Job application is a formal affair in Germany and usually follows a set course. Below, we've set out a step-by-step guide explaining what is expected of you as a job applicant. If not otherwise specified, your job application should include:
- Curriculum vitae or résumé (German: Lebenslauf)
- Cover letter (German: Motivationsschreiben or Anschreiben)
- References or testimonials (German: Arbeitszeugnisse)
- Copies of diplomas, degrees or certificates: high school, college, graduate school, etc., as well as any certificates or qualifications
- Relevant attachments such as your portfolio
The German CV or 'Lebenslauf' is a no-frills document in tabular form that follows a clear structure. It includes a professional photo, the date of application, your marital status, contact details including an address, and place of birth. Information concerning your professional experience, education and other skills should be arranged in two columns: On the left side the exact dates, and institution names, job titles and responsibilities on the right.
The cover letter is meant to convey your interest in a specific position. It's also here that you explain how your experiences and knowledge are relevant to this particular job. It's a thin line between self-confidence and hubris: keep in mind that modesty is generally preferred. Exaggerations and incomplete information will be uncovered as German HR people are generally very thorough.
Unique to the German-speaking world are the testimonials or 'Arbeitszeugnisse'. In Germany, it's standard to receive official testimonials from your employer after every job, traineeship and internship. If you happen to have German testimonials, include them in your job application. If you don't, because it's not the custom in your country, explain this in your cover letter and perhaps suggest that references can be provided upon request.
Also unique to the German labour market is an intricate system of attestation grading your performance in a role. Hidden behind positive expressions grades range from simple wording (worst) to superlatives (best).
Many German employers will expect to see copies of all the certificates you've gained over the years ─ not just your college or university degrees. If you haven’t seen your high school diploma for awhile, now is the time to dig it up.