How To Find English Speaking Jobs In Germany: Part I
This has been a popular post and is indeed a commonly featured question is on various expat forums! Part I looks at the question from a more holistic perspective, whereas Part II gives the lowdown on the most common websites to find jobs in English. This information will save you a LOT of time!
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The good news is that it is possible to find jobs in Germany which don’t require fluent German skills. Quite a lot of them in fact. Although it’s obviously immensely easier to find employment if you speak German, especially outside of the major cities. The not-so-good-news is that your chances of finding an English-speaking position are highly dependent upon a number of factors. My best advice to give here would be to approach this pragmatically and evaluate your present situation based on the factors and tips below. This will enable you to not only assess how strong your hand is, but also to look at what other areas may be worth considering to improve your chances of success.
Looking for opportunities which are “off the beaten track” are more likely to net you success than applying speculatively to well-known companies which openly have a hiring in English policy. As a case in point, the Dusseldorf-based hotel search website Trivago apparently gets hundreds of applications for every open position. For the gentlemen on here, we all know how hard it was to date the most popular girl at school. The same logic can be applied to finding English speaking jobs in Germany! Looking where everyone else is looking is going to leave you frustrated and disheartened.
It Depends On Which Industry You Work In
Some industries and job types are by nature less dependent upon language skills. You’re less likely to need fluent German if you work in IT than if you work in a client or customer-facing role such as Sales & Marketing. It goes without saying that any position which requires more communication skills and interaction with clients, customers and external suppliers is going to be trickier to succeed at if you don’t speak the native language of the country you are in. Outside of the private sector, academia, international charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also good hunting ground for English speaking jobs in Germany. These are liberal and multicultural organisations which often have to search further afield than the local candidate pool to recruit experts in their field.
It Depends On The Size Of The Company
Larger multinationals are more likely to adopt English as the international language of business. This not only applies to foreign corporations but also some larger German firms too. Some of the largest German multinationals, such as the recent well-documented example of Volkswagen, are officially English speaking. Many more, such as Adidas and BASF, may not be officially but have certain departments or job functions which work primarily in English. Medium sized, family owned businesses are much less likely to offer jobs in English, although ironically, these are the very companies that are most struggling with a skills gap for essential vacancies.
It Depends On The Seniority Of The Position
This is somewhat of a generalisation but the rule of thumb is: The more senior the role, the less important it is to be fluent in German. Why? Firstly, senior management and executive roles may enjoy the services of a Personal Assistant, who can deal with any office-related bureaucracy which requires knowledge of German. Secondly, roles which are team leader or department head positions which come with direct reports will also alleviate the need to be able to “swim” on your own in a foreign environment. If you have a meeting with a non English-speaking client or internal stakeholder, you have the option to bring a team member with you.
It Depends On Your Experience
Perhaps I am stating the obvious here but it is going to be easier for an experienced candidate to bag an English speaking job than a fresh university grad with very little practical experience. This is a “buyer’s market” i.e. there are more candidates than there are positions in most cases. English speaking jobs are in high demand and thus it goes without saying that the stronger the candidate’s experience, the more likely they are to get hired. If you are a graduate with little practical job experience and are absolutely set on moving to Germany, the best course of action is probably to get a job teaching English first to gain some practical work experience and to give yourself time to learn German up to B1/B2 level to give yourself a head-start on more experienced candidates. Good friends of mine who have degrees from reputable universities have struggled to find work here because of the cocktail of lacking experience and only having basic level German.
Find A Job With A German Company In Your Home Country
This one is unconventional but is a smarter way to look at English speaking jobs in Germany as part of a longer-term goal. This could be especially relevant for those of you who plan to relocate to Germany as a means to settle down with your German partner. The logic goes something like this: If your employer knows your capabilities and they trust and value you as an employee, they are more likely to transfer you to Germany and take a more lenient view on your lack of fluent German language skills. Better for them to make a compromise than to lose a valued team member. It doesn’t even have to be a German company: Do your homework and find out which companies in your area have operations in Germany and call their HR department to ask whether international assignments are common. Paths less frequently travelled are usually the lowest hanging fruit because not many people take this level of initiative!
Reach Out To Your “Dormant Network”
What is a dormant network, I hear you ask? This is a “sleeping” network, which you may not even know exists but has the potential to be extremely useful in your search. Your former university professor or tutor, fellow alumni who may have contacts in Germany, friends / relatives of your partner, any German friends or followers you may have on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All of these are avenues worth exploring. It’s amazing how small the world is and how someone you least expect could have contacts to someone or somewhere which could prove invaluable. What’s more, a few social media posts or a casual conversation at a friend’s party costs absolutely nothing.
Speak To International Headhunting Firms
Admittedly, this one is more aimed towards specialist and management positions rather than entry level jobs. Nonetheless, reaching out to a well-known headhunting firm which also has operations in Germany will give you access to a very valuable network of contacts. The best thing is, if your skill set and experience is attractive to them, they will do the hard work for you because it is a win-win opportunity. You get access to English speaking jobs in Germany and they get a nice juicy commission! Speaking from personal experience, headhunting firms based in London often recruit for positions in Germany. Within Germany itself, Michael Page is probably the most diversified international executive search firm in terms of geographical spread and different sectors they recruit for.
Just because a company is “English speaking” does not necessarily mean that the office is completely internationalised. You will most probably find that internal functions such as non-executive HR and IT are not only German speaking but also culturally very German too. A word of warning, therefore, if you speak zero German and need to sort out an issue with payroll or your mobile phone tariff. Even if you never achieve fluency, the very least you need some basic German to communicate an administrative problem to a non English-speaking colleague.