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Applying for a job

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Found an exciting job offer? Then it’s time to start applying. The first step is to send your application documents to the company. After that, the company will, hopefully, invite you for an interview. You can find out the best way to apply and present yourself here.

Application documents

Application documents

In Germany, the usual way of doing things is to send your application documents – printed – in a special application folder by post. However, more and more companies also point out in their job offers that they will be glad to receive applications online. In that case, you can send your documents in a PDF file. However, regardless of whether you apply by post or online, the information and documents that go to make up your application are the same:

  • Covering letter: In your covering letter, you give the company a first impression of yourself. You explain why you are interested in the post and describe your own strengths. In your letter, try to express yourself convincingly to set yourself apart from the other applicants.

  • Curriculum vitae: In your CV, you describe your personal and professional career so far. A CV does not have to be written out in full: you can list the most salient information in the form of a table. Previously in Germany, applicants were expected to include a photo of themselves in their CV. However, depending on the company this is no longer necessarily the case.

    As a rule, German CVs are not written in strict chronological order. However, the most recent professional experiences are usually placed at the beginning. Divide your CV up into the following categories:

    • Personal details: name, address, contact details
    • Professional experience: what companies have you already worked for? What did your work there consist of? You should list this information in chronological order. Start with your most recent professional experience.
    • Education: which schools and universities did you attend? What were your final grades? What subjects did you study? Have you completed a vocational training course? Or, have you done any continuing education courses? You should list this section chronologically too, with the most recent qualification first and your school education at the end.
    • Language skills: what languages do you speak? How well do you speak them? In Germany, the following terms are often used to describe this: “Muttersprache”, or native language; “verhandlungssicher” or business fluent (excellent skills); “fließend”, meaning you speak the language currently (sound knowledge of the language); and “Grundkenntnisse”, or basic skills (beginner). However, it is more advisable to refer to the standards of the Common European Reference Framework for Languages (CEFR).
    • Special aptitudes and interests: For example, do you have any special computer skills that are important for your work? And what are your hobbies.

  • Certificates: Finally, include your most important certificates in your application. Examples of these include certificates obtained during your vocational training, as well as your school-leaving and university degree. If you have any references from previous employers, you can include those too. Do not send any originals, only copies. This is because very often, the documents are not returned. In normal circumstances, an ordinary photocopy will do. You only need officially certified copies if the company asks for this expressly. Important: it is advisable to have your certificates translated into German or English so that the company can understand your qualifications.

Complete Guide to “Working in Germany”
Download (PDF 879 KB)

Getting your qualifications recognised

Getting your qualifications recognised

What professional qualifications do you have? This is often a key question for companies in Germany. You are no doubt capable of answering the question. However, the qualifications obtained in your home country are often not comparable with German qualifications, or are called something else. In that case, German companies will find it difficult to judge your application. This is an opportunity for you to score points: find out for yourself whether your qualification can be or must be checked for equivalence, and to which German reference profession it corresponds. You can then include the information in your application right away. You can find out more about “Getting your professional qualifications recognised” here.

Complete Guide to “Working in Germany”
Download (PDF 879 KB)

The interview

The interview

The company is interested in your application and has invited you to an interview – congratulations, you have got one important step further. The job interview offers you and the company a chance to make acquaintance with one another. In most cases, you will meet the personnel manager and the line manager. They will probably ask you questions about your CV, your expectations of the job and salary, as well as about your aptitudes and interests. The interviewers may also want to see how well you speak German or English. In many cases, they will ask why you want to work in Germany and what you expect from living in Germany.

There are lots of things you can do to prepare for these interviews. For example, find out about the company in advance. Also, prepare a couple of answers about your aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses. You can do this by reading your CV through again and writing a couple of key words by each point, for example. You can also think about the questions that your interlocutors might put. That is a way of showing that you are interested.

Besides what you say during the interview, a couple of other criteria are important too – no doubt the same all over the world. Be punctual. Your mobile phone or smartphone should be systematically switched off during a job interview. Also, come along wearing appropriate clothing: women should usually wear a trouser or dress suit, men a suit with a shirt and tie. However, you need to take the particular circumstances of specific sectors into account.   

Find out here what you need to keep in mind when arriving from another country for an interview.

Complete Guide to “Working in Germany”
Download (PDF 879 KB)

Not living in Germany?

Not living in Germany?

In Germany, the company usually pays the costs of job interviews. If you are travelling from abroad, ask whether all your costs will be paid in this case too. Also, ask the company whether you can be interviewed over the phone or by video-conference. If the company would still rather get to know you in person, ask whether you have to pay the travel costs yourself or whether the company will pay them.

Non-EU citizens should also find out what entry requirements apply to them. A visa is available that permits you to come to Germany for six months to search for employment. All related costs are your personal responsibility. more

Complete Guide to “Working in Germany”
Download (PDF 879 KB)

Assessment centre

Assessment centre

For higher-ranking positions – management jobs, for example – companies often use assessment centres. This is a special kind of selection process. Here, the applicant is asked to perform certain tasks with other applicants. For example, you might be asked to discuss topics as a group, do role play or give a presentation. This is a way for the company to find out how you tackle problems, cope with stressful situations and use your soft skills.

Complete Guide to “Working in Germany”
Download (PDF 879 KB)

To conclude: the final decision

To conclude: the final decision

Some time later, the company will let you know whether or not you have got the job. Many companies will notify you after just a few days, others only after a few weeks. If the company wants to recruit you, once you have accepted its offer it will send you a work contract. If you agree with the work contract, sign it and return it to the company. You can find out what to look out for in the work contract here.

Complete Guide to “Working in Germany”
Download (PDF 879 KB)

Information on this portal

Professional qualifications: prove your skills
Have your credentials translated

Language Skills: It's easier in German
Learning the language quickly

Germany local
Here, you can find institutions on site that generally support you to translate and to authenticate your applicant documents and certificates.

Information on the World Wide Web

Federal Employment Agency
Tips for the job interview (German)


Checklist for job interviews (pdf)
drawn up by Cologne University (German)

Tips for assessment centre candidates
compiled by Münster University (German)

Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
Checklist for your application documents (German, English, Turkish, Russian)

Information on Europass
Tips for job applicants, portal of the European Union (German, English) 

Recognition of qualifications in Germany
All you need to know about “Recognition of professional qualifications”, including a "recognition finder” which tells you where to find your local contact centre (German, English)


BQ Portal
Information on recognition of foreign professional and university
qualifications (German)

 

Database of translators and interpreters
A platform to provide information on officially authorized, appointed and sworn translators and interpreters (German, English, French, Italian, Spanish)