Writing a German CV is not rocket science. You just need to keep in mind that every country or continent has its preferences when it comes to structures and contents. German HR departments prefer the KISS method: Keep It Short & Simple. Here are 7 tips how to make a great impression on the German job market:
Before we start: Create your CV online – so that it fits EU standard!
Tip: Read our interview with Chris Pyak on How to convince a German employer to hire you before you speak German.
Tip 1: DESIGN
- -When creating your German CV, it is important to structure it in a way that is appears attractive to the eye of the reader – make your resume easy to look through. Recruiters usually don´t take more than 7-12 seconds to check if a candidate matches the job requirements – that´s the awful truth. Remember that a CV is your very own Marketing tool which supposed to show off your skills and experience AT FIRST GLANCE (think of a brochure of your professional life).
- -While in Germany the usual lengths of a CV used to cover ONE page only, this changed in recent years. Certain jobs (e.g. in IT) became less generalized and many tasks and skills needed to be explained in more detail -> Still, there is no need to design your CV longer than THREE pages in total – even if you are the CEO of BMW or Siemens!
- -Use the same font and font size, don`t get crazy with bold or italic fonts – remember KISS!
Tip 2: FORMAT / STRUCTURE
As anywhere in the world, a resume needs a certain structure. Unlike in the UK or USA, there is NO need in Germany to add a summary of your soft skills in the beginning – it is not common and not requested. Keep this information for the cover letter (see tip 7).
Your CV for the German market should be formatted in the following way:
- -Personal details
- -Career history
- -Hobbies, personal interests
- -Venue, Date and Signature (this is German standard)
Tip 3: CONTENT
- -First of all, let´s get something straight: You might lose your dream job on spelling errors – Germans are very particular about flawless documents. Be cautious what you write and how you do it. Ask a friend for help to correct mistakes.
- -Most candidates think that one CV fits all job applications. However, a resume is a targeted document custom tailored to THE one particular job you want.
- -HIDDEN HINT: Do some research on several job adverts for a particular position you are interested in. You then get an impression of the most common skills and tasks required. Use this information to create your qualified German CV that matches the job requirements perfectly.
- -Nobody is interested in the information that your first internship took place in a bakery (unless you apply as a baker) and nobody wants to know that you worked as bartender at night times during your studies (unless you apply in gastronomy). Never itemize all details of your work history. Only include content that might be interesting for the role and that shows skills, expertise or knowledge you gained which may add value to your potential employer.
Tip 4: PERSONAL DETAILS
Remember that a CV is a flyer of your life with the goal to get your dream job. So include all personal details that might help your next employer to contact you quickly and to understand who you are. But take care to avoid superfluous details, such as religious affiliation, children’s names and so on.
- -Photo: If you decide to include a picture it must be a professional headshot. In Germany, HR Recruiters and Hiring Managers will judge your professionalism by the image you create of yourself. It is not common (and you will never get that job!) if you share a photo of yourself in a bar, at the beach or with your children. If you don´t have a professional headshot, you will better do without a picture at all!
- -Full name incl. maiden name
- -Phone & mobile number, Email address, skype name
- -Address incl. country
- -Nationality: This is important to understand whether there might be a need to apply for working visa or permission
- -Age/Birth date (not mandatory by law any more but a good Recruiter will figure it out anyway due to the certificates you attach or the date you finished school – so make their life easier)
- -Marital Status and number of children (optional – but it helps to get the full picture)
Tip 5: CAREER HISTORY
- -Start with your most recent job first. Include the name of your employing company, the dates you worked for them (month and year!) and also add the location.
- -Very important: Clearly and truthfully state your work status: Have you been employed, a freelancer, an intern? Did you work Full-Time, Part-Time or were you hired just for one project?
- -It is common sense that you are not allowed to lie in your German CV. Many candidates, however, do it without even knowing. It happens all the time that Recruiters read “Worked at company XYZ, USA”. This suggests to the reader that the applicant worked in the USA. Instead, the person worked in another location in their home country. It´s only that they worked with an American company. Be careful about your working locations.
- -Always state your position clearly. “Marketing” is not a position, it is a division.
- -If you worked in several jobs for the same company, write it that way! Not many people start their career as “Regional Business Development Director” if this is their first company. State clearly that you developed your career path starting with a junior job up to the most senior position with the same employer. This shows that you can grow in a company.
- -Work with bullet points to show 3 to 7 of your most important tasks. Action words are not as passive as simple tasks.
- -Every role has responsibilities and achieved goals. Mention your achievements that are relevant for the job you are applying for.
- -Ensure that the content is clear and short: KISS. Use bullet points rather than full sentences – it is easier to have a glance
- -Your career history cannot show gaps. Have you been serving Military Service or did you take care of your grandma for a while? You need to state this info. You may also include extra information such as reasons for a career change or reason for leaving the previous company.
Tip 6: EDUCATION
Keep in mind to include the names of all institutions as well as the date you attended school (including month and year). This should be stated in reverse order: university before school. If you achieved great results, it´s time to show off and state them in this section (e.g. final grade: 78 from 100 points, A-results, achieved 96% etc.)
Tip 7: SKILLS
- -Include GENUINE foreign language skills. Honestly, the Recruiter will find out anyway. They will test you and they will know if you are really fluent or if your ability to read is C1. Don´t waste anybody´s time and just tell the truth.
- -Did you have any recent training or development that is relevant to the role applied for? Mention it here.
- -Computer skills need to be specified. If you apply for an IT job, please list every tiny information that might qualify you for the role.
Tip 8: COVER LETTER
Having recruited international candidates for several years now, I have come to the conclusion that the German market is different when it comes to cover letters. In most other countries, they have basically no relevance. In Germany, however, a cover letter may be as important as your German CV! The content will do the trick to get you the interview.
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