Have you found an exciting job advertisement? Then it is time to send in your application. In Germany, documents are usually sent in a PDF file within an e-mail or they are uploaded directly to the company's career website. Applying by post with a special application folder is rarely required.
Read the job advertisement carefully: There is usually a sentence at the end about what kind of application is required and what documents must be submitted. These usually include a cover letter, a CV and additional references.
Cover letter/Motivation letter
The cover letter gives the company a first impression of you. You should introduce yourself, explain why you are interested in the job and describe your own strengths. Use examples from your previous jobs. Try to express yourself convincingly and present yourself in a way that distinguishes you from others. What makes you stand out? Why are you the right person for this job? Moreover, write about why you want to work for this company in particular.
You can read about the formal requirements of a cover letter on the Europass website.
In the curriculum vitae (CV) you give an overview of your personal and professional career. The CV usually has the format of a table. In Germany, applicants are often expected to include a photo in their CV – however, there are major differences between professional industries in this regard.
The following categories belong in the CV:
- Personal data: Name, address, contact details
- Work experience: Which companies did you work for? What was your position there, what were your tasks? This information should be listed chronologically – most recent job first.
- Education: All information on school, vocational training, studies and further training is to be listed here chronologically. List the name of the schools and universities, your courses of study and your final grades, starting with the degree you acquired the most recently.
- Language skills: Which languages do you speak - and how well? Use the standards of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as a guide, for example: "English: C1".
- Special skills and interests: Do you happen to have any special computer skills or private interests that are important for your job? Have you been socially or politically active?
Tip: On the Europass website you will find helpful information on the formal design of your CV and cover letter and you can create your CV directly online according to a standardised format in German or in English. However, companies in Germany usually appreciate an individual design of your application; hence, you can use the Europass CV as a guide and then adjust it to your individual style.
Finally add the most important certificates to the application documents. These may include certificates from vocational training as well as your school and university diplomas. Here you can find more on the topic of "Recognition of vocational qualifications". If you have any references or letters of recommendation from previous employers, attach these as well.
Important: It is best to have your certificates translated into German or English so that the company is able to understand your achievements. Allow enough time for the translation process so that you do not miss the deadlines.
Congratulations, you sparked the company’s interest with your application and they have invited you for an interview. The interview is a chance for you and the company to get to know each other. You will usually meet a manager from your department and one from the HR department.
They will most likely ask questions about your CV, your expectations of the job and the salary, as well as your skills and interests. They may also want to see how well you speak German or English or give you a practical task. Some might ask why you want to work in Germany and what you expect from your life in Germany.
To prepare for the interview, you should read up on the company beforehand, e.g. in which countries it is active or who the target group is. Also prepare some answers about your skills, strengths and weaknesses. Also think about questions you could ask your interviewer; this is how you show interest.
Aside from the content of the interview, a few standards are crucial: Be on time and switch off your smartphone. Dress appropriately, for example in a suit. However, since the dress code is slightly different in every industry, you should inform yourself well beforehand.
The Assessment Center
Companies often hold Assessment Centers for higher positions. This is a special kind of selection procedure that takes longer and is more elaborate than an interview. Several applicants complete certain tasks together: For example, you may be asked to take part in group discussions, role plays or presentations. In this way, the company wants to find out how you approach problems, deal with stressful situations and use your soft skills.
You do not live in Germany?
If you get an invitation for a face-to-face interview, clarify the question of travel costs. Explain to the company that you are travelling from abroad and ask whether you have to pay for the tickets and hotel yourself or whether the company will cover these costs. You can also ask if you can alternatively conduct the interview on the phone or by video conference. Keep the time difference in mind!
Non-EU citizens should also check which entry regulations apply to them if you are entering the country at short notice for an interview. The job-seeking visa gives you the opportunity to come to Germany for six months to look for work. Any costs incurred must be borne by you.
Federal Employment Agency
Federal Office for Migration and Refugees