Tips for finding a job in Germany

Tips for finding a job in Germany

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Looking for a job in Germany? Annika Harloff, an experienced international career coach at International Mind, shares her top tips for creating a winning job-hunting strategy, from conducting market research to nailing that interview. She also explains how a career coach can help you along the way. 

1. Don’t go it alone

First things first: job hunting can be an arduous process, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. At the outset, take some time to consider how the people around you might be able to help. Do you have any contacts in the industry you’re looking to break into who might be able to put you on the right track, or offer some inroads? Can your friends and family offer support, perhaps by checking over your application documents or conducting test interviews with you? 

You might even want to start working with a career coach from the beginning. The benefit of working with a coach is that they can offer a holistic approach that considers the job market and your strengths, experiences, values and goals, to help you target your search. As well as helping you create outstanding application documents, they can help you prepare for the interview, negotiate an appropriate salary and even support you during the onboarding process to start off on the right foot. 

Even if you don’t work with a career coach, some of these strategies can greatly increase the chance of you landing your dream job. 

2. Consider the job market

Let’s start from the beginning. What do we need to know about the job market in Germany? Well, most jobs in Germany are done in German. So, learning German before coming to Germany and being able to communicate at a B1 level or above will enhance your chances of landing a job, as well as opening up the field to allow you to apply all over Germany for remote, hybrid and in-person jobs. 

3. Hedge your bets

Quality, not quantity, certainly pays off when it comes to job hunting, and so you should be taking time over each application. At the same time, however, job searching can be a tiring and time-consuming process, so it’s worth hedging your bets and not putting “all your eggs in one basket”, so to speak.

Rather than applying for one job at a time and waiting to hear the outcome (which could take anywhere from two days to eight weeks), you should be applying for multiple jobs at a time. This helps prevent you from becoming too invested in individual jobs and then feeling disheartened should your application not be successful - you’ll always have other options in the bank. 

Keep a track of your applications, for instance on a spreadsheet. I recommend applying for 25 jobs in four weeks to keep the momentum going. As I said, it could take up to eight weeks to get a response. In my experience, 60 percent of companies will ghost you, 20 percent will reject you, and 20 percent might progress your application to the next stage. So, if you take too long between applications, you might get frustrated before you reach the 20 percent who will invite you to interview.

It’s also worth starting the application process ahead of coming to Germany, since most application processes are nowadays done online. 

4. Get your application documents right

Job applications in Germany always consist of a CV (including a headshot) and a cover letter. You only need to attach your certificates or other documents if the job advert requests so. To make your CV stand out and look aesthetically pleasing, you could use a template.

When crafting your CV, start with your work experience (with the most recent experience first and going back over time), then put your education beneath that. Try to avoid gaps and show continuous learning. Add any skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for - you can even use pictograms to rank them in a dynamic format. 

If you speak multiple languages, add them as well, with an indication of your level of fluency in each, and put them in order of importance for the job you’re applying for. Make sure your name is clearly visible at the top of the CV and add the title of the job you’re applying for beneath it. You should also add the name of the city you are living in, as well as an email address. You could also add your phone number and LinkedIn profile. 

I highly recommend you prepare a cover letter for jobs you are really interested in. Use a standard letter format and adapt the cover letter to match your CV and the individual role you are applying for. Be aware that many companies use AI to sort applications before a hiring manager even looks at them, so try to use keywords that you find in the job description. You need to fulfil at least 70 percent of their requirements to be invited. 

Start your cover letter with a sentence that connects the company’s vision with your values and experience. If you know people in the company, ask them for a recommendation. That will increase your chance of being invited for an interview.

In the following paragraphs, describe your experience in previous positions that matches you with the requirements of the job you’re applying for, with measurable examples, and then finally add some information about your personal development, any training you have undertaken, other skills or experience you offer, languages you speak and a statement about references. In the last sentence, you can express interest in being invited to interview to discuss how you can bring added value to the company. 

Your CV and cover letter can be supplemented by a high-quality LinkedIn profile, with which you post weekly about key topics in your industry. You should also make connections with companies and people in the country and industry you’re applying for. 

5. Prepare for your interview

Sooner or later, you will get invited to an interview. To prepare, you should first think about how you will tell a “story of your life”. At some point in most interviews, you will be asked to introduce yourself. This is your chance to showcase your skills and experience and to demonstrate how they are relevant to the position at hand. 

Start with your academic background and then continue with your first job, going forward chronologically to your most recent or current position (depending on the job you are applying for, you may decide that some of these details are not relevant). Give measurable examples of how you bring value to your current job. Tell the interviewer about challenges you have faced and how you overcame them. 

Be prepared to answer three to five additional questions, again bringing in relevant and measurable examples from your career history, and also prepare three to five questions to ask the interviewer. 

This is your opportunity to verify if the company can fulfil your goals and values - remember, an interview is a two-way street! Don’t go into too much detail, but start slow with a question about the organisation, continue with asking about any challenges they were facing last year, and what expectations they have for next year. This will all give both you and the interviewer a good understanding of your skills and experiences, the market, the organisation, the challenges and their expectations. 

You should also ask about the budgeted salary range for the position. Yes, you heard that right. You are asking them first. This is good practice because it ensures that, should all go successfully, when it comes to salary negotiations, you do not give them a range that is either too big or too small. 

At the end of the interview, you can ask what the next steps in the application process are. That will let you know how to prepare for the next rounds. 

6. Consider your next steps

Once the interviews are over, it’s time to consider your next steps. You should do this as soon as possible, just to ensure that you are not caught off guard when you do receive an offer. 

Think about what you want in terms of salary, bonuses, holidays, personal development budget, travel expenses, insurance and so on. When you do receive an offer, you can then compare this list to what the company is offering, and negotiate on the items that are most important to you. 

When you start your new position, think about how you want to be seen. Build in weekly feedback loops with your new manager, so that you can constantly improve. This will guarantee you a good, long-lasting cooperation, until you are ready for the next step in your career. 

Want more career advice from Annika? Check out her book, STARTER PACK: A Quick Guide to Your Dream Job in Germany. If you feel you could benefit from some career coaching, you can book your first call free of charge, to discuss how Annika could help you with your job search. 

Annika Harloff


Annika Harloff

Annika Harloff has over 20 years of management experience within multinational corporations in Europe and Asia. As globally recognized and certified career coach, she works with people in transition and...

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