Applying for a job

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.

Applying for a job

Explainer video application

In our video you will get a lot of tips how to apply succesfully for a job in Germany.


Application documents

Found an exciting job offer? Then it’s time to start applying. In Germany, the usual way of doing things is to send your application documents – printed – in a special application folder by post or as a PDF file via E-Mail. However, regardless of whether you apply by post or online, your application must contain the following information and documents:

  • 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. In Germany, applicants are often expected to include a photo of themselves in their CV.
Denis from the USA
In the US, anonymous CVs are standard practice. You send neither your name, age or origin, nor do you send an application photo. I applied for jobs that way in Germany and wondered why I got nothing but refusals. Then a German friend took a look at my CV and explained how to write a CV in Germany. It worked out after that, and I got a job.
  • 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. You can find out more about “Getting your professional qualifications recognised” here. 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.

    Please note:
    The Europass website will provide you with helpful information on the formal design of your CV and cover letter.

    The Europass documents will help you present a clear picture of your skills and qualifications to enhance your chances in the labour market. German companies, however, like your documents to be personalised. Therefore, your best bet is to use the Europass CV as a starting point and adapt it to your personal requirements

    • Download a Europass CV template here (Word format)

    • Europass will also provide you with filled-in CV templates in 26 languages.

    • You can also download a Europass application guide with the five most important instructions for composing a good-quality CV.

    • On Europass you can directly compose your CV online in a uniform format in German or English.

    • The Europass skills passport will let you give a comprehensive picture of your skills and qualifications. You can include explanations regarding reports and certificates, photocopies of documents and evidence of work you have done. The skills passport will also let you indicate your knowledge of foreign languages. Using the online editor, you can compile your skills passport and link it with your Europass CV, for example.

    In the application process, a convincing cover letter is as important as your CV. On the Europass pages, you can find out about formal requirements for a cover letter, too.


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.

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.

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"

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Information on this portal

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Information on the World Wide Web

Federal Employment Agency

Tips for the job interview (German)

Online Workshop „Working and living in Germany” (German, English)

Federal Office for Migration and Refugees

Checklist for your application documents (German, English, Russian, Turkish)

Information on Europass

The Europass cv for applicants (German)

Database of translators and interpreters

A platform of translators and interpreters (German, English, French, Italian, Spanish)

Münster University

Tips for assessment centre candidates (German)

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