Which documents do I need to apply in Germany?

10 years ago, the topic of application forms in Germany was still a very formalized process in which even the smallest mistakes meant that you were not invited to an interview. You can relax a little: HR decision-makers have become more flexible these days. Nevertheless, there are a few things to keep in mind.

A complete application in Germany consists of

You should consider the following Dos and Don´ts:

The Curriculum Vitae (short just CV) is the most important part of your application documents. In German it is always called Lebenslauf and thus is a direct translation: the path of your life (so far). Based on its content, recruiters decide whether you are the right candidate for the vacancy or not. For this reason, you should use your CV to highlight your strengths and skills. We tell you how to create the perfect resume.

The most common and our recommended version ist the tabular form. This means, that you are not writing whole sentences but just list up your informations.

Because you should get help with spelling and grammar anyway, we do not advise you to use one of the templates in Microsoft Word. In our experience, it is too easy to erase parts of the formatting, waste a lot of time and going mad. It is preferable to have your resume professionally prepared. Service providers as well as employers need the following information from you in any case:

  • Personal information and contact details

Name, Birthday, Place of Birth, Current Address, Phone Number, eMail, marital status, children

  • Professional background

Your professional experience, structured by successive periods for which employer and in which position. For every employer: When (month.year) did you start there, what did you work as, when did the employment end. Periods of unemployment must be recognizable.

  • (Further) Education and Certificates

When did you go on which school and what kind of school was that.

  • Internships and projects
  • Special knowledge
  • (Cool) Personal interests, Hobbies

Hobbies are not so trivial as it seems at first sight. You don´t have to mention that you like watching TV or listening to music or like to read. Hey, everybody does. But if you are in a chess club, were local champion in table tennis or play trombone in a band, it tells the reader that you go the extra mile.

  • And don´t forget to add a current date. It shows the recruiter that you are looking for a job right now and not since 6 months without success.

So much information? Isn’t that too private? To be clear: Not all details are mandatory. However, ambiguities will be interpreted against you, so better play with open cards…

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Many German companies do not require a cover letter anymore. But not all of them do, which is why you should definitely write a short and individual cover letter. Especially if you do not have a classic German resume, you should provide more background information about yourself.

Again, you should take help, because a simple translation program might lead to strange formulations.

You should be able to answer the following questions for yourself (and the target employer):

  • Why did you come to Germany?
  • Why do you want to work in this particular job?
  • Why are you good at this particular job?
  • Why do you want to stay in this particular job for a long time?

Puuh, pretty elementary questions. But if you can pitch them to yourself and a potential employer, you don’t have to worry about getting a job, you’ll get a good one.

By the way, an absolute no-go is not matching the company in the address field and the job title in the headline. Same effect like “I love You Heidi” – “My name is Claudia…”

Under no circumstances you should use a template from the Internet. Recruiters are allergic to these. Don’t let it be random. Let a professional help you with this.

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A photo on a cover letter should present you from your most likeable side and show to the recruiter that you can adjust to the job, at least on the outside.

Here are a few useful tips:

  • The photo does not have the purpose of recognizing you with a face scanner at the airport. Therefore, you are welcome to smile on the photo! Especially in small companies, the recruiter is fully integrated into the company and prefers to choose a friendly and cheerful new colleague in case of doubt.
  • Under no circumstances should a passport photo be used or even the passport photographed. This will immediately demonstrate to the company that you have not put any effort into your application.
  • Dress appropriately for your future job. In case of doubt, it is better to be a bit fancier than you think.
  • However, photos of a wedding are not recommended, even if it seems like a good idea. Both dresses and suits for such occasions are just a tad over the top….
  • Too sexy photos are classified as unserious and often deleted directly. As a rule, not even a rejection letter is written.
  • Nowadays you don’t necessarily have to go to a photographer for a good application photo. Your cell phone will probably have a perfectly adequate camera. Please note, however, that the good camera is usually on the BACK of the smartphone. Therefore, ask a friend to take a photo of you.
  • When taking a homemade photo, make sure that the lighting is adequate. A shadow looks kind of spooky on a job application photo.
  • Mind the background of your selfmade photo! A selfie from the bathroom, because you just put on your mascara, will be fun for the HR department but will not lead to an invitation to the interview.
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Testimonials or Zeugnisse are obligatory for apprenticeships and “mentally” professions, mostly not so important for more physical professions.

Here we are talking about school or university degrees and corresponding grades. You maybe need to translate these. Here is a service provider that does ist fast and cheap.

But to be honest: Germans don’t trust in foreign certifications. Even if native Germans do a further education abroad, they are looked at with suspicion.

This is due to the unique German system of vocational training. So accept the requirement to acquire a certificate in Germany! In the Jobs-Section, we are compiling a growing number of opportunities for you.

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All documents ready? What are you still waiting for?

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