The good news is that YES, it IS POSSIBLE to find English speaking jobs in Germany.
There are quite a lot of them, especially if you consider how few jobs are available in the UK or the US without fluent English skills. That's the good news.
The not-so-good-news is that your chances of finding an English-speaking position are highly dependent on a number of factors, and that less than 5% of positions advertised in Germany are in English.
This is not Amsterdam, Dubai or Singapore…
My best advice 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 to look at what other areas may be worth exploring to improve your chances of success.
With the risk of stating the obvious, it is immensely easier to find employment if you speak German, especially outside of the Berlin start-up scene and other major cities which house multinational corporations using English as their corporate language
Yes, Germany has its lowest level of unemployment since just after reunification. But for every English-speaking job, there will be a high demand unless it's an extremely rare and sought after skill. Also bear in mind that many young Germans have lived abroad as part of their studies or early professional career, so the country doesn't exactly have a shortage of natives who speak English.
There is certainly no shortage of English-speaking HR Managers, or Digital Marketing Executives, or Sales Professionals. However, look towards the more STEM-related professions (Note: in the German language, this goes by the acronym MINT), and the situation can be very different.
Looking for opportunities which are “off the beaten track” is also 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 reading this, we all know how hard it was to date the most popular girl at school. The same logic applies to finding English speaking jobs in Germany! Don't chase what everyone else is chasing. You need to be more creative, strategic and cunning to bag that perfect job in a competitive market!
If you want this article in a convenient, easily digestible format, then look no further!
We've put together a fantastic FREE E-BOOK that you can download below!
So, now let's have a look at the most important things you need to consider as you begin your journey.
It Depends On The Role And The Industry
Some industries and job types are by nature less dependent upon language skills.
You're less likely to need fluent German if you work as a programmer or software engineer than if you work in a client or customer-facing role such as Sales & Marketing or Procurement, dealing primarily with German-speaking clients.Click To Tweet
It goes without saying that any position requiring communication skills or interaction with clients, customers, and external suppliers is going to be trickier if you don't speak the native language.
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 real 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.Click To Tweet
It Depends On The Seniority Of The Position
This is arguably the most critical factor.
The rule of thumb is: The more senior the role, the less important it is to be fluent in German, especially in multinational, foreign-owned companies.
Why is this?
First and foremost, more senior level positions tend to play in a more international environment. If the company is multinational, these positions will interact with their peers in many different countries rather than in a single production facility or local headquarters.
Secondly, senior management and executive roles may enjoy the services of a Personal Assistant, or at least a team admin or fixer, who can deal with any office-related bureaucracy which requires proficiency in German language.
Finally, team leader or department head positions that come with direct reports also reduce the need to be able to “swim” on your own in a foreign environment. Especially if you have native speakers as team members who can assist in situations where your language skills may fall short.
It Depends On Your Experience
Perhaps I'm stating the obvious here but it's going to be easier for an experienced candidate to bag an English speaking job than a fresh university graduate.
This is a “buyer's market”.There are way more candidates than there are English speaking roles. English speaking jobs are in high demand because there are plenty of well-educated international jobseekers in Germany who don't (yet) speak fluent German.Click To Tweet
You do see a reasonable amount of entry-level positions advertised, especially in industries which require English-speakers to deal with the international market or which may operate in an English speaking environment. The key here though is that employers will usually want to see some relevant qualifications and work experience, so the market is tough for recent graduates with little practical experience on their CVs.
It goes without saying that the stronger the candidate's experience, the more likely they are to get hired. If you have little practical job experience and are absolutely set on moving to Germany, the best course of action is probably to get any job at first, even one which you are over-qualified for. Cut your teeth perhaps teaching English to gain some practical work experience and give yourself time to learn German up to B1/B2 level. This will give yourself a head-start on more experienced candidates.
Get A Head Start On The Competition!
So we've touched on the fact that this is a very competitive market. The longer-term strategy for success is to learn German so as you can move onwards and upwards. But that doesn't help you where you are now.
So what to do?
Do whatever you can to look where your competition isn't looking. Applying for the exact same jobs everyone else has seen on well-known job search sites is like being in the express lane towards lots of rejection letters!
I'm not saying don't apply AT ALL for any roles you see on LinkedIn and such, but certainly don't follow this as your sole strategy. I can guarantee everyone else is looking there because they're the most obvious places.
