Applying for a job in Germany – a guide

Applying for a job in Germany is different from applying for a job in say, Singapore or Malaysia (I’m not sure about other countries because I’ve only applied for these two. Then there is Japan – and that is a little unconventional in Japan standards so I don’t know if it is the norm)

To apply for a job in Singapore or Malaysia, you need to have your CV written in perfect (almost) English. That is usually it, unless you would like to stand out in your application then you can add a Cover Letter. I remember writing a few Cover Letters when I was applying for a thesis position in German companies last year. At that time, I did not know the rules to apply for German Companies, nor was I so exceptionally outstanding that the companies are willing to overlook my lack of experience in the application.

Here are the mistakes I made (from the advice my Professor gave me) when I was applying for internships/Thesis attachments:

1. I sent out unsolicited applications to companies — it does not usually work for students who have not graduated or fresh grads or those with only a few years working experience. This only works if you held a high ranking position in your current/previous company (how the world works).

This is based on his experience on  both sides of the application process — the applicant and the manager (and now also as a Professor)

2. The CV has to be written in German (if possible) and in the German format. It’s called Lebenslauf, and it has to be 1-page no matter how experienced you are. Certain information must be included:

Persönliche Daten (Personal Data) – name, date of birth, place of birth, contact number, and marital status.

Studium (Studied at) – your education history

Praktische Erfahrung (Practical Experience) : from your work experience to your internship experience

EDV – Kenntnisse (Computer knowledge): This includes Microsoft office (or any other OS) proficiency, Programming languages, software programs you are experienced with etc. etc.

Sprachen (Languages spoken): List it in the order of proficiency – Muttersprache (native language), fließend in Wort und Schrift (Fluent in spoken and written), gut (good), Grundkenntnisse (Basic)

Interessen (Interests)

4. Two referees from your university or previous company that can put in a good word for you. I think it is very likely that they will actually call them and ask about you. So please, make sure you inform your professor or ex-employer that you are putting them down as a referee!

It would also be hilarious (I guess..) if you did not tell your employer that you are applying for a new job, and you put him/her down as a referee, then having your possible future employer call him/her.

3. The covering letter should be the area you spent the most time and effort in. It is here where you try to sell yourself and try to get the employer to be interested in you. For those who are familiar with the North-South highway pit stops in Malaysia, for example the one in Tapah, there will be two rows of fruit stalls selling almost the same thing for almost the same price. And the moment you step in to their vicinity, the people (usually ladies) “manning” the stalls will start calling you towards their stalls – by offering samples, shouting as loudly as they can to get your attention, giving promotions, etc. etc. so that you (the employer role) buy their fruits (the applicant).

4. In Germany, it is obligatory for the company or institutes you work for to issue you a letter of recommendation at the end of your term, regardless the period of time you were there (and this information I just got yesterday night). Therefore, unbeknownst to us who are outside Germany, we are comparatively at a disadvantage.

This letter of recommendation is usually written by yourself, describing what you have done in the company/institute, and your performance there. It will then be reviewed and edited by your manager and the HR. There are many tricks regarding this letter, for example play of words, hints, code words that are invented so that on paper it looks like you are a brilliant worker but between the HRs they understood what the words are trying to convey – and that means you did a shit job during the company. Nah, just kidding.

However, for those of us who have it written in English, there are no rules or hidden code words between HRs. So yay! There is an advantage after all.

5. A photograph of yourself. It has to be clear and in high resolution – like everything in Germany.

6.  All your certificates – Masters, Bachelor’s, etc. etc.

All of these documents are to be merged in one PDF file, and sent online. Or if you are mailing it, put them all in one envelope (duh!).

As this is a rather long post – all words and no pictures make this a boring post 😦

But hopefully this post will be able to help someone (or is there anyone here??) to not make the same mistakes I made while applying for a job in Germany. And here, I bid you – and me – all the best luck in getting a job in Deutscheland!

Viele Gluck 😀


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