish a fixed rhythm and cycle for the appraisal interview. For example…

  • Once a year
  • Every half year
  • Every three months
  • Once a month

Objectively justified reasons for this are:

  • The evaluation and assessment of the work management
  • Feedback on behavior (towards customers, colleagues, superiors)
  • Failure to follow certain instructions
  • The notification of new work instructions

What is the appraisal interview about?

Accordingly, the content of the employee appraisal mostly revolves around topics relating to the employment relationship, benefits and the employment contract. For example:

  • Start, change and termination of the employment contract
  • Rules of cooperation and leadership
  • Conflicts between boss, colleagues or customers
  • Time and place of activity
  • New forms of work organization and operational processes
  • Returning to work after incapacity for work or illness
  • Personal development prospects of the employee

So the appraisal interview shouldn't be negative or contain (constructive) criticism. It can be just as positive, opening up opportunities, addressing the employee's needs or even expressing recognition and appreciation.

Properly conducted, the appraisal interview can help develop new strategies, increase employee motivation and define realistic goals. Even if smoldering conflicts are ultimately resolved, this is only an advantage for future cooperation.

No chicane!

Appraisals may not be used to harass, harass or bully the employee in any way. The tone must remain factual. Otherwise you can end the call and leave. An employer who orders an appraisal interview out of nowhere and confronts his employee with allegations also violates his duty of care.

Does the appraisal interview have to be conducted in private?

The personal interview can be a one-to-one interview - but it doesn't have to be. Depending on the topic, it can also be conducted in a group or with several (affected) people present.

For example, when conflicts need to be resolved in a team. Or when it comes to labor law violations (bribery, fraud, theft, sexual harassment, etc.), members of the works council, the in-house legal counsel or even lawyers can attend the appraisal interview.

Download: guidelines for the appraisal interview

In order to conduct better appraisal interviews, we have developed a guide that you can download here free of charge as a PDF and use it to prepare for the appraisal interview. The guideline contains important questions about your previous achievements and successes as well as possible deficits and goals.

Download the appraisal interview guide

Preparation: Tips for employees and managers

Because there are no legal regulations governing the conduct of an appraisal interview, everything can be expected there. It is all the more important that everyone does their part to prepare the conversation. For example, to think about possible questions and topics in advance, to get advice on individual points or to be clear about the occasion and potential areas of conflict. To ensure that a personal interview runs smoothly, we have summarized the three most important tips for solid preparation for both parties:


  • attitude
    Regardless of whether the topic is difficult or unproblematic: Always treat your employees with respect and appreciation. This includes giving him the opportunity to comment on any matter you have raised. A calm voice and concentrated listening prevent the mood from heating up unnecessarily and escalating the conversation.
  • Content
    A discussion guide should be drawn up so that there is certainty on both sides about the points to be discussed. This helps not to forget any important point and makes it easier to log the personal interview afterwards.
  • the atmosphere
    Make sure there are no phone calls or interference from other sources during the call. Start the conversation with some small talk. This is of particular benefit to shy or sensitive employees. Furniture can also loosen up the atmosphere of conversation. Instead of having the appraisal interview at a massive table (which acts like a separation), you should literally sit down at a round table - next to each other, not across from each other.


  • behavior
    Your behavior should be appropriate to the situation. Even when you are angry, it is important to keep your composure. Likewise, if you calmly formulate your concerns yourself, but have a choleric boss. Don't get involved at this level.
  • presentation
    Practice your self-expression beforehand. What are your strengths? What successes can you point to? You should be able to argue for any change requests. This way the boss can feel that you are prepared and that he has a top performer in front of him.
  • Solution orientation
    Bosses don't like nagging, they love solutions. If you want to discuss a problem, you will be more successful if you present a proposal for a solution at the same time as the complication. Better even two or three. Then the boss can choose. However, the proposals need to be well thought out. Otherwise you come out as a cream puff.

More tips for employees
You can find out more about how an interview can take place and how you as an employee can prepare it perfectly HERE.

Appraisal interview checklist: Please think about it

  • Find out the subject of the appraisal interview in advance.
  • Prepare yourself thoroughly for the conversation and the familiar content.
  • Take notes with you during the conversation. Some things are forgotten under stress. You also have a reminder afterwards.
  • If possible and appropriate to the topic, consult a works council member.
  • Don't sign anything. Ask for sufficient time to think about it and postpone your response.
  • If the pressure becomes too great, end the appraisal interview and seek legal assistance.
  • After an interview, make a written memo and discuss this with your lawyer. Then ask the boss for information / correction.

Works council as support

If you are unsure, you can consult the works council in advance for support during the personnel interview and ask that a works council member be present during the interview. An employer who wants to have a factual conversation will not object to a person of trust. There are also cases in which the employee can involve a member of the works council, for example if he wants to see his or her personnel file.

Topics such as salary, the assessment of work performance or the future professional development of the employee can also be dealt with in the presence of the works council. Likewise, Section 81 (4) and Section 82 (2) of the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG) can make it necessary for a works council member to be present: For example, if the employee's area of ​​responsibility is to change drastically and his / her skills and knowledge have to be adapted.

But there is no general right to itto be able to consult a works council member. A claim is only derived from the BetrVG and from certain occasions.

Never secretly record!

Secret recording of the personal interview is strictly prohibited for both parties. On the part of the employer, this represents a violation of the personal rights of the employee. Conversely, the secret recording of the employee (for example with the smartphone can lead to a termination without notice (LAG Rhineland-Palatinate, AZ. 5 Sa 687/11). The recording is only allowed if it is discussed and accepted in advance by both sides.

Lawyer as support

If there have been conflicts between employer and employee for a long time, the appraisal interview could herald the beginning of the end of the employment relationship. In some cases, it can therefore make sense to seek advice and support from a specialist labor law attorney beforehand. However, you have no fundamental right to take a lawyer with you to the appraisal interview. Lawyers are "external third parties". The boss doesn't have to let that happen.

There are two exceptions to this rule:

  • Equal opportunities and weapons
    If the employer himself calls in a lawyer for the appraisal interview, the employee is also permitted to do so for reasons of equal opportunities and equality of arms. If only the employer had a lawyer at his side, the employee would be in a weaker negotiating position.
  • Change or termination
    If there is no obligation for the employee to participate in the appraisal interview - for example because it is about an amendment contract or a termination - he can consult a lawyer. If, for example, the suspicion has been expressed that the employee has committed a criminal offense and the employer therefore wants to terminate him (see: Suspicious termination), the employee must have the opportunity to comment. For this he can get the support of a lawyer.

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