Best CV and Cover Letter Advice for German Candidates

Best CV and Cover Letter Advice for German Candidates

At Findajobingermany.de, we always simplify the processes in order to focus on what truly matters when you apply for a job in Germany. That is why we decided to channel our years of experience as recruiters and HR coaches into this article so we can help you with your CV and cover letter. What’s coming up is really important. So, feel free to use this text as a checklist. It’s about what you need to consider when handing in your files and records. 

But first, there is 1 ground rule that you need to bear in mind for any application you're drafting. In Germany, it’s important to get straight to the point. You don’t want to waste anybody’s time. 

 

1. Reflect! And Adopt Their Perspective

2. Be a Problem-Solver

3. There Is No One-Size-Fits-All

4. Only Deliver Clean and Professional Work

5. Follow the German Model

6. The Work Experience Section

7. Your Design, Your Rules

 

Reflect! And Adopt Their Perspective

No matter the circumstances of your application, always adopt the perspective of who you're addressing and applying to. When you want to land a job in Germany you must know why (!) you want to work for them (!) and what exactly (!) it is that they're doing. That also means you must address them individually in your cover letter and email.

Dear Mrs Schmidt, comma, enter, and off you go.
Just sending out emails without any addresses is unprofessional.

In Germany, every application contains your CV, your cover letter (if required) and your scanned certificates - all nicely merged together in one PDF file - for example, through ilovepdf.com - with a professional title such as Application_FirstnameLastname.pdf or Bewerbung_FirstnameLastname.

Attach the file to the email you're sending with a professional headline and a friendly personalised greeting asking for consideration of your application and wishing the recruiter kind regards.

 

Be a Problem-Solver

Know that every organisation is working on solving a problem! A startup will work on increasing sales and a multinational company on extending the reach of their brand. Whatever it is, their challenge is your starting point. Your job is to help them improve. And you can only do that by becoming their problem-solver.

So, make sure you prove to them that by taking you on as an employee they're going to get their problem solved. You don’t do that by just listing a bunch of spongy statements about yourself. No! You do that by demonstrating how you have helped others tackle similar challenges and how you're intending to go about it for this company in particular. 

What is important here is that you focus on what matters for this particular role. Nobody is interested in your first internship in a bakery (unless you’re applying to be a baker). Never itemise every single detail of your work history. The same applies to your cover letter. Only mention what is relevant for the job or programme at hand.

 

There Is No One-Size-Fits-All

Here is what 9 out of 10 applicants do wrong: they reuse the same dossier for every single application. Please don’t. Because there is no one-size fits-all - neither for your CV nor your cover letter. Any good recruiter will automatically notice this.

You have to adapt your application to each role and make sure that it becomes clear why they should be choosing you and not somebody else. And for that, we’re back to rule number 3, you focus on key achievements and results from your previous jobs which pertain to the role you're going for. Give them solid proof, not shallow assertions.

 

Only Deliver Clean and Professional Work

Germans are highly sensitive when it comes to grammar and spelling. Seriously, they will judge your character on it. The same apples to how you use bullet points, spaces in between words, and commas.

Your consideration begins with you handing in a clean and well-structured application. If they see you're not able to write and format documents profesionnally, they’re not going to select you. By taking you on, you become a spokesperson for that company, and the spokesperson cannot have bad grammar!

So, no sloppy typos and no syntactical mistakes, please. The same principle applies to your cover letter which should be slick and clean: Dear Mr Schmidt, then you hit enter twice.

Next come the following three paragraphs: 

The first one says: I know what you’re looking for
The second one says: This is what I’ve accomplished and what I bring to the table.
The third says: I’d love to meet. Let’s talk.

 

Follow the German Model

Let’s now zoom in and focus on what this means for your CV and your job in Germany. Take note that CV standards vary from country to country. Germans use a standard A4 format with a margin of 2.5 cm and we advise against using more than one font or font size. 

In Germany, it’s uncommon to start out with a first or third person summary at the top. Also, have a professional email address: first [email protected] or outlook.com will be a safe bet. Don’t apply as “[email protected]”. If you're applying from abroad, your nationality, country of residence and intl code must be easily detectable.

 

The Work Experience Section

Next, let’s take a look at the work experience section because that’s where most mistakes are made. In Germany, you start with your latest job at the top and work your way down. Again, pay attention to grammar and spelling. But also format. When mentioning you worked for ABC Pharmaceuticals Ltd, you need to add the corporate form to any other company you mention.

Use a comma to separate a company from its location and don’t forget that the order goes: word, comma, space, new word - not word, space, comma, space, new word… When using a dash to create a bullet point, make sure it’s always the same length. When leaving a paragraph to create space in between jobs, leave the same space between every job. Stick to a line spacing of 1.5 and remain consistent. 

 

Your Design, Your Rules

You get the picture. The principle behind CV drafting is: you decide the graphic design. But once you do, you're bound by it and have to apply it throughout your entire document. If you feel confident about your content, you can take it up a notch with a modern design and get some layout inspiration to boost your personal brand. However, always keep in mind that your CV needs to mirror the addressee. For that, check their website and corporate design.

By the way, in Germany, it is still rather common to include a photograph (small headshot) of yourself. It’s not a must have, but if you happen to have a professional one and you like the way you look (only then!), you can put it in. If you decide to do so, always add one taken by a photographer. No selfies or grainy quality, please.

 

Viel Erfolg and Good Luck!

Here are our final pieces of advice. To those of you who have just graduated, don’t be intimidated. We are certain that you are also able to give proof that you contributed to something significant: be it the growth of a company by 30%, a university project that led to the production of an interesting prototype, or contribution to the publication of an online journal that reached 10,000 people. Do not underestimate the value of your education or previous internships. Name your achievements and results confidently.

Lastly, always have a friend or professional proofread your application and ask them for feedback. Treat your dossier with as much respect as treat yourself and do not hand it in until you're entirely convinced about your product.

 

 

We hope you liked this article. If so, let’s chat on LinkedIn or Facebook, follow us on Youtube, or get in touch with us through findajobingermany.de to book a free career consultation with us.

Jörg Kleis and Tammo Strunk
Career Coaches at findajobingermany.de

 

 

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