Germany has been at the tip of the spear for the last 10 or so years regarding economic growth and social equality, not only in Europe but throughout the whole world. Companies in Germany, in the need to cover some of the most important specialized positions such as IT Administrators, Civil Engineers, Architechts, Network Designers and many others, have decided to open up to the foreign job market, wanting to satisfy their own needs of learned young people to occupy the most sought-after positions. This has become more and more accentuated over the last couple of years given the lack of specialized young minds in Germany. Practically anyone from around the world can apply and send out their papers and they will be taken into account at the Human Resources Departments in companies, even more so if they fit into the profile of the company.
Even though this might all sound very comforting and encouraging to a lot of people, Germany is also well known for having some of the most formal and pristine "rules" on how to apply for a job, how to present your CV (Lebenslauf) and backgrounds, as well as how to even talk and dress up for any given interview.
The first thing you should know and take into account is that this could be a life-changing decision. IF you choose to even consider applying for a job in Germany, be aware that hard work lies ahead. Companies are extremely formal in Germany and the working enviroment is very "official" and prim. They want the best of the best, and if you think that you fit into a certain category for a given job position, be prepared for some tough competition as well as having to go through many an Interview with high corporates.
On the other hand, the rewards will be inmense once you are accepted and start working at your new position. The working conditions are superb, the social and medical benefits are considered some of the best in the world and the working environment, although like I said it's extremely proper and pristine, is also amanzingly fun and the people, contrary to popular belief, are some of the most fun, easygoing and all around nice persons that you will ever meet.
Ok, now to the real meat of the article. The first thing I will be addresing, although maybe not the most important but that I think everyone should know from the start, is the legal side of things, meaning the Working Visa (Arbeitsvisum) and Stay Permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) in Germany.
Do you have citizenship from a Country that is a member of the Eropean Union or not? If you are, then working in Germany, or any other country member of the EU is a piece of cake and literally is as easy as flying to the country. The EU Treaty gives the citizens members of any country of the EU to work and live freely on any one cof these countries. The only thing that is needed is that the person register at the local authorities and gives a proper home address. Of course, just being a citizen from a country member of the EU isn't enough. You should have a strong educatioal background, be in some way specialized in a given field or be in a position where your knowledge can be put to good use.
That being said, if you are NOT a citizen from a country member of the EU, you should know that even though it might be a little bit harder to be taken into account and the process might be longer, at the end it makes absolutely no difference and you should not feel any one bit down or demoralized. I know at LEAST 10 people since I've been living in Berlin that come from countries such as the USA, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, Japan, Australia, Venezuela, Brasil, Israel, Congo, and many others and have been given a work Visa because of their good strong education, working experience and specialization on their respective fields. On any case, if the company decides to hire you, they will almost exclusively do all the paperwork involved for you and you will be asked at some point to go to the german embassy in your home country. To know more about the subject of Visas and Work Permits, check out the webpage of your local german embassy.
Ok on to the Job Application (Anschreiben) and CV. The Curriculum Vitae in Germany has a somewhat specific way of being presented and written, as well as the Job Application itself which I will be addresing later.
The CV should be 1 or 2 pages tops, unless stated otherwise on the application description. The most importante things to follow, for this and ANY CV you choose to make are:
- KEEP IT CLEAN! Nothing is worse for a HHRR employee to have to look at smudgy CVs with Coke stains and whatnot.
- Save both a Word file (or whatever program you use to write it) as well as a PDF File. Everytime you add or delete something, make sure you put the date on it. That way, when you need to print or send your CV via email, you always know which one is the latest.
- DON'T LIE! On this day and age, HHRR are pretty advanced in the techniques they use to know wheter the applicant is telling the truht or not. Simple question like what are your hobbies or what you did on your last job can tell if you actually are telling the truth about a certain aspect of your CV .
- Keep it concise and clear! In Germany, even though your CV will get as little as 1 minute of attention, it is your first step into the interview and what the employer will see first. Think of it as your current stats for the football game you´re wishing to be picked to play: If they're good, they will consider drafting you for it.
- References: Only if needed.
- Photo: In Germany, the use of a picture, although not mandatory, is in my opinion extremely important for every Resume. Here in Berlin there are specialized Photoladens which only job is to take the perfect CV pictures. Check out the sample pictures at the end of the article to see what a normal Application photo looks like in Germany, and then see if you can take one similar in your home-country.
- The normal standards for CVs also apply in Germany: Latest educational experience first going backwards, same with your working experience. Mention languages, computer experience, special programs (if any) that you can use, and brief hobbies. Grants and awards received.
Next I'll speak about the cover letter. This letter should be no longer than 1 page, and consist of no more than 3-4 paragraphs. It should be concise, to the point and easy to read. Here you will expose the reasons for applying to said position, where you learned of the company (paper, internet, aquaintace) emphasize your personal strong points reagarding THIS particular job, and in general what you have to offer to the company.
On the first paragraph you should state the WHY of your application, why your are writing to this company in particular. The second paragraph should be about your strong points and what you can offer to this company, why should you be picked among the tens of other candidates. The third/fourth and final paragraph should talk about how you will follow-up: personal interview, telephone call, etc. As a norm, you shouldn't repeat what you already stated on your CV. Simply mention certain aspects that you wish to put pressure on, so that they know where are your strong points. Also, try and have a cover template saved in your computer; that way, anytime you wish to apply to a certain company you can change the minute details like company name, job application, your strong points, date, etc.
NOTE: This does NOT mean that you should have just one cover letter written in general, to be sent to every company you apply. Every one should be very particular and detailed to the position you're applying to.
Ok, you got an email or a phone call saying that you are perfect for the position, great huh?
Yes, but now comes one the most important parts of the process: the interview. Here, the employer will finally get to see you up-close and personal, see how you handle yourself in a proper working enviroment and how you respond to the sometimes flash questions that require a good response.
Dress properly for the occasion, don't overdress but don't go in jeans and a t-shirt (unless stated otherwise). Going with a suit is the most common, but it also work to just go with proper pants and a coat.
Make SURE you get there on time. Germans are extremely meticulate about their time and appointments, so don't be late. It's better to sit and wait half an hour than to lose your chance at all. Search online what are the best ways to get to the destination; nowdays, with Google Maps, Mapquest and all the plethora of Smartphone Map Apps, there is no reason to not be prepared. If for any reason you will be late, call ahead and let them know.
Remember the name of the person that contacted you and if possible the person that will be interviewing you. Also, check up on the company background so you know their history, what they do and other important stuff that may be useful.
Think ahead on thinks like salary, working hours, medical benefits and so on. This is a surefire question that will come up.
An application folder (Bewerbungsmappe) is also requiered and will help it look nice altogether. Some are more detailed than others, letting you clip the cover letter to the left and the CV to the right, so that when it's opened up the employer can see both. It is up to you to decide which one to use, but in most cases they all have the same presentation. It is also advisable to take copies of your University and School degrees and grades, as well as any other certifications and related documents that you wish be seen and clip them at the end of the folder. That way, if the employer request further documents or asks you a question about a specific event of your life you can referr them to your copies quickly and nice.
About the language: some companies will of course demand that you speak german very well, and have passed the TestDAF (Test für Deutsch als Fremdsprache). Of course, some other big transnational companies will want that you speak only english, or a combination of other languages. Spanish is also very popular right know, as well as chinesse and indian. At any case, check up before you apply on what are these specific languge requirements.