Your Network is your Net Worth
Everyone has a valuable network of contacts, even if they don't realise it. Look further than your “obvious” contacts. Who else do you know who could help you? Maybe they know someone who knows someone who can hook you up.
This is what is known as a dormant network: A “sleeping” network, which you may not even know exists but has the potential to be extremely powerful in your search.
Some examples….definitely a non-exhaustive list.
- 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
- Your German language tandem partner
Before reading on, why not grab a pen and paper and just brainstorm for 5 minutes what potential your “sleeping network” may have. Who could you approach?
Tweet us with your answers @liveworkgermany with the hashtag #dormantnetwork
All of these are avenues worth exploring. It's amazing how small the world is. Someone you least expect could have invaluable contacts for you. What's more, a few social media posts or a casual conversation at a friend's party costs absolutely nothing.
I can't stress this enough. Your network is your NET WORTH.
After reading this article, do me a favour.
Log in to LinkedIn and message all of your contacts. They know you and are connected with you in some way, so it's not like an unsolicited direct marketing message. You'll probably have between half to two-thirds of your contacts read it. If you have a couple of hundred connections, I'm pretty much certain that at least ONE is connected somehow to a German employer or knows someone who could potentially be an influencer.
Drop us an email if you try this successfully and let us know how you've got on! We are generally interested because this one really is powerful.
Find A Job With A German Company In Your Home Country
This one is unconventional but it's 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 planning to relocate to Germany because your “why” is to settle down with your German partner.
The logic goes something like this:
If your employer knows your capabilities and values you as an employee, they're more likely to transfer you to Germany and forgive your lack of fluent language skills. Companies who value their talent will accommodate star performers in order to keep them in the company.
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. Call their HR department to ask whether international assignments are common. Paths less frequently travelled are usually the lowest hanging fruit because not many jobseekers use their initiative to this level!
Speaking from personal experience, headhunting firms based in London often serve international clients and 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.
The executive search / headhunting industry tends to be fairly industry-specific, except for a few generalists like Michael Page which seem to cover most areas. Therefore it's difficult to recommend specific companies to approach here because it depends on your field of expertise.
The LinkedIn search function is your friend here to identify headhunters in your profession or industry. Spend 30 minutes or so typing in different keywords into the search, for example “pharmaceutical jobs Frankfurt”. You will soon get an idea of who is in the game and which positions are advertised in English.
Open up Google Docs or Evernote or whichever App you use, and keep a record of the names of the headhunting firms and their websites, so you can look at their websites and ascertain which ones are the best to shortlist and follow up with.
One final tip before we get to where to look…
Just because a company is “English speaking” doesn't 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 think you can move to Germany and get by speaking zero or only phrase-book German.
Maybe as a Freelancer in Berlin you can, but in any sort of employment, you're likely to need at least some basic German: For example, to sort out an issue with payroll or your company mobile phone tariff. Even if you never achieve fluency, at the very least you will at some point need to communicate an administrative problem to a non English-speaking colleague. Don't make yourself dependent on colleagues for too long!
Useful Websites for English Speaking Jobs in Germany
The second part of this guide looks into actual websites and resources which will prove useful in searching for English speaking jobs in Germany. Whereas the first part was more about setting the scene around the “how?”, this final part looks more into the “where exactly?”!
If you want this article in a convenient, easily digestible format, then look no further!
We've put together a fantastic FREE E-BOOK that you can download below!
What this means in practical terms for the non-German speaking jobseeker is that LinkedIn jobs tend to be more scaled towards larger, international companies (although this is by no means a hard and fast rule), whereas Xing is more geared towards medium-sized, German speaking companies.
LinkedIn is at its most powerful as a tool for connecting with headhunters, some of whom will be recruiting for English speaking jobs in Germany. You just have to build up a presence and increase your number of connections to link in (see what I did there?) with them.
Treat your presence on LinkedIn a bit like building up a following on any other social media platform. If you want to build influence, invest time into regularly updating your profile, having a professional photo, writing blog posts on LinkedIn on topics relevant to your professional career, and cultivating your network.
Join Groups which are relevant to your profession or which may provide useful additions to your network. The Expats In Germany Just Landed network is a good place to fish for potentially valuable contacts as a good starting point. (I also post blogs in there from time to time!).
