On the 23rd May 2018, the Technical University of Chemnitz conducted a workshop called “Applying in Germany”. This article is all about applying to companies in Germany for a part time job, an internship or for a full time job and all the important factors that you should consider from a “German perspective”. This article could also help people preparing an SOP for German universities to get an idea on what goes inside the head of a German. I am omitting the common things about application – the things that you could easily find in the internet. Rather, the focus is going to be on what you probably didn’t know and were discussed in the workshop.
- Documents required:
- Cover page (1 page): This page includes a proper heading, the position you are applying to, a professional photo, and your contact details. This is the first page that the employer will see when he/she opens your application.
- Cover letter (1 page): A formatted document with the address of the company, place and date followed by three structured paragraphs. Should not exceed one page. An important note: never start with dear sir/madam (nor sehr geehrte Damen und Herren). This creates a negative impression on the mind of the reader and shows that you did not take effort in finding out who will be reading your application. Instead, look at job notification and the company website to find out the person who will be evaluating your document and put the name of the person. The first paragraph includes an introduction and your motivation. Motivation to work for a particular task is extremely important for the companies (as important as your qualification). So take particular care in designing this. In the second paragraph, give examples from your experience on how you are apt for the job. For example, how your ability to communicate with different people improved when you worked as a salesman. The final paragraph displays your conditions such as expected time of joining, how long you wish to work and conclude saying that you are looking forward to an interview. The document ends with your name and a digital signature – something important that is often neglected.
- CV (2-3 pages): Normally a CV should be restricted to 2 pages, but if you have a wide relevant work experience, it can be up to 3 pages. It should always be in a tabular form (tabellarischer lebenslauf) written in a chronological order (latest first). If you have any work experience or education outside Germany, the country should be specifically mentioned next to the name of the institute/company. One mistake that everyone makes is simply writing the course they have studied without any explanation (say mechanical engineering). The company cannot understand your knowledge until and unless they know what you studied during this course. Therefore, a list of 3-4 core subjects (eg. Thermodynamics) that you studied in the course (relevant to the job) should also be mentioned. Another point to notice is that mentioning a couple of software in the skills section without any explanation of your proficiency is a wrong approach – you have to specify your niveu in that. For eg. if you mention C++ and Python in the CV and you have an excellent proficiency in C++ but an average proficiency in Python, the interviewer might later ask a question on Python and you won’t be able to answer effectively. Hence, 4 stars next to C++ and 2 stars next to Python would convey your level in each software. Finally, your voluntary works shows who you are outside the work life. Hobby such as “reading books” or “riding a bike” should not be mentioned – the hobby should be something powerful.
- All other relevant documents such as language certificates, transcripts etc. All the documents, including the CV and cover letter and certificates should be in a single pdf file.
- A professional photograph: Many of us do not understand the importance of the photograph – well in Germany, it is very. Never use a normal photograph or a passport photo – it is least professional. The photo must be a professional photo (you can refer internet for samples) taken by a professional photographer or just your friend in a mobile camera. Your dressing is significant here. The dress you should wear depends upon whether you are applying to a “traditional” company or a startup. The professional dress in Germany is a suit with a tie. If you are applying to a “traditional company” which is more than a couple of decades old with a photograph where you wear casual dress, they might not even consider you – a suit is important here. At the same time, if you apply to a startup with more younger “cool” people with an extremely formal dress, they might think that you may not fit into their group. Here, a casual dress is important. Choose the dressing according to the company.
- Applying to several companies: People tend to use the same document while applying to different companies which again is a wrong approach. The CV can remain the same (except change the subjects part) but the cover letter has to be tailored with respect to the job description. Consider that the company requires C++ knowledge and you blabbed about python knowledge in the cover letter which you used to apply to another company. Do you think the company will offer you a position? Most of the companies have the first layer of applicant evaluation done by a computer. A software screens the application and checks if your application has enough relevant keywords. Only after this process is the document forwarded to the relevant person. So if you don’t have enough keywords related to the particular job, your documents will never even reach a person.
- Designing the documents: Even though this is important in every country, the Germans are extremely focused on how neatly you align the documents. Even if there is a small misalignment in your CV, they will notice it and it will definitely make a very negative impression. The company tends to think that you will reciprocate the same carelessness and lousiness during your work there. This is a minute detail that could cause serious repercussions. Also, have a well defined structure and stick to that. Use very few modifications such as font size changes, bold, italics etc. A CV should always have bullet points and a cover letter should be short and precise sentences. Before sending out any document, update the dates on each of them. In internet, you can find several tools where you get a template and you can just add the data to get a CV- this too is a wrong approach. You have to show your creativity in your documents.
- Language of the document: This is Germany, everything is in German. You will rarely see a job notification in English. You are expected to have an above average communication skills. All the traditional companies which were established over a decade ago expect very good communication skills from you – this is not a racist thing, rather the people working there are simply not capable of communicating in English. However, the language in which the documents should be drafted depends on your language proficiency. It is not recommended to have the cover letter in German if you are not confident of speaking in German. The companies might call you and invite you for an interview later and if you cannot speak in German, they think that you were not honest in the cover letter. However, try to prepare the CV in German (no google translate please!!!). It does not matter much even if the cover letter is in simple German – but it should be something you could manage. For startups with youngsters, it is even okay if you cannot speak German.
- Work experience: If you have relevant work experience, that should be mentioned in the CV. You don’t have a technical work experience, but you had a part time? Maybe in a restaurant? Don’t hesitate to mention that as your work experience and try to mention why that is relevant to the job you are applying to- maybe you acquired team skills, or ability to work under pressure. Any job that has added value to you could be mentioned under work experience.
- How to find a job: When there is a vacancy in a company, the people working there try to think of someone they know. First thought goes into a person who has done an internship or part time jobs with them. Or maybe the picture of a student who made a very good impression during the career fest comes to their mind. They immediately contact that person. if they cannot find anyone, the second step is asking around the company if anyone else know a good employee. If they still fail, they put up a job notification in the internet. Hence, the jobs you see in the internet form a small percentage of the job requirements. And therefore it is very important to do an internship or meet the people during a career fest so that you are the first person they think about when a job opportunity arises.
Special care should be taken while preparing all the documents and applying – a simple error in one document could be copied to all your applications and may result in a huge rejection. Remember – your application is your first work example.