Important Things You Need for Your German Job Application

Woman applying for job in Germany
Written by
Team Worldify
Published on
May 2, 2023

When you’re looking to find a job in Germany, the first step is learning the country-specific aspects of the German job application process. We already know the goal—get a job in Germany (if the public holidays aren't enough to convince you, we don't know what is!). But the process can be a bit tricky, especially when you're moving from abroad. We've summed up the most important points to help you through your German job application journey. 

Your Guide to the German Job Application

First things first — be aware of cultural differences

The first thing to know is that German job applications require documents and desire formats that can be very different from what you are used to in your home country.

Case in point: a friend from the US applied three different times to a company, and was hired on his third try. After going out for beers with one of the recruiters, he learned that he didn’t get the position he wanted on the strategy team because his American-style business case submission was “too flashy” and “not professional enough.” (Specifically, his use of humor and pictures earned him the nickname “Crazy PowerPoint Guy”... yikes!) Thankfully, another team was able to overlook the non-traditional format. 

A successful German job application will expect these cultural differences—from the beginning of the job application to when you get hired.

Preparing Your German Job Application

The application process in Germany generally involves more documents and is more extensive compared to that in the States. While some smaller companies or recruiters may only ask for your resume or LinkedIn profile, larger companies in Germany tend to have a more complicated procedure that involves all the documents below.

The cover letter - Anschreiben

The cover letter, called Anschreiben in German, should be formatted as a letter—complete with addresses and everything. The Anschreiben describes why you are a good fit for the position, company, and industry. It is recommended to not repeat your CV, but find specific examples from your work history that illustrate why you are the perfect candidate. Use stories that highlight how you match the desired qualifications from the job requirements—and pull language from the posting where you can! 

💡 Worldify Tip - Anscreiben:

Take your time on this, especially if your work experience isn’t a 100% match for the industry or role. Germans have a tendency to look at things quite literally: so even if your experience is a good lateral fit, they might be quick to dismiss you. The Anschreiben is your chance to draw the parallels they might be missing—and convince them to consider you more seriously as a candidate. 

The resume - Lebenslauf

The next page in your German job application will be your resume. Traditional German companies (which I recommend you avoid unless you speak impeccable German and are a fan of hierarchy) expect resumes to be written in chronological order, so that the recruiter can follow your steps of development. Your first experience (e.g. university degree) should come first, then each job until your last experience at the bottom of the page. However, due to the growing influence of Business English, many German companies have switched to the American order of starting with your most recent (and likely most relevant) experience and working backwards.

💡 Worldify Tip - Lebenslauf:

A good picture is a must. In the US, pictures on a resume are unusual and often not accepted to avoid legal issues with discrimination based on a candidate’s appearance. Germany differs from this, and it is expected (not required, but definitely expected) that you include a picture directly on your resume. The image should be high resolution and taken by a professional photographer, with clothing that fits the position and company’s dress code. (For example, if you plan on applying to a bank, you should wear a suit.) This is not a chance to show personality—but rather, professionalism. 

Certificate from your former employers - Arbeitszeugnis

In Germany, it’s a legal requirement for companies to write a letter of reference (called a “certificate”) for an employee that leaves. The letter of reference contains information regarding the company, the position of the employee, and also a section where the company describes the persons’ tasks and performance. The company is also legally obligated to write the letter in a positive way that does not hinder the persons’ ability to gain new employment.

Although the Arbeitzeugnis is an uncommon practice in many countries, your German job application should include at least one formal letter of reference from a former employer.

💡 Worldify Tip - Arbeitzeugnis:

When you’re collecting your Arbeitzeugnis from a previous German employer, pay attention to the details. Because of this requirement to be positive, unhappy bosses have developed a coded language to tell your potential future employers their truth about you. While they cannot be negative, employers can be vague and leave room for interpretation regarding your skills or performance.

Watch out for sentences that contain “tried” or “endeavored”, as these can imply that you attempted the tasks but failed to complete them. The last paragraph usually rates your behavior at the company (“was a pleasure to work with” for example) and wishes you all the best in the future. Leaving out this sentence is considered a red flag to recruiters, who may read that as a hint that the former company did not regret this person leaving. If you’re having a non-German employer write your reference letter, clue them to these cues, so they don’t accidentally send the wrong message.

There are several agencies in Germany that check your letter of reference and can tell you your “grade” based on your letter of reference. 

University certificate - Hochschulzeugnis

Unless you have many years of work experience, your German job application might also need to include a copy of your university degree(s). You may also need it for your visa application. If your degree certificate is in English, many German institutions will accept it. However, if your degree is in any other language, you will want to translate it from an officially certified agency.

With these four things in mind, applying for jobs in Germany should be as simple as can be. Best of luck with your German job application! For even more detailed information about the German job application process, check out the Jobseeker module in your Worldify dashboard!   🔵

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