Finding a job in Germany from abroad

work in Germany
Updated 2019-08-29 09:43

Germany is a popular expat destination, offering an attractive labour market with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU. Most job openings arise in the South of Germany in Baden Württemberg and Bavaria, as well as in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area – namely in Stuttgart, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg. With some good luck, persistence and good knowledge of the German bureaucracy, you can easily land on a good job.

What is it like to work in Germany?

Germany has many laws which protect the workers. These laws have to be respected and offer solid work-life balance, as well as good overall conditions. Most work contracts are based on 40 hours per week while some companies may even reduce to 35 hours weeks. On average the Germans work 41,4 hours a week. In Germany, you are eligible to at least 24 days of holiday per year. However, many companies offer 30 days of leave. In addition, you’re legally entitled to sick leave, which can take up to continuous sick leave paid by your employer, after which your health insurer will take over the costs. Sick leaves for parents usually take up to 10 working days for each child, with a maximum of 25 days per year. The situation may be more flexible for sick parents, who can get up to 50 days per year.

Income tax up to 45% seems rather high compared to other European countries, but the relationship between salaries and living costs tends to be more favourable. Germany is generally known for its excellent social security, namely outstanding health insurance, child support and unemployment insurance.

EU-EEA nationals

EU-EEA citizens can easily find information about employment in Germany through their national employment agencies or through European employment bodies, like EURES, for instance. EU nationals also have an option to visit the country and to search from within Germany. Besides, if you are enrolled at a university, and would like to do an internship abroad, you should contact your university international board and ask for opportunities offered by them.

Non-European Union nationals

To obtain a work permit in Germany, it is highly advised to get a work contract or a valid job offer from abroad. It is particularly challenging to find a job in Germany from abroad due to complex procedures. The only exception for this is searching with a job seeker visa and for nationals from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and the USA, who can apply for a work visa from within Germany. For more information about job offers in Germany, visit websites such as that of the chamber of commerce of your home country established in Germany.

If you wish to find a summer job in Germany, you can contact some agencies in your country which organise summer jobs for students. However, the main prerequisites for this are to be enrolled as a student and to have some knowledge of the language.

Finding a job in Germany

Finding a job in Germany, just like in most European countries, starts with online research. However, make sure to prepare your CV following the local requirements and consider translating your resume and cover letter into German. Germans prefer to receive a CV with a well made and professional picture, so it’s advised to visit a local professional studio for it. Some employers may prefer a complete application folder (Bewerbungsmappe) or (depending on the job) a portfolio. Check for online websites like, XING, Monster, LinkedIn, but also consider contacting directly past colleagues, or people with whom you have collaborated, if they could advise you. Writing to the human resources department of a specific company or organisation can also be helpful.

Submit your CV on job search portals or contact online recruiting agencies. Consider sending unsolicited applications (Initiativbewerbung), use the specialised press, local agencies and professional networks.

Business etiquette

Punctuality is essential, and business meetings mostly start on time. Similarly, the dress code is often important and can be rather conservative, though some companies go for a casual Friday. A good tip is to ask friends and acquaintances in the same business, as the business look is not expected everywhere. Some sectors, like finance, require business attire, while some places like research facilities do not impose any requirements.

A strong hierarchy, structure and rules mark work life. This may result in slow decision processes on the way to finding a solution, but it also avoids uncertainty. This German authority can bring clarity and ease when making important decisions. The advantage is that for every work, Germans have specific rules, which can be used to your advantage. Make sure you ask a lot of questions to understand the structure of the organisation, the processes and the details before starting a project. It is important to focus on your task. The completion of projects tends to be detail-oriented, and accuracy may be favoured over speed.

Stick to direct and rather formal communication, addressing Mr. (Herr) or Mrs. (Frau). Short and firm handshakes are the most typical greeting, and you should maintain eye contact. Relationships or friendships at work are less important, as Germans tend to separate private life from business and don’t talk much about their private life during business hours. However, if you are invited at a colleague’s house for a family dinner, consider this a sign of respect. Achieving a friendship in Germany is not easy, but it is very rewarding. Germans are dedicated friends, available to help you in any situation.

 Useful links: 

The Local
American Chamber of Commerce in Germany
British Chamber of Commerce in Germany

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