Finding a job in Germany from abroad

work in Germany
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Updated 2021-12-03 07:27

Entering Germany's dynamic labour market is a promising career boost for many expats, wanting to be part of a thriving economy and establishing their career in a country with an ever-growing industrial production, significant exports worldwide, and quality working conditions. With one of the lowest unemployment rates, Germany is a popular expat destination among expats-to-be who want to find work before arriving in Germany.  

Note that the big German cities of Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt gather most economic activities, including a large part of the industry and services. Even though most expats would argue that landing a good job opportunity is more likely if you are already in the country, finding a job in Germany from abroad is possible, as long as you use the right tools, speak some German, and keep up with your network in Germany.

Starting your remote job search

EU-EEA citizens have more access to information about employment in Germany through their national employment agencies, universities, and European employment bodies such as EURES. Even though German employers are known for requiring a certain level of German language knowledge, once you start your online job research, you will find out that there are many opportunities, especially for fluent English language speakers. We recommend starting your job search from German government-operated career websites, which are keeping up with the current needs of the German labour market. In most of these platforms, you can register your professional profile and make it visible to employers, who can invite you directly for an interview. We have provided the links to these public employment agencies in the Useful Links section below.

Useful links:

EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal of the European Commission

Eurojobs job site

Careers in Europe for customer service, IT and engineering jobs

EU Careers jobs with European Union institutions and agencies

Jobbörse der Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Job Board of the Federal Employment Agency)

Make it in Germany job portal of The Federal Government, especially useful for professionals in the sectors that are lacking labour force and need international talent

DPV German Nursing Association for nursing jobs

EURAXESS for teachers, academics, and researchers

Non-EU citizens may have to employ different networks when searching for a job in Germany since they have to overcome one major challenge, which is to obtain a work visa before entering Germany. If you work for a big corporation, you may speak to your HR department and enquire about work opportunities in Germany within the company. In that case, you will be eligible to apply for the intra-corporate transfer (ICT) visa, a card issued by Germany (and other EU member states) to skilled employees (e.g., managers, specialists, and trainees) who work in a company's office outside of the EU but are invited to join the company's EU branch. For summer jobs in Germany and other work opportunities, connect with seasoned expats in Germany via Expat.com's lively Germany forum.

Tip:

For more information on the type of work visas you can apply for to work in Germany, read our article on Work Visas for Germany.

Applying online for a job in Germany

Once you have landed several jobs worth investing your time to apply for, you should prepare your CV and cover letter, following the German requirements and standards, and even translate your resume and cover letter into German. German employers want to receive CVs, showing that candidates have taken time to read about the company and the role's responsibilities and have a clear picture of why they want to apply for this position. Some employers may prefer a complete application folder (Bewerbungsmappe) or a portfolio depending on the job. If you have any questions regarding the application process, the HR department will be happy to answer your questions via phone or email.

Good to know:

Unsolicited applications (Initiativbewerbung) are usually welcomed among German employers, as long as the approach is professional, and the documents attached are relevant and of a high standard.

What is it like to work in Germany?

Germany has an efficient labour law (German Labour Law), which mediates the complicated power dynamics between employees, employers, workers (or trade) unions, and the government. In addition, labour law regulates employees' and employers' rights and responsibilities towards each other, usually compiled in the contract of employment. In Germany, labour laws, as any other type of law, are binding and secure a solid work-life balance, and good overall working conditions. Hence, by law, the weekly working hours are 48 hours maximum. However, most full-time positions are based on 40 hours per week. Also, in Germany, employees are eligible for at least 24 days of holiday per year, while many companies offer 30 days of annual leave, in addition to paid sick leave. Parents in Germany can rely on an additional 25 days of leave to look after a sick child or children.

Last, income tax up to 45% seems relatively 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.

Punctuality is essential for professionals in Germany, and business meetings start on time except in highly exceptional cases. Similarly, the dress code is taken seriously, and it can be somewhat conservative, though some companies give the option of casual Fridays. Some sectors, such as the finance sector, require business attire, whereas some work environments such as academic research facilities do not impose any requirements. A strong hierarchy structure and rules mark work life in Germany. This may result in slow decision processes on the way to finding a solution, but, on the other hand, it secures clarity and fairness, as well as objectivity and equity.

Before starting to work in a German organisation, make sure you understand the structure of the organisation, as well as the processes and the details of your specific project. It is important to focus on your task and be detail-oriented, as accuracy is usually favoured over speed among German employers. Also, stick to direct and rather formal communication, addressing seniors with Mr. (Herr) or Mrs. (Frau) and giving short and firm handshakes, the most typical greeting while maintaining eye contact. Relationships and friendships at work are less important, as Germans tend to separate private life from business and don't talk much about their personal life during business hours. However, if you are invited to a colleague's house for a family dinner, consider this a sign of respect.

Attention:

The salary stated on your contract is the gross salary before the deduction of taxes and social security contributions (e.g., healthcare coverage, pension, and unemployment benefits). An additional deduction is the solidarity surcharge (Solidaritätszuschlag), which was introduced in 1991 to cover the costs of German reunification.

Good to know:

Most companies are highly hierarchical in their structure with strongly defined roles and decision processes. Hence, even for non-managerial positions, the notice period may range between three to six months, delaying recruitment processes.

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.