Applying for a job

Application in Germany

How do I go about applying for a job in Germany?

Tips, tricks and important rules that should be observed
when applying for a job in Germany.

Have you long dreamed of spending a bit of time abroad, immersing yourself in the culture and, best of all, working there? And now you want to apply for a job or an internship in Germany ? Good idea! You need to put together an optimal application file for your application to work in Germany to be successful. The following points should therefore be considered:

  • The most important element for a German application is the cover letter. This should be clear, with meaningful content, and be free from errors.
  • Almost as important as the letter is the CV. This should be limited to a maximum of two pages. Three pages are acceptable in certain circumstances.
  • Do not forget to enclose an application photo. This can be attached to the top right hand corner of the first page of the CV. However, it is better to have the application photo on a separate cover sheet. When the application photo is on a separate title page it appears less “squashed”, and the application appears more professional.
  • Last of all, it is always necessary in Germany to attach copies (not originals) of key references and certificates to the application. These include school, training and study certificates, or previous employer references. References from previous employers are not standard practice in Germany, but they can be included.

Application portfolio –
all you need for a complete application in Germany

Essential tips to bear in mind when sending applications by post.

  • The folder you choose for your application portfolio should be sturdy and of a high quality. Make sure that the folder is in no way whatsoever dog-eared or stained, as this makes a bad impression.
  • Use high-quality DIN A4 100g/sqm (min.) paper.
  • Place your cover letter on top of the folder, and not inside.
  • Do not forget to write the current date on your CV and cover letter and to sign both documents.
  • Your application photo should be taken by a professional photographer; do not use a photo taken by you or someone you know or in a photo booth.
  • Do not use any plastic folders, paperclips or loose-leaf binders.
  • Include only copies of letters of reference, and never the originals; originals can be submitted at a later date if requested. The copies of these letters should be of a good quality.
  • Make sure that you have paid sufficient postage for your application and that you have not made any spelling mistakes on the envelope, in particular with regard to the name of the company and contact person.

The cover letter

A perfect covering letter is the most important part of an application. It provides the employer with a first sample of a potential employee’s work. In addition, the employer gets an initial impression of the applicant. The cover lettering should be written in a style which awakens interest. Here, you should convey to the reader why you are the best candidate for the advertised position. If you achieve this, then there is a high likelihood that the HR representative will continue reading your application and not eliminate it.

What should the covering letter look like?

Sender: first of all, the sender’s details including name, address, postcode, town and country should appear either in the letterhead or in the top right corner. Contact details such as email address and telephone number should also be provided. Take care that your details are complete.

Addressee: the addressee’s details also need to be complete and correct

Subject: the covering letter’s subject should be written in bold letters above the actual text. Here, you briefly mention the reason for your letter.

Salutation: if possible, address the recipient personally. If the name of the recipient is not mentioned, try to find it out through a telephone call.

The main part of the covering letter: the letter is divided into three main sections. There are also introductory and closing phrases of course. In the introductory section you need to capture the reader’s attention and motivate him or her to continue reading the letter. In the main part you convince the reader why you are perfectly suited for the advertised role. To this purpose, it may be helpful to refer to experience in your CV which is useful for the desired position. Furthermore, the applicant should describe which aspects of the role interest him or her, and why he or she would particularly like to work in this company.

At the end of the covering letter you should indicate your willingness to meet for a personal discussion and close with “Yours sincerely”. Note: remember your own signature.

The complete covering letter including address, etc. should never be longer than one page. The sentences should be short and concise. The application should always be tailored to the company in question and the particular position. Mass applications are not looked favourably upon. It is important to provide your contact details in the covering letter. Regarding the format of the covering letter: the paragraphs should be clearly distinguished. It is best to use ragged margins, as it creates a more readable look


The perfect tabular curriculum vitae (CV) in Germany

In its established form, the CV in Germany is usually set out in the form of a table. The left side indicates the time frame (month/ year to month/ year) (format: MM.YYYY – MM.YYYY), in which a particular activity (employment, study, other) has taken place. The corresponding position on the right indicates the role, institution (=company, school, university) and location. A short description of work activities or studies should also be indicated.

Chronologically or reverse chronologically

The order of the various activities is a matter for the applicant to decide; i.e whether to structure the CV sections chronologically or reverse chronologically. Both variants are customary in Germany. The chronological CV is particularly suited to applications from individuals with no or little previous work experience.

The reverse chronological option is better suited to applicants, who have already accumulated a lot of work experience. It means that the most recent employment is listed first. Work experience dating further back in time follows on underneath. In this way, the employer can immediately recognise those areas in which the applicant has gained his most recent experience.

The CV should be completed with the utmost care and without mistakes. Avoid gaps or your CV will appear incomplete. The HR representative may even think that you are concealing something.

The perfect photograph for your CV

In addition, it is usual to indicate civil status and nationality. A reliable photograph must also be included in the application. A professional photographer is recommended for this purpose. Enclosing an unprofessional photograph with an application may cause HR to reject the application on these grounds.

In the past, it was normal to affix the photograph to the top right of the CV alongside the personal data. These days, the photograph is glued to a cover sheet. The cover sheet lends a personal touch to an application, giving it greater recall value. The cover sheet should also include your contact details, personal data and the position you have applied for.

To look at, the CV should consist of no more than two sides. Start your CV with the heading “Lebenslauf” or “Curriculum Vitae”. The CV is concluded with your signature and the date.