Have you been struggling with finding a job in Germany? Despite being highly qualified and having relevant work experience?
It’s a common problem, and you’re certainly not alone. Indeed, it’s certainly not a walk in the park. And it’s tougher if you don’t speak German and are non-EU.
But don’t despair…it’s definitely still possible. There could be one, relatively simple thing to change which will propel you on your way to greater success. There’s most likely nothing wrong with you or your prior professional experience.
The magic ingredient to succeed finding a job in Germany
It could well be your mindset that’s holding you and your application back.
Keep reading and find out whether a change of perspective could propel your strategy to ultimate success!
Also definitely check out the job search function that we’re now also hosting, as a starting point for your search!
Hiring you means more bureaucracy for your employer
For an employer to hire a non-EU citizen, they typically have to jump through more hoops than the straightforward process of hiring a German or EU national.
If you’re approaching your job search from a position of entitlement, thinking that because you have a Masters degree and relevant experience in your field then somebody should automatically see the light and hire you, then I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.
The German jobs market doesn’t work like that.
You’re the candidate.
Think of yourself as a salesperson and not a beggar. The two vital skills of a salesperson are:
1- Knowing what his/her customer wants; i.e. the hiring manager is your customer in any job search
2- Having the influence and persuasion skills to convince them that you’re the person who can give them what they want
Sure, in some professions it’s much easier than others to get hired, but it still doesn’t mean you can waltz into a job with no clear strategy behind your applications.
What’s your USP?
Because you need one. (USP = unique selling point)
Why are you better qualified or more employable than an EU citizen? The harsh reality is that an employer will usually only consider hiring you if he’s struggling to find suitable German or EU candidates.
They’re not being racist or discriminatory. It’s the law. Employers must give preference to German candidates or those from the European Union (EU).
However, there is an exception. For positions where there are recognised, acute worker shortages, finding a job in Germany is much easier than for positions where there are sufficient EU candidates. If you want to find out whether you’re one of the fortunate ones, then every 6 months, the German Federal Agency for Employment publishes the Whitelist of occupations where there are recognised worker shortages.
If your position is on this list, then your potential employer can hire you without the need to go through the bureaucratic hassle of having to demonstrate why they can’t find a suitable EU candidate.
What’s in it for your employer?
OK, so what if your profession or trade isn’t on the Whitelist. What next?
It definitely shouldn’t deter you. Plenty of job positions advertised which aren’t on the Whitelist still sometimes struggle to get suitably qualified and experienced applicants. Even more so in areas such as Baden-Württemberg, where unemployment is very low and it doesn’t have the magnetic pull of large cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.
You will, however, need to be highly skilled and experienced in your profession (with the CV and academic or vocational qualifications to prove it).
Your employer will have to prove to the Federal Agency for Employment that they have made reasonable attempts to hire an EU candidate. This isn’t difficult to prove if they’ve advertised the position publicly and have not found anyone they wish to hire.
But while it may not be difficult to prove, it’s a bureaucratic hassle that a busy boss or HR department with meetings to attend and hundreds of unread emails could really do without.
So, put yourself in your employer’s shoes.
Is your potential future boss or an HR Manager likely to go through this process for someone who has an average CV, doesn’t speak any German and has nothing specific or unique to offer versus an applicant from the EU?
What does your employer have to gain from hiring you?
Because that’s what you will need to “sell” them on in your CV and cover letter, and then subsequently during the interview or assessment centre.
A word of warning: Germans have a low tolerance of, and a good nose for, sniffing out bullshit. Your persuasive skills will need to be fact-based!
Prove your willingness to learn German
It never ceases to amaze me how few job seekers learn at least basic level German and obtain a the all-important certificate to show this on their CV. If over 95% of jobs are advertised in German, then you have 2 choices:
You can either sit on your hands, complaining about it, surrounded by a sea of rejection letters and wondering why employers aren’t willing to hire you.
Or, you can show that you’re serious about staying in Germany long term and obtain a certificate in German language. You don’t need to be fluent. An A2 or most definitely a B1 certificate will show an intent to learn and integrate, and also that you have the aptitude and motivation to get beyond absolute beginner level (which is where those with less willpower inevitably give up).
