Look with me at this internet meme: You see a man sitting in front of a notebook. He is obviously tired. The light of his computer screen showers his face in an unhealthy looking yellow. He is sitting there, unshaved and in his underpants. But his whole desk is covered with bundles of dollar bills. There are piles of money on the floor and on the walls. His unmade bed is full of pizza boxes and more dollar bills – all in big denominations. The door to his bathroom is half open. It won’t close, because the big stack of money inside the bath has collapsed and blocks the door.
That’s what it feels like when your profession is in hot demand in Germany. A friend of mine is a headhunter who specializes in SAP professionals. (And if you are not an SAP professional – read on: This is relevant to everyone who is looking for work in Germany.)
Where was I? My friend often shares how difficult it is to hire SAP professionals. Most of them have zero interest to talk to a headhunter. They get annoyed if someone offers them a job. In a typical week they get contacted by at least two to three headhunters with job offers.
I analyze the complete German job market. Currently German companies hire for 3000 different professions. If you rank them by demand, “SAP Consultants” come in 6th. Out of 3000!
Can you imagine how that feels? To be so much in demand that you can tell headhunters: “Sorry, not right now”?
That’s a dream come true.
High demand leads to scarcity. Scarcity leads to higher salaries. So far so good.
Now, let me introduce you to Johan. Johan is an SAP developer. But Johan does not get job offers. He gets rejections. Look, here he is. Sitting in front of his notebook, opening his emails and looking at another rejection from a German employer: “Sorry, we cannot consider your job application at this point.” Johan had applied to over 100 different positions when he first wrote me. He got Zero job interviews.
How does that fit together? Insane demand in general, but only rejections for him personally?
My work got me in touch with lots of SAP Consultancies over the years. Here is the problem: They really struggle to find enough consultants to hire. But at the same time, they all tell me the same thing: “We speak English, but our clients are German Mittelstand and they speak only German.”
Therefore: They all demand “ein bisschen Deutsch“. And by „a little“, they mean: C1. Native speaker level.
Johan is perfectly qualified for this job. He owns a university degree in Engineering and also an MBA. Johan has years of experience working for well-known international corporations. But German consultancies don’t care. No German, no job.
This is one of the rare cases where it doesn’t help to circumvent HR and talk to Managers directly. They all agree on this topic.
So, what’s the solution?
Sometimes you need to make a detour in order to arrive at your destination. My first advice to Johan is to focus exclusively on “inhouse” positions. Jobs where you mostly communicate with colleagues, not outside customers. Once you have established yourself, start offering to “help out” with clients, when you have the opportunity. Soon you will discover: The same people who would never hire a non-German speaking outsider for a job, have no concern to add a trusted and known colleague to their team.
In the end it always comes down to trust.