My own personal experience of using LinkedIn has been that 80% of people I reach out to will usually accept my invitation, especially if they are directly connected with a mutual contact and if I write a short message telling them why I would like to connect.
Use the correct punctuation, and don't send vague and uncreative messages such as “hello i am looking for a job, please help me”. These are the fastest route to a potential connection pressing their DELETE button.
Think: Why would anyone bother answering something like this? I delete these types of messages immediately.
Generic German Job Websites
Now, whilst the offerings on these sites are overwhelmingly aimed at Germans, it is worth panning for gold here because not everyone will bother to look on these sites, so you could gain an advantage over your fellow jobseekers.
Remember my advice from the previous post? True, only around 5% of the job advertisements posted will be in English but it doesn't take a great deal of effort to sift through the ones that aren't, right?
The largest jobs website in Germany is StepStone, covering all industry sectors nationwide. They also have a language option to show the site in English, however, it does not filter for English speaking jobs. Monster has recently fallen from the lofty heights they held 5 years ago. Although still a key player, Monster has also begun to work as a job search engine in addition to being a stand-alone site. Possibly a consequence of them losing market share to StepStone and other competitors? Monster also has a beta version of an English language option. Other generic German job sites with good market share are Kalaydo, Jobware, MeineStadt (for more locally restricted searches) and Stellenanzeigen.
There are others too which are more geared towards certain branches but this level of detail is probably not necessary, given that you're looking for a job in English, so onwards…
Generic German Job Search Engines
The main difference between the above sites and these ones is that these all work on an algorithm which finds job adverts and brings them all into one place.. Some (but not all) of these also generate revenue through allowing companies to advertise their positions directly on their sites. From most to least useful in my opinion, the main sites are:
Because Indeed is an international site and active in several countries, you could check out the Indeed U.K. site to grasp the general navigation of the site in English language before tackling the .de site. Think one step ahead 🙂
Employer & International Candidate Matching Services
Developed out of necessity, these are a smart and innovative concept, potentially very useful to international jobseekers looking for English speaking jobs in Germany. The need for this service has grown over the past years as the talent pool to fill vacancies is shrinking, due to Germany's top-heavy demographic pyramid.
For every 3 people who retire, only 2 replacements are entering the labour market. This is driving a huge shortage of skilled labour to fill vacancies, especially in Germany's Mittelstand of highly specialised, small-to-medium sized businesses which previously would never have considered recruiting from overseas or hiring a non-German speaking person.
Employland, founded in 2014, is the brainchild of Hamburg entrepreneur Hans-Christian Bartholatus. Employland allows candidates to create profiles for free and have them matched together with potential employers. At the point of a successful conclusion of an employment contract, the employer pays a fee. The whole process is free of charge for the candidate and also includes all of the necessary immigration permits and paperwork for the candidate to legally work in Germany.
ImmigrantSpirit works in a similar manner. This is the project of Düsseldorf-based Life Coach and Headhunter, Chris Pyak. Chris works with numerous companies to connect them with potential candidates. Candidates can register on the site for free and submit their CV and covering letter and Immigrant Spirit will match them with potential employers. During the first year of employment, Immigrant Spirit offers coaching to help with the immersion to German business culture and life in Germany.
Germany-USA Careers Service is also along similar lines but a) is based in the U.S. and thus aimed primarily at Americans looking to work in Germany and b) also helps Germans (and Austrians and Swiss) make the journey the other way across the Pond. Whereas Employland and ImmigrantSpirit focus primarily on placing jobseekers into open positions with German companies, GUCC aims foremost to place Americans with U.S. companies and government agencies which have a presence in Germany.
Even though this one is a German language site, it deserves a mention on its own because of a certain nuance of the German jobs market, namely that job adverts by and large do not indicate the expected salary range. This is especially annoying because you either need to call their HR department and openly ask about renumeration ahead of submitting an application, or risk wasting time applying for something below your expectations.
Experteer bucks this trend as a portal for senior roles paying above €60,000 per year. The downside is that it's a premium site costing €11.90 per month, but then if you earn over €60k a year, I guess you can afford it! Because it tends to play at the higher end of the market, there are also more job descriptions in English, advertised by foreign-owned, multinational blue-chip companies.
