If you are dreaming to get a job in Germany, this post might guide you on the right approach. As an expat living in Germany, these are based on my experience and are definitely not fixed guidelines.
1) Do I need to know German?
The answer is YES and NOT REALLY. For anyone to basically survive in Germany, at least A2 is needed. This is relatively simple except the dativ and akkusativ part 😁 Coming to the jobs, there are many English speaking jobs in Germany. But even then, daily conversations and team meetings are generally in German. If you have the perfect skill set, the recruiter might give you the job even if you cannot speak good German and advise you to improve your German soon.
Otherwise, generally technical German is expected. This is at least B1/B2. Many organizations might reject your resume for lack of German skills. But do not worry. This is not going to block all your chances. Most importantly, No one is going to demand your certificate if you can speak in German. The aim is to speak. Do not waste money going to fancy institutions just to get a good certificate. If there is some Skype class but they don’t give you the certificate – it’s just perfect. Saves your time and money and you get personal attention too.
My Tip : Do not wait to finish B1. Just start applying for jobs. Something might click or you might get a good exposure to interviews – type of questions/ skill sets needed etc.
2) Resume preparation
Never ever, ever ever, have a resume more than 2 pages. Resume should be in the German format (google it) Add a good professional picture of yourself. Ladies can preferably get a picture clicked in a western attire without much display of religious signs. Do not add the photo you took for the passport/ visa application. I personally feel, it’s nice to add a picture like you are looking into the resume, not outside the page. Mirror the taken photo accordingly. Looks optimistic.
Many friends send me their resume to edit. No, I do not charge them 😎 I find them writing soooooo many unnecessary things like – too much details about their project, too many timelines, unnecessary personal information and way too many personal skills – efficient team handling, good team players etc.. The recruiter is looking to take you on a new project. He wants to know if the technology you worked on, will match his needs. Focus on those. The other personal skills are redundant. How can someone not be a good team player? How can you not have time management skills? This might irritate the recruiter. If you have received any awards for guiding a team / individual contributions, mention them definitely. Write about your language skills too. If you speak 5 local languages, it is enough to write the skill levels of the important ones. Then a single line about other local languages is enough.
Keep sentences short. MOST IMPORTANT !!!!!!!!!! See the example below.
Accomplished software professional who has delivered high quality projects with Java by mentoring a new team of 5 members within a short period of time. OR
Delivered Java project as team lead of 5 engineers
The second sentence gives the recruiter your technology and also the information that you were a team lead who mentored a 5 member team. Grammar and sentence formation is not important in the German resume. Come to the point. American resume is a different story altogether. Use numbers directly. 1000 instead of thousand. They catch the eye.
Always think what the recruiter will be interested to see. This is not Facebook to brag about ourselves 😜
3) What should I write in the cover letter?
It must start with a greeting to the hiring manager and shortly mention how you can across this opening, The cover letter should be about your industrial experience in general, your personal skill set (if you have tackled business challenges etc), some highlights and achievements.
Then you can talk about why you applied to this role – why you are attracted to it, how will you be a good fit into this role. Conclude by saying that you have enclosed the resume with detailed accomplishments and request a chance for interview.
There are numerous cover letter formats. Do not copy one and edit. Going through multiple templates and choosing the best lines will work great. Have 3 to 4 small paragraphs. Do not write your resume itself in the cover letter. Bullet points can be used where needed.
Someone told me that personal interests like favorite cuisine, personal impact of relocating to Germany etc must be added in the cover letter. Do not do that. Keep it professional. Do not have a whole clustered page. A crisp one with 3/4 page (excluding header and footer) is enough. Your name and address must be mentioned in the header and not written as From.. Name, address etc. in the main content.
4) Should I hire a professional resume writer?
I have worked with a professional resume writer in another instance. I do not know how actually professional everyone who claims to be is. I would suggest going to a friend with good English skills. If you keep the sentences short and to the point, chances of making mistakes are less. If you know a good professional writer, do try them out. I personally feel it’s not necessary.
5) Should resume and cover letter be in German?
If you are an engineer (like most people around) then most of the jobs are ok with an English resume. The companies are generally multinational and the HR people speak decent English. If you German is not at its best, it’s easier to stick to an English resume, rather than having a complicated German resume and struggling at the interview.
About other jobs, like teachers, nurses etc, you must check in your industry. Not many other industries might be multi cultural and they might expect a German resume.
Now the resume and cover letter are ready. Let’s start with the job applications in Part 2 here