Germany is in the midst of a powerful era. The country is the economic and symbolic centre of Europe, unemployment is low, and numerous industries are expanding. That being said, finding a job in Germany as an expat is a time consuming activity that requires a generous dose of determination, patience, and paperwork.
This article gives an overview of the jobs and opportunities open to expats in Germany, the various methods and portals you can use to search for jobs, and the documents required to apply.
Jobs in Germany
Germany has good working conditions and workers are legally entitled to a number of benefits and protections. In terms of holidays, employees working five days per week are entitled to 20 days’ paid vacation. Many companies, however, offer extra vacation days on top of public holidays. Germany also enforces a minimum wage of just under nine Euros per hour and offers both maternity and paternity leave. It is also uncommon in Germany for workers to feel pressure to stay overtime to “get ahead.” Work-life balance is broadly respected in Germany.
Because of a declining population and an expanding economy, there are a number of industries in Germany that have a shortage of skilled workers. The most in-demand occupations include doctors and nurses, engineers, IT specialists, teachers, and general healthcare professionals. For more information on which industries need skilled workers, see here. If you have qualifications in one of these areas, it will be easier for you to apply for the EU Blue Card work permit. Even for these in-demand positions, you will need your qualifications to be officially recognised and be able to prove proficiency in German.
Expats and the Labour Market
Expats should try to target large international or foreign corporations as these offices usually operate in English.
Nonetheless, you are far more likely to find work in Germany if you have at least an intermediate level of German (B2). Because fluency in English is already common in Germany, speaking English will not give you any significant advantage in the labour market. Speaking another language, however, can be very advantageous, especially if you can speak an Asian or Middle Eastern language.
Different regions in Germany have very different job opportunities. Bavaria is known for its automotive industry, Frankfurt for finance, and Berlin for creative and start-up industries. Make sure your industry and your prospective region align. You will undoubtedly have trouble trying to establish yourself as a creative expat in Bavaria.
It is also important to note that there are a number of industries in Germany that are strictly regulated and require workers to have recognised formal qualifications. It is crucial to make sure you meet the formal qualifications of your industry before you begin searching for a job.
It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different kinds of visas and work permits Germany offers. For detailed information on work permits, see here.
Job Hunting: Methods and Portals
The most common way to search for a job in Germany is via online portals. This is great for expats as it means you can begin in your home country. It is worth noting though that most companies will require a face to face interview before hiring. Nevertheless, getting a feel for the types of opportunities in various cities is a good idea before you commit to the country.
The largest offical job search portal belongs to the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). The website is available in a selection of languages, including English. However, most job ads are only placed in German so results will vary based on the language you choose. The website also has helpful information for expats under the ‘Working and Job-Seeking’ page. There are specialists working for the Federal Employment Agency who are prepared to answer your questions about working in Germany. While this is a great tool for searching for vacancies, the process of signing up and using the site is complicated. It is probably best to get information from the site and then go directly to the company’s website.
Another good platform is EURES, which is a European job mobility portal comprised of a network of European employment agencies. EURES presents job offers from 31 different countries, including Germany, and operates in a variety of European languages. EURES also organises job days in various countries, and these can be a great way to find out about vacancies. Information is available on their website regarding the dates of job fairs and well as advisors offered by the network.
Some of the other popular job portals that include listings from a broad range of industries and professions are:
The Local, the English news platform, offers an English job listings portal.
For academics, the website academics.com specifically advertises jobs in research and tertiary education.
It may seem old-fashioned, but newspapers are still a common way to search for jobs in Germany. Ads for jobs normally run in the weekend edition of the paper. National newspapers will often advertise more senior roles, while local newspapers may be better suited for junior roles.
Job agencies or advisors can be a great option, especially for those still living abroad. If you are already in Germany, it is worth visiting a branch of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA). They operate in most German towns and cities and their goal is to help people find suitable jobs. There are also private recruitment agencies. These services, however, may charge large fees.
Along with the EURES job fairs mentioned earlier, Germany also has a number of different trade events. Look online to find any trade fairs happening near you and then thoroughly research which companies will be involved. Try to target one or two specific firms. Your knowledge and research will impress the company’s representative and help you land an opportunity.
Many German companies advertise job openings on their website. If you are interested in working for a specific company, it is worth scouring their website because sometimes these job offers are not posted elsewhere.
Many German companies also accept speculative applications. That is, even if there is no specific vacancy, you can still apply if you truly believe you’d be an asset to that particular company. Taking this route will require you to be an expert on the company and have a strong case for wanting to join the team.
In Germany, the standard layout for a CV (or, as it’s called in German, Lebenslauf) tends be very different to those found in the Anglosphere. Firstly, a Lebenslauf is more far more concise and fact-driven. Likewise, German companies expect it to adhere to standardised formatting. Stylistic innovation in most industries is not recommended. A Lebenslauf should also include a professional photo. While German companies can no longer legally require this, it is certainly preferred.
The website Europass offers templates for German Lebensläufe and cover letters.
In addition to a Lebenslauf and a cover letter, you will also be required to submit certification of your formal qualifications (more on this below). It is also a good idea to include letters of recommendation.
All of these documents should be combined into a single PDF before being submitted.
In Germany, there are a number of industries that require workers to have formally recognised qualifications. Even if it is not mandatory for your industry, it may nonetheless be beneficial to have your qualifications officially recognised. This is because foreign institutions have different names and functions, thus it is often hard for German employers to understand exactly what level of qualification you possess.
Having your qualifications recognised can be a good way to set your application apart. Germany has great respect for academic achievements and formal training.
Getting your qualifications recognised, however, can be a time consuming and costly process. It usually costs between 200 to 600 Euros, but there will be also be additional costs for translations, certifications, travel expenses, and so on.
Where you will need to go to get your qualifications recognised will depend on your profession and where you work. To find out which body is responsible for your industry use the “recognition finder” function on the government’s website. The website offers information in both English and German and is a helpful tool.
Having a recognised formal qualification may not be enough to secure a job in Germany. There are also a number of other aspects, such as language and country of origin, which will affect whether or not you will be granted a work permit or be able to find a job. The website Make it in Germany has a good ‘quick-check’ function that helps you assess your job possibilities in the country.
Again, this can not be stressed enough: