Whether this is your first time looking for a job in Germany or if you’re a seasoned jobseeker, we know how frustrating (and at times disheartening) the process can be. That’s why we’ve put together some honest advice for those of you who are in the throes of it. But don’t just take our word for it, we sought out a head-hunting expert to share her top tips.
Liora Jaffe is a native Californian who moved to Berlin in 2013 after finishing her B.A. in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Liora now works for the HR and recruiting firm Talents4Good in Berlin. In this section, she provides some insight for navigating the German job application process, with the hope of helping you overcome any unexpected cultural differences and land that dream job.
You arrive in Germany ready to start your job hunt only to find that you are not getting any responses to your applications. Not to worry, there are a few key differences in the English-speaking verses German job market that can be easy to miss.
Key do’s and don’ts:
- Include a professional photo.
- Add personal details such as age, marital status and nationality.
- Don’t forget to date and sign your resume.
- Collect recommendation letters from your past positions.
- Attach any certificates (education, language, skills etc.) that you have.
- Stick with the formal you (Sie) in your application and interview.
The most basic of which is the application photo. In many English-speaking countries today, an application photo is outdated and may even be prohibited, this is not the case in Germany. Despite evidence that having a photo can induce hiring biases, German companies very much prefer this practice. Officially you are not required to include one, but it may hurt your application. Depending on the job you are applying for, it is best to have an up to date professional photo in business attire, for more conservative companies wear a blazer against a solid background.
To the same effect personal details, although they cannot be used in the selection process are well regarded in Germany. Things like marital status, age, and nationality are often included at the top of a resume. This information is optional and does not have to be included, but can be listed if you are comfortable sharing your personal details.
A simple make or break difference in Germany is that it is expected that you sign and date the bottom of your Resume. This should be done even for resumes submitted electronically. Make sure that the version you send is up to date and that you do not try to reuse a signed resume from a few months back!
True to the stereotype, German companies are partial to certifications and letters of recommendation. It is highly recommended while applying to submit letters of recommendation from past jobs called a “Zeugnis” in German. When you work for a German company they are required by law to give you a positive letter of recommendation at the end of your time with the company. If you have already worked for a German company, make sure to ask for one! If you worked abroad previously and are still in contact with your employer try to ask them if they can write one for you retroactively. One thing to note, because letters are required to be positive, there is a subtle coded system for feedback, things like the employee did a “good job” therefore translate to a lower than expected ranking. This may be one of the only cases where its best to exaggerate in Germany, and ask your recommender to say something like “always performed to our utmost satisfaction”. In many English-speaking countries, it is typical to include a list of references but in Germany your letters of recommendations fulfil this role.
The same goes for certificates, it is best if you can back up any education, skills, conferences, workshops, or expertise with documentation. From language proficiency to computer skills, make sure you collect evidence for your skills and include this with your application.
When it comes to language German can be difficult to master, even for those who have invested the hard-spent time and energy into learning German there are still important nuances to be aware of. When it comes to the job application process it is especially important to remember to speak in the formal “you”. Du and Sie, the informal and formal you respectively, are often tricky in everyday situations, but out of respect its best to stick with the formal “Sie” in your application materials and later in your interview.
On rare occasions in Germany you will be asked to fill out a narrative resume or “narrativer Lebenslauf”. As opposed to a tabular resume, which are more common today around the world, a narrative resume is a fully written out document. This differs from a cover letter, which focuses on your motivation and interest in the company, in that it essentially follows the structure of your normal tabular resume, but uses full sentences and paragraphs instead of bullet points.
Armed with these new tricks we wish you a successful application process! - By Liora Jaffe