Have you been working on your job application in Germany? But you haven’t really been as successful (or not successful at all) as you would like to be? Are you been trying to find a job but don’t know how a German application should look like? You don’t even know where to start and get more miserable by the minute only thinking about it? In this blog post I’ll get the basics straight to set a decent foundation for a good „German“ application.
What belongs to a job application in Germany?
I have already covered several aspects of the job application process in Germany in Accedera’s Guide to Germany. Some of them were figuring out which job you actually really want, finding the correct job offer, acing your job interview and some more. However even Germans ask me time an again about their CVs, their cover letters, their application picture, etc. So I guess it makes only sense to get the basics of a German application straight.
What belongs to a standard job application in Germany?
- The cover letter (Anschreiben)
- The CV (tabellarischer Lebenslauf) with application picture
If asked for by the company:
- Your educational documents (University degree, professional formation diploma, work references)
- Motivational letter (Motivationsschreiben)
The Cover letter
The Cover letter is a letter directed to – if you know the name – the person who will receive your application. Often in job offers there is mentioned the name of your contact person. It makes a good impression to direct your application directly to Herr or Frau …. It also contains a subject heading (Betreffzeile) which mentions which position you are applying for. In the remaining of the one page letter you mention both why you are interested in the company, as well why you are a good fit to the company. Keep it short and precise, it makes it easier for a recruiter to scan this letter for interesting key words.
The CV (Curriculum Vitae or Lebenslauf) is a chronological (going backwards from the most recent date to your earlier experiences) listing of your working positions and education. Remember: it is a self-marketing tool. Of course you are not allowed to lie on your CV, but always ask yourself if the information provided is really relevant to the company you are applying at. Sometimes I receive several pages with painstaking detail of every little side job and every workshop the applicant has done. This makes it way to crowded to see the really relevant points of your CV. So always ask yourself: What is important information your potential employer should definitely be able to recognize from your CV? Also, a CV is never longer than two pages, especially not at the beginning of your professional career.
Even though you are legally not bound to have a picture in your application, most Germans still put application pictures in into their documents. And in fact, having a good application picture is a whole industry in Germany. You can spend a lot of money on the perfect headshot. If you want to have a headshot in your application, I recommend to inform yourself first about how a German application picture looks like.
Usually companies specify very clearly which documents they would like to receive from an applicant. It is always recommendable to follow those instructions. „Komplette Bewerbungsunterlagen“ for instance does include your diploma and relevant work references.
If a company or university asks specifically for a Motivationsschreiben it refers to an essay demonstrating your interest and motivation. It is not as standardized as the Cover letter, neither in wording nor in it’s outlook. Here the employer wants to get to know you more personally. It is rare that companies ask specifically for a Motivationsschreiben. It belongs rather into the realm of universities and foundations.
Step 1: Get your CV straight. Which position are you applying for? Can you emphasize the parts that might be interesting to your future employee?
Step 2: Write the cover letter. In every Anschreiben address the company individually demonstrating that you have particular interest in this company.
Step 3: Do you have all the documents you need?
Step 4: Get somebody to look over your documents, your CV, you cover letter. It’s so easy to overlook mistakes.
Once you have done all of the above you are good to send out your application. I recommend to always follow up on your application after a few weeks via a phone call. On the one hand, recruiters are only human as well and might just have missed your application. On the other hand you will have a chance to receive feedback which is very valuable to improve your application.