Don't make these 10 mistakes on your German job application
Live Work Germany has teamed up with the team at richtiggutbewerben.de to bring you some tips around German job applications, or more specifically, how to tailor your CV (resumé) and cover letter towards German employers.
You're looking for a job in Germany. You have already found interesting job offers but every time you apply for one of those, your job application fails? Don't worry! That does not necessarily mean that you are not suitable for the job. The main problem with your application might be the difference between English, i.e. North American and UK, and German application standards. The English and the German job application differ in quite a few aspects, which can determine the success of your job application.
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The 10 most common reasons why your job application fails are the following:
You are missing the…
Although an applicant photo is not mandatory in German job applications, most employers prefer job applications including a professional picture. To add a picture (taken by a professional photographer) to your job application emphasizes your motivation and rounds off your professional profile. Moreover, it is psychologically proven that employers perceive applicants with a picture trustworthier and more likeable than those without. It is cheap to get these done (€15 – €20 is common) unless you are specifically looking for a more professional photo shooting session.
To add the current date to your cover letter as well as your CV is mandatory in Germany. Therefore, it is also important to check it regularly and adjust it whenever you send out new job applications (or use the “current date feature” within MS word, which automatically adjusts your documents).
#3 Actual Signature
The signature at the end of your cover letter as well as your CV is also mandatory and can impact the success of your job application. To add the signature to your documents on your computer, you can either use an online tool to create a signature or scan your signature and insert it. This emphasizes the individuality of your job application. For any applications made offline, an ink signature obviously is necessary.
#4 Personal Details
Detailed information about the applicant such as date of birth, marital status or nationality are not part of a North American job application, and certainly in the UK being asked for marital status is not. In Germany, personal details in a job application are by law not determining criteria, but employers prefer job applications in which more personal background data on the candidate is given.
#5 Detailed Cover letter
Whereas the cover letter in English job applications can in some cases be rather concise and the focus is more on the CV, the cover letter in German job applications is the most important part of the job application. The German cover letter gives a short but nevertheless very detailed overview of the applicant’s motivations, skills and experiences.
Additionally, the cover letter should be individual and worth reading for the employer – only cover letters which offer a clear value to the company are of further interest and worth considering in the process of recruiting. Don't just copy & paste these from one application to the next. Ensure this captures your unique selling point and unfair advantage over others competing for the same position you are applying for.
#6 Correct Attachments
Another important part of the German application are the attachments. The attachment includes recommendation letters, graduation certificates or certificates of further education. Where possible, you should include a document for every station of your CV to verify it and to give the employer the possibility to get more information about it.
Your job application still contains…
#7 List of References
A common trait of the English job application is the listing of references. By adding the names as well as the contact details of mentors, former bosses or other important people who can provide your future employer with information, you give them the opportunity to check what you have written down in your cover letter as well as your CV and ask specific questions. In German job applications, this list is replaced by a reference letter, known as a Zeugnis in German, which you as the individual usually receive from HR upon leaving an employer.
Note from James at Live Work Germany:
I have had 3 different jobs since I moved to Germany and my personal experience has been that I have had to chase after my Zeugnis each time. Don't automatically expect them to be given to you!
Also, even if you leave the company by mutual consent, it is common for a reference to be given, so don't be afraid to ask. Only in cases where someone is fired for gross misconduct is a reference normally refused.
#8 Personal Profile Blurb
The personal profile, a short statement outlining your personal characteristics and strengths, is usually the first part of the English CV. In the German job application, however, this statement belongs into your cover letter. It is not a distinct component of the CV.
#9 An Objective
Another part of the English job application which is not relevant in Germany is the objective. The objective, a short statement which outlines the goals of your professional career, is not a distinct component of a German CV but it can definitively be included as part of your cover letter.
#10 Gaps in your CV
Having an unexplained gap in your CV can negatively affect the success of your German job application. Whereas it is not a problem in your English job application, it is crucial in Germany to always fill the gap with necessary information – what did you do during this time? Any projects or further educations? If you took a sabbatical to go travelling, what did you learn in terms of intercultural experiences and life skills?
richtiggutbewerben.de is an online-startup that specializes in the production of professional job application documents. We create cover letters for both specific jobs and for unsolicited applications, and we write completely unique, exceptionally good applications for managers, engineers, doctors, students and other educated professionals. Our writers stand out due to their experience in, for example, human resource departments of large, multinational corporations and their careers with renowned companies.