This doesn’t necessarily mean taking classroom tuition, which admittedly can be expensive, especially if you do this with a premium provider such as the Goethe Institut.
Instead, why not take a few online courses on Udemy from as low as 9.99€ and download some apps for grammar and vocabulary exercises if you’re a complete novice.
If you already have the basics, take your learning to the next level by getting a virtual tutor on italki to practice speaking and grammar. Then, to prepare yourself for exams and certification, use the fantastic online (based in Berlin actually!) language school Lingoda to take virtual classroom tuition. They also issue CEFR certificates, so your qualification is formally recognised.
Your CV and Cover Letter
In a previous article, we covered this topic in detail and gave 5 common mistakes which foreigners make on their CVs when applying for jobs in Germany.
Suffice to say that the German CV format, even if applying for English speaking jobs in Germany, is quite different to a standard, international Anglo-American CV format.
Expanding on this, the cover letter is the most important part of the German job application and should be personalised for each job you apply for.
It’s not just a summary of what’s on your CV. It should tell a brief but informative story of your professional career and accomplishments so far. If you’re looking for some coaching and support to write a convincing and persuasive cover letter each time, then we can help.
My preferred approach is that I personally coach you and give you the skills to write cover letters yourself. It’s cheaper in the long-run and you know yourself and your professional achievements better than a ghost writer.
If you need a helping hand to get started though, we can write the first one for you so as you have a template you can edit and expand upon.
Recognition of your academic qualifications
Get your academic qualifications certified as being equivalent to a German degree.
It’s money well spent and it will certainly boost your job application. It’s a fact of life that Germans like formal paperwork and certificates.
Some professions in Germany are also regulated and actually require a formal recognition of your qualifications by the appropriate industry body before you can use your academic title or practice in Germany.
If you need assistance with this, contact us for a Skype consulting call and we can walk you through the process. In almost all cases, we can cover this in an initial 30 minute session.
Don’t look where everybody else is looking
So, you’ve put together a killer cover letter which showcases your skills and highlights your professional achievements.
We’ve “Germanised” your CV and helped you iron out all of the common mistakes that foreigners typically make here.
Now, the key is to look where others aren’t looking.
I’m going to tell you a quick story here to highlight what I mean. We cover the actual strategies you can deploy in more detail in our article on finding English speaking jobs.
When I was a first year student, I lived in a university hall of residence, or “dorm” as Americans would say.
One of the guys on my corridor, who wasn’t particularly good looking, rich, mysterious or charming, always had attractive girls knocking on his door. None of us could understand why or how, because we certainly weren’t having much luck meeting the ladies in the student-frequented bars in town.
Then we found out that he’d joined the Ballroom Dancing Society during Freshers’ Week. Absolute genius!
What did he do? He sought out where there was less competition and where other guys didn’t think to look. While we were drinking beer or playing Super Mario Kart in my mate’s room, he was meeting girls.
That’s the moral of the story!
The final piece of advice around adopting the right mindset is by moving from a reactive to a pro-active approach to your job search.
Instead of waiting for jobs to be advertised and then applying to them, cultivate and reach out to your personal network instead. Doing this means you may be aware of opportunities before they’re advertised, meaning that a hiring manager sees your CV first, rather than having to look through over 100 applications.
Which approach is likely to yield better results?
Some suggestions to grow your network and get insider knowledge before a job is advertised:
- Spend time on LinkedIn. Have a professional optimise your profile.
- Reach out to people who may know other useful contacts and have a wider net they can cast on your behalf.
- Seek out any contacts at your industry’s professional body or lobby organisation in Germany.
- Join the International Chamber of Commerce between Germany and your home country.
Conclusion: Taking decisive action is the first step
Finding a job in Germany as a foreigner, especially if you’re a highly skilled, non-EU professional, can be a challenge. There are lots of actions you can take to overcome the challenge and succeed in your job search.
Changing your mindset is the first, and definitely the most important step to achieving this. It allows you to see the problem from a different angle and come up with the right solutions to successfully solve what’s holding you back.
I would love to help guide you on your journey and put you on the right path!
This post contains affiliate links, meaning that we earn a modest commission from any of the sales made through clicks from this article.