Europe Language Jobs
Europe Language Jobs is a portal especially for bi- and multi-lingual job candidates who are looking for international roles where they can utilise their language skills. There are many positions on their site which are with companies based in Germany. When browsing the site, many of these seemed to be customer support roles speaking various languages including English. It is easy to filter your search to just include jobs in Germany, which require English language.
Bear in mind though that if you ONLY speak English, then this may not bring up much in your search, as their platform is primarily for users who speak more than one language. They also have a YouTube channel.
A user-friendly site posting English speaking jobs in Germany, EnglishJobs.de allows you to search by major city or Bundesland. Most of the open postings on here are geared towards engineers, developers and programmers and in their FAQ they also state that this is their main focus area. This site includes a mix of original postings as well as jobs originally posted on other portals.
Fairly similar set-up to the previous site, however ExpatJobseeker.de seems to be much broader and less focussed on IT jobs. This site features some of their own postings as well as jobs advertised by the jobs search engine Indeed. Clicking on the Companies tab gives a cool opportunity to find out who has advertised English speaking jobs with them in the past. Those of you with your hustle mode on could contact these companies directly and ask if there are upcoming vacancies.
Advertising itself as Germany's news in English, The Local is first and foremost a news site for expats, with its sister site Toytown Germany also providing an expat forum. The Local also has an English jobs section, although this is a search-bot function which gathers job descriptions from other sites which are posted in English, rather than original content. It is easy and user-friendly but it may well be that you've already come across the job posting on one of the other sites listed here.
The JobsIn family of sites offer job postings in English for several German cities. Each one has its own unique URL. Here are the links for Munich, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig. This site is a search algorithm of jobs which have been advertised on other sites, pulled together into one place.
Germany StartUp Jobs
Germany StartUp Jobs is a fairly new site which also plays predominantly in the tech / IT field but has some other job categories too. There is a particularly strong focus on jobs in Berlin, which isn't surprising given that it's mainly jobs in tech industries which are listed.
Now, you're probably not going to find your dream career here, but there are a few groups on the Book of Face which act as bulletin boards for those offering and those seeking English speaking jobs in Germany. Be warned that most of these are for fairly casual and entry-level jobs.
The ones listed below are those with the most members and which appear to be the most active.
- English speaking jobs in Berlin
- English speaking jobs in Munich
- English & International Jobs In Frankfurt
- English Jobs Düsseldorf
- English Jobs in Hamburg
These groups below are focussed on the start-up scene and may be good hunting ground for those of you in a more technical field or in digital marketing.
- Rhein-Main Startups (Frankfurt region)
- Berlin Startup Jobs
- Berlin Startup Jobs (yes, this has the same name but is a different group!)
- Berlin Startup and other Jobs – German skills not required
- Startup Berlin Jobs
- Leipzig Startup Jobs
- Munich Startup Jobs
- Start Up Jobs In Munich
Employers will sometimes tweet links to vacancies they are struggling to fill. Because of how content on Twitter is consumed (on the fly) compared to job search websites (usually searched on a PC or laptop), I guess the psychology is that you're more likely to save it from your Twitter feed into your notes App and engage than if you were just skim-reading through hundreds of jobs on a search website.
The “Advanced Search” function in Twitter is also your friend here. Whilst on the subject of Twitter, if you haven't already, please take a few seconds to follow us @liveworkgermany.
The two biggest in terms of job postings are the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (or FAZ for short) and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, published in Munich. The Berliner Morgenpost is also useful for Berlin and surrounding area. Again, these are aimed at fluent German speakers but there is the occasional English-language job ad in there as a diamond to be found, especially if you are looking for more senior roles.
Further Reading And Actions
If this content has been a great intro to the topic but has left you yearning for more in-depth analysis of job search tactics, I would highly recommend the book How To Win Jobs And Influence Germans, by Chris Pyak.
Chris is a Headhunter and Coach who understands what makes recruiting managers tick and some of the weaknesses foreign professionals face when confronted with German HR departments.
His biggest tip? Get in touch with the hiring manager instead of contacting HR. Hiring managers are able to say “yes”, whereas HR only have the mandate to send out rejection letters and shortlist possible candidates. Chris covers this, together with many other aspects of German job search, including tips for finding jobs which may not be advertised in the places where people typically look as part of their search.
If you enjoyed this article, a quick call-to-action! Please subscribe to us on YouTube if you would like to see new videos when we upload them. We add new content every 2 weeks. Thanks! 🙂