There are many websites giving advice on job applications in Germany – most of them in German only, though. You can also hire a consultant to design and write your job application for you. However, you should still be familiar with the expectations of German HR departments. An application that confuses the HR manager is far less likely to be considered.
When it comes to writing job applications, the actual content, i.e. your vita, professional experience, and qualifications, is merely a part of the whole. Pay attention to such details as layout, letter type, spacing, and the quality of the paper you print your application on. If the recipient is very picky, a poorly arranged letter of application doesn’t stand a chance.
Keep in mind that the very first thing everybody notices when looking at a written application on paper is its layout – not its text. If you aren’t sure how to design the layout correctly, base your application on one of the many templates available online.
Ideally, your application should be in German unless the ad says otherwise. However, it won’t help you very much if a friend writes the application for you, but you are unable to pass a job interview conducted in German. Asking a German native speaker to proofread your first draft is always a good idea, though.
With the rise of the Internet in Germany, sending job applications by e-mail is becoming the norm. However, do make sure to check the job ad: Sometimes, employers state explicitly which format they prefer. Convert your documents into pdf files for A4 paper and attach them to your mail. The text body usually contains your cover letter. You may also attach a copy of the cover letter to the email, but many recipients still want the text to be included in the mail itself.
Most job ads in Germany contain the name of the contact to send the application to. In larger companies, you can also address your letter to the HR department (Personalabteilung) or call beforehand to find out the name of the person in charge. Sending unsolicited applications to larger companies with regular vacancies is perfectly acceptable as well. Many HR managers even think that it shows extra initiative and motivation.
If the application is submitted by mail, you should send all your documents in a hardcover application folder (Bewerbungsmappe) available in office supply stores and copy shops. If you shouldn’t be invited to an interview, employers sometimes send the folder back to you.
Most applications in Germany consist of a cover letter, your curriculum vitae, and several enclosures (Anlagen), such as diplomas and references. Reading your letter should motivate the HR person to read your CV, and vice versa.
The most essential aspects to address in your cover letter (Anschreiben) are:
If you like, go for a slightly more personal tone, stating personal qualities beneficial for the position.
The cover letter should have three to five paragraphs and should not be longer than one A4 page. Have a look at available templates to figure out the layout as well as spacing between address of sender, address of recipient, subject heading, and form of address.
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