How to apply for a job in Germany
We can say that Germany is quite a bureaucratic country. For the job application process this generalization also tends to be true. It can be needed to provide more than for example a cover letter common to applications in many countries (referred to in German as a (Kurzbewerbung) and CV.
You also need to include the following, with some exceptions:
- copies of school and university diplomas or leaving certificates (if possible translated)
- proof of any professional training or further training courses
- references from previous employers
- passport photo placed in upper right corner of the CV
This complete application is called a Vollständige Bewerbung. Some situation may require publications, or samples from a work portfolio, an Aussagefähige Bewerbung, which also include information specific to the position like patents held.
You should always submit your cover letter and CV in German, unless applying for a position that does not require German. To help you with your written application you can get a friend or a professional. Subsequently wait a week or two after sending an application and then you can call to check if your CV has been received.
Your Curriculum vitae – Lebenslauf
CV should have a passport-sized photo showing upper torso and the head. To invest in a high-quality photo taken by a professional can help, as many employers consider photo-booth pictures unprofessional. On the upper right side of the first page of the CV the photo should be pasted, next to the first section (personal details).
Other than in other countries a German CV is often longer, but should not exceed two pages. We have listed some of the most important points, some peculiarities to bear in mind you should consider below:
Structure; CVs in an traditional way were written in chronological order. This has changed in time and you should organise it in unbroken form with different subsections for work experience, education and language skills. Information should be placed in reverse chronological order, most recent first. You don’t need to include the day for date, but fill in the month.
Heading: In the heading of the CV put Lebenslauf.
Personal details ( Persönliche Daten); This is described in the first part of the CV. It should contain your name, address, telephone numbers, and e-mail address. Also include your date and place of birth, marital status and number of children. Your CV will be considered incomplete when you don’t state your age.
Professional Experience ( Berufserfahrung); Company name, sector, city and the position(s) you held. Specify what you achieved in every job, as this is an important factor for your future employer.
Education ( Ausbildung); If appropriate start with university (Studium). Include all titles, university name(s), cities, dates of study, final grade average, honours and experience studying abroad. Then list secondary/high school studies (Schulausbildung). It’s recommended to always get some information on what would be an equivalent degree in Germany and state it, as many employers may not understand foreign degrees.
Language skills ( Sprachkenntnisse); List all languages and the level of ability you have: fluent (fließend), high ( gut), medium (durchschnittlich) or low (Basiskenntnisse). It can help to separate written, depending on your abilities, (schriftlich) and verbal skills (verbal) skills. Don’t exaggerate your skills in another level as fluency in another language means just that. You probably will not get the job if you are tested in an interview and you ability doesn’t correspond with your CV.
Miscellaneous ( Sonstiges); Supplementary information, including;
- Computer skills: programs, applications, word processing, spread sheets, databases etc. Don’t put “Internet skills” meaning you know how to use a Internet browser and email, as this is not a differentiating ability.
- Publications and other professional articles.
- Hobbies: Your personal hobbies are just as important as your professional information, since they give some impression about you as a person. Most employers like “active” hobbies (such as sport and music) or social engagements. Watching TV or chatting with friends is not considered to be a hobby and will make you appear like a “couch potato”.
Date and signature; It is very common in Germany to date and to sign your CV at the bottom of the last page.
The cover letter
State your specific interest in the position you are applying for and why you are qualified for it, in your cover letter. Be straightforward and not include a lot of diplomatic wording in the cover letter. Keep in mind that most employers receive many applications a day so appreciate brevity. Even though this doesn’t sound very poetic, it is common to start a cover letter the phrase, “Hiermit bewerbe ich mich als ..” (I hereby apply as ..).
Be clear on the subject why you are the right person for the position. Avoid general platitudes like, “I always wanted to work in your industry, and am impressed by the good reputation your company has obtained in its sector.” Try to make yourself stand out with something original and keep focussed.
How to look nice – the application folder
Most German applications also include copies of qualifications and references of former employers, in addition to a cover letter and a CV, . It is recommended to provide copies of all certificate to support each item in your CV. With 20-30 pages not being uncommon, a complete application can therefore become quite long. It’s usual that many people bind their application in a Bewerbungsmappe (application folder), which can be bought in most stationary stores. This will make it easier to find the documents and can help to create a better impression.