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Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in Germany

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted:July 2014

Finding a Job

Job adverts in Germany appear a long time before the position actually become available, which gives you the time you will need to prepare your application. Online job portals are a convenient job-searching tool, as they enable you to filter your search according to job function, industry, salary and location, or search for keywords. Some of the most popular portals are:

You can also try the EU-wide job search website, EURES. Most daily newspapers also publish job advertisements both in their printed issues and online. Some of the most widely read newspapers that have sizeable employment sections are:

Another good option for jobseekers in Germany is to register with the Federal Employment Agency above. Job seekers can also turn to private recruitment agencies. If possible, before committing yourself, check that the agency is accredited and look at some online reviews. There is a comprehensive list of recruitment agencies in Germany on the Mebib website (in German.) Finally, make sure to look at ‘Vacancies’ sections on websites of organisations that interest you.

 

CVs

As your curriculum vitae or CV (German: Lebenslauf) is an introduction to a potential employer, it is essential to make it strong, highlighting your academic qualifications and professional experience. If you are confident your German is good enough, you should write the CV in German, otherwise in English. Unlike those in most other countries, German CVs have a standard format and style. If you deviate from this too much, your CV may not even be considered. A German CV should be one or two pages long and have two columns of text: categories on the left and information on the right. You should attach a recent photograph at the top right.

The CV must be well structured. You should first list your personal details: your name, date and place of birth, nationality, address, telephone number and email. You can add a ‘Profile’ subsection after the personal details, but keep it factual, omitting generalities such as ‘hard working’ and ‘team player’.) This illustrates the general tenor of a German CV – it should deal in facts. It is not an exercise in self-promotion and should not contain any vacuous language or business jargon.

A good order for the main categories is ‘Education’ (including training and internships), ‘Work Experience’, and ‘Computer and Language Skills’, then ‘Voluntary Work’ and ‘Scholarships’ as required. Leave out ‘Hobbies’ or ‘Interests’, as they may be considered irrelevant.

Arrange education and work experience sections in reverse chronological order, accounting for any gaps. When listing your academic qualifications, include dates attended, the name of the educational institution, study programme, degree obtained and your study focus. Work experience should include start and end dates, job title and name of the organisation you worked for. Include brief details of primary responsibilities in your recent jobs.

In all correspondence with your prospective employer, check that your spelling and grammar are correct, avoid using informal language and explain any abbreviations used. When you have finished, sign your CV at the bottom. There is further information on writing CVs in Germany on the Modelo Curriculum site.

 

Cover Letters

Employers typically require a cover letter, which should be one to two A4-pages long and drawn up as a formal business letter. The purpose of a cover letter is to explain your motivation for applying for the position, how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and what you will bring to that particular role. When writing cover letters, pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and comment on how you fulfil these.

In addition to a CV and cover letter, it will help your cause to enclose letters of recommendation from your previous employers, and copies of any qualifications such as degree certificates.

 

Interviews

The German interviewing style is generally direct and factual. At a face-to-face interview, you should take your CV and qualification certificates with you in a binder In recent years, telephone and Skype interviews have become more common, especially if the candidate is abroad at the time of interview. Typically, you will need to give the impression of absolute professionalism to be considered for a job in Germany. As a rule, the more fluent your German is, the better your prospects will be.

Generally, interviewers will first give you the opportunity to introduce yourself, present your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. After this, employers will ask questions about your previous employment and test how your skills match their requirements. Finally, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about your potential future role. In all cases, it is crucial to show that you understand how the organisation operates, what its objectives are, and how you could contribute to its success.

International companies based in Germany and large domestic companies often use recruitment assessment centres. Such assessments last a day or two and test your suitability for the position using tasks such as presentations, group activities and written tests. There is more information on interviewing techniques and sample interview questions on the Working in Germany site.

 

Etiquette

When attending a job interview, punctuality is key! In Germany, it is customary to arrive at least ten minutes early. Additionally, you should address the interviewers using their correct title and surname, unless you are specifically asked to do otherwise. Another important rule is to dress appropriately. Even if the organisation does not have a specific dress code, it is still advisable to opt for business wear in discreet colours; women should avoid wearing eye-catching jewellery, heavy make-up and short skirts. Throughout the interview, make sure to sit straight and make appropriate eye contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!

 

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