Find a job in Germany – Different approach than you’re used to

If you’re trying to find a job in Germany, be aware that things are done differently in Germany. The German culture is much more formal than in the southern parts of Europe or than in the Anglo-Saxon countries. The work culture is more hierarchical and Germans like their status. If someone has earned a title, use it!

In order to be able to find work in Germany you first need to check if you are allowed to work there. Passport holders form other EU and EEA countries can work in Germany without any problem, with the exception of Bulgaria and Rumania who continue to have to apply for a work permit. However, the Germans like their red tape, so you still will have to apply for a residence permit. These are valid between 1 and 5 years and you should be issued withing 6 months after arrival in the country.

If you don’t qualify as an EU/EEA passport holder you have very little chance of getting a job in Germany. There are shortages in certain industries and if you are lucky enough to have experience in these industries you might stand a chance.

Firstly you need to apply for residency in Germany. Applications can be filed with the representation of the Federal Republic of Germany abroad or within Germany with an aliens’ authority – and usually approval of the Federal Employment Agency.

Special regulations: Nationals from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and the United States of America can also obtain the required residence title after entry from the competent aliens’ authority in Germany. Attention should be paid to the fact that you can only engage in your intended employment after having obtained the adequate residence title.

Secondly, the prospective employer will have to apply for your work permit and he will have to show that no one in Europe could be found to fill the vacancy. It’s a extremely bureaucratic process and not many companies are prepared to go through this.

The International Placement Services (Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung – ZAV) with its regional headquarters is the responsible authority for granting work permits and accepting residence titles.

Once you have all the red tape sorted you can start applying for jobs. Make sure you have an application package consisting of your CV, grade lists, letters of reference, examples of previous works, copies of diploma’s, certificates, etc. The whole package can be 10 – 20 pages. Germans are “grundlich” , i.e. thorough. They like to get as much information as possible about a potential employee. Most employers return the package to you if you’re not selected for the job.

Your CV is the tool to convince an employer to hire you. Focus on the reasons why you are the right person for the job. Don’t waffle, be to the point. Your CV should be in reverse chronological order. Give a complete and precise description of the positions you previously held. Personal motivation for a job is less important in Germany.

Many candidates add their photo, although European legislation have ruled this out as a potential form of discrimination. The same goes for mentioning your gender, your date of birth and your ethnicity. You have to make up your own mind if you want to apply to European rules or think adding them would stand you a bigger chance in getting that job.

Some simple things to remember:


  • Shake hands firmly and introduce yourself.
  • Look interested – ask questions.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question.
  • Provide examples to illustrate your achievements.
  • Answer questions with precision in a German interview.
  • Prepare yourself. Read up on the company.


  • Be late for appointments.
  • Ask people directly for a job in their company.
  • Sit until invited.
  • Criticise former employers.
  • Go over the top – stay calm and stick to the facts.
  • Try to bend the truth.

Prepare yourself and make sure you know your own facts.


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