“How to find a job in Germany” is the burning question for anyone interested in moving here for the long term. Any seasoned expat will tell you that searching for a job in Deutschland isn’t something to be taken lightly. If you’re relocating here without a job — then, first of all, hats off to you, brave soul. Now let’s talk about how you can go about landing a job in Germany. The good news is that according to KfW research published in 2017, more than three million foreigners work in Germany and three in four SMEs employ foreign workers. This study also projects that almost half of all SMEs plan to hire international employees by the year 2021. Now for the not so good news — the unemployment rate of foreigners in Germany (12.3%) is much higher than the national average (5%). So, how can a fresh-faced foreigner beat the odds and land a decent, sustainable job in Germany? Here are some of our obvious and not-so-obvious tips.
We know you’re probably tired of hearing/reading this but learning German is a foolproof way to land a long-term job in Germany. It’s not impossible to find an English-speaking job in Germany — there are plenty. But if you’re looking for a long term job to take you further in your career, then you will need to get a handle on German. Plus, even if your job requires English language skills, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone at your workplace will speak English. Without proper German know-how you will hit the glass ceiling in just a few years. Obviously no one expects you to speak German like a native, but the ability to hold a business conversation will take you really far in your career here.
Alternatively, move here, don’t learn German, complain that Germans speak German in Germany, decide that life in Germany is too hard and move somewhere else where you will speak English and complain that nobody else does… Our tip: Accents are cute and colourful, so don’t worry about speaking in a German equivalent of “The Queen’s English”. Germans generally find accents quite charming and always enjoy listening to foreigners attempting to wrap their mouths around those blasted Umlauts.
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Before you solemnly march to the grocery store — we mean Vitamin Beziehung, which is basically German for Network. Network. Network.
Contrary to the popular belief that the Germans are a cold, reserved bunch, they actually thrive on human connections. Just wait for the first sunny days of spring - you’ll be lucky to get a seat outdoors anywhere as the Germans engage in Beziehungsbuilding over Kaffee und Kuchen or an Aperol Spritz or five. This also applies to the work and business side of life (but maybe without the Aperol, at least during the day). Business networking in Germany is just like anywhere else in the world. You get dressed, walk out of your WG, and mingle with peeps relevant to your job field.
“But where do I find these people?” you ask. Take yourself to a Jobmesse in your city. Shake some hands and drop your German CV around (first you’ll have to write one so more on this later). Check out any professional get-togethers in your area on Meetups.com. Don’t be shy about talking to other professionals and sharing your contact details with them. Heck, you don’t even need to go to job-related events. Just head over to a weekly Stammtisch at your local pub, become a member at a Verein of your choice, or mingle with your fellow expats. If you are an introverted type, then you may dread all this socialising (especially in a foreign land and in a foreign language). But there’s some good news for you too - online networking is big in Germany so get on the internet and set up your profile on LinkedIn and Xing (the LinkedIn equivalent for the DACH region). Make a list of your favourite companies, and start sending out some invites and intros to people or headhunters. (But don’t overdo it - nobody likes a stalker.) Ask someone you admire for a “pick your brain over coffee” meeting and get some IRL facetime with them.
First things first, the German term for CV is Lebenslauf, which roughly translates as “chronological life path”. But don’t take that translation too literally. German HR managers do not actually want to see your entire life story or your scout badge for archery from 1995 - your mum might still be proud but your potential new boss probably won’t be that impressed.
In fact, this is one area where you will notice the infamous German pedantry.
A German CV is slightly different from what you might be used to. You are expected to present your professional experience in a very concise and to the point manner. No need to embellish or exaggerate. Employers are only interested in the cold hard facts about your job history. Check out this page for CV templates.
In brief, you have to cram the following into two A4 sheets:
- Picture: A recent passport-sized mugshot attached to the top right corner. Get ready for your close-up.
- Persönliche Angaben or Personal Information: This section includes your first and last name, place and date of birth, marital status, nationality, and your contact information. While it might feel weird having to provide a photo and your marital status, not doing it could automatically rule you out of the selection process. And hey, they’re going to see you sooner or later so what difference does the photo really make?
- Ausbildung or Education: Add your (relevant) educational history. (That beer brewing course might have been great fun but is probably best left out of this section - although, it is Germany so...)
- Berufliche Erfahrung or Work Experience: List your (relevant) jobs in reverse chronological order in this section. Keep it short and to the point.
- Sonstiges or Additional Information: This is an optional section for those with extra (relevant) certifications or training.
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Berlin is the go-to destination for most foreigners. However, the poor but sexy cliché will only take you so far. On paper, the German capital seems to have it all. A buzzing start-up scene, a global hub for creatives, a multicultural society, open-minded people, and world-famous nightlife — with a low cost of living to boot. But in reality, the job market in Berlin is quite unattractive. Unemployment here is categorically higher than many other German cities. As of 2019, Berlin’s unemployment rate was 8% which is 3% higher than the national average. There is a notable lack of big industry in Berlin, which makes it harder to find well-paid, corporate jobs for both expats and locals. If you’re a programmer, barista or burger flipper, you’ll be just fine though. Adding insult to injury is this 2015 study by Statista which shows that Germany’s GDP would actually be better without Berlin in the picture. But don't give up, you will find a job in Berlin at some point if you follow all our tips!
If your goal is to have a highly successful corporate career in Germany and reach that magical six-figure salary within your lifetime, you will have to look beyond Berlin. The Berliners will just think you’re a twat anyway so you might be better off in Munich. So, these are some of our top tips for finding a proper job in Germany. Once you land your dream job, go get yourself a nice big glass of Weißbier. Because you deserve it! Then come back and read our post about income taxes in Germany. (You’ll be glad you had the beer first.)