Finding work in Germany

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Updated 2021-12-03 08:14

Germany is one of Europe's best countries to develop your career and gain international work experience. On the one hand, Germany's unemployment rate is among the lowest in Europe (5.9% in 2020). On the other hand, certain German companies are short of highly-qualified workers, meaning that there are opportunities for international talent to enter the German labour market in specific regions in the country.  

According to the Federal Government, the occupations in crisis are related to the sciences, engineering, and healthcare sectors. Namely, there's a lack of workers in elderly care, nursing, tunnel construction, and software development. In this article, we will discuss the avenues and approaches one may take to work in Germany.

Good to know:

The Expat.com Germany forum is a valuable tool for networking, job-related conversations, and even spontaneous job offers. Subscribe to the forum if you want to be sure not to miss any trending topics about expat life in Germany.

Searching for a job in Germany

Depending on your country of origin, work experience, the field of expertise, and education, your chances of finding a job in Germany are lower or higher. Also, the eligibility requirements for working in Germany are different for EU and EEA citizens compared to non-EU nationals. Thus, you should take into consideration the prospect of your career continuing in Germany before starting looking for jobs in the country.

In the useful links section below, we provide several links to official job search platforms, as suggested by the Federal Government. In some portals or apps, besides navigating the existing job offers, you can also upload your professional profile, so that German companies can find you and contact you directly if your profile matches their requirements. Often, the job descriptions are in German, but this doesn't necessarily mean that German fluency is required for the job. Last, job fairs may sound like a thing of the past due to the pandemic-induced measures and shift in social interactions. However, you may come across job fairs that occur online.

Good to know:

If you apply for a job from your country, you can count on having a phone or a Skype call from the recruiters. The interview processes last a few weeks, and in some cases, larger companies might even provide you with a flight ticket for a personal interview.

Good to know:

Consult local papers and leading professional magazines in your sector online and offline. Nearly every area of expertise has at least one Fachmagazin, which also tends to publish related job openings.

Useful links:

The Federal Government job listings

Federal Employment Agency job board

European Commission job portal

Foreign qualifications

If you find a job in Germany in a regulated profession (e.g., doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, dentist, paramedic, chartered accountant, social worker, aviator, solicitor, etc.), you will need your foreign academic qualification to be officially recognised in Germany. For citizens of a third country, a certificate of official recognition is required even for higher education qualifications that do not lead to a regulated profession (e.g., mathematician, economist, etc.). Without the certificate of official recognition, it will be impossible to obtain a residence permit for Germany.

Good to know:

Regardless of whether a recognition is required for visa or employment purposes, it may be useful to obtain a Statement of Comparability — an official document issued by the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) in Bonn, comparing completed foreign academic qualifications with the equivalent level of German academic qualifications. Note that the Statement of Comparability should not be confused with the certificate of official recognition.

Useful links:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research/Portal for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications

Anabin database (German) to evaluate foreign educational qualifications

Send unsolicited applications

If you have some German companies in mind that are of interest to you, don't hesitate to reach out to them directly with a letter of interest and your CV, even if there are no current vacancies. In the German labour market, it is pretty common to send an Initiativbewerbung (unsolicited application). However, remember to check for job openings on the corporate website of your target company before preparing your CV and cover letter — a relevant job opening may already exist! The advertisements may be in German and posted by the names Stelleangebote, Karriere, or Jobs. Note that one of the most important steps is to adjust your curriculum to the German format, including a professional photograph, nationality, and age, which is not required and even considered against the work ethics in other countries. In some cases, for example, in hospitality and retail, it is quite common to ask for availability in person and leave your CV with the shop manager, secretary, or reception. Make sure that you also include a recommendation from your previous jobs, which might bring additional attention to your application.

Networking in Germany

Moreover, there are about 200 job fairs every year in Germany. Find out at which job fairs or professional events your target companies will be present and ask for an appointment in advance to meet them. In Germany, it is common to prepare a Bewerbungsmappe, a folder containing your CV, cover letter, copies of qualification, and other education certificates. If you can prepare this documentation in German, you will have a better chance of getting noticed.

Besides visiting fairs, communicating with professionals from your field might be an excellent way to find a job opportunity. You can ask your colleagues to recommend some people in Germany looking for new talent. If you have worked (or still work) for a large multinational company in your home country or another country, you can check for opportunities in the branch in Germany. Such a transfer will surely boost your international career and help you out with the visa process, as it offers the opportunity for an Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT).

Good to know:

Don't underestimate your immediate circle inside or outside Germany. Be open to friends and relatives about your job search, as they are also part of your network and can surprisingly know about some opportunities or offer advice on the next steps.

Tip:

The Expat.com Germany forum is a helpful tool for networking, job-related conversations, and even spontaneous job offers. Subscribe to the forum if you want to be sure not to miss any trending topics about expat life in Germany.

German local agencies

German residents can register as job seekers with the local Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) to access job listings (mainly in German) and benefit from employment counsellors' advice. In some cases, depending on your CV and motivation, a counselor may put you forward for training programs, which the agency will fund. Also, the agency offers support in the event of redundancy. For example, if you have completed two years of formal employment, the agency will support you with benefits for approximately one year, including health insurance expenses. Meanwhile, the agency will also help you apply for new jobs and make sure that you remain motivated when you receive the benefits. In principle, the agency's goal is for job seekers to enter the German labour market as soon as possible.

Useful links:

Arbeitsamt - German Employment Agency

Monster - Germany

Scout

Adecco Germany

Manpower Germany

Karriere Bibel

Resume for German employers

Each country has different standards and requirements with regard to the job application pack. Hence, it is very important to adapt your resume and cover letter to comply with the German model. In most cases, it's sufficient to send a German CV (often English is also acceptable) and a cover letter for the first selection process. However, some companies may still prefer a Bewerbungsmappe (application folder), containing:

  • a German CV (Lebenslauf) which should not exceed two pages and must include several important sections, such as:

    • personal information, including name, date of birth, place of birth, address and contact details, marital status, nationality;

    • professional experience listing all relevant positions;

    • education and professional qualifications;

    • miscellaneous knowledge and training, such as language and IT skills;

    • personal interests and hobbies;

  • cover letter to complement your CV, highlight your personal and professional experiences and achievements as relevant to the specific job opening. The cover letter should be concise and include specific details for that particular position.
  • copies of your university degrees, diplomas, and proof of further education;
  • any employment certificates and proof of apprenticeships you may have completed;
  • a copy of your driver's license (not always the case), and
  • a cover sheet for your application folder.

Good to know:

When creating your byline or wanting to describe your level of experience, you should know that there are three distinct groups of professionals within the German labour market. Skilled professionals are those who have a minimum of two years' training; specialists have technician's training, and experts have completed a four-year university degree or more.

Important:

If you need a visa to work in Germany, don't avoid mentioning it during your first interactions with the HR or employer, as such knowledge will save you both time. Many recruiters are specifically looking for candidates who already have the right to work in Germany because they don't have the capacity, time or willingness to deal with visa arrangements. On the other hand, some recruiters appreciate international talent, and are looking for diversity.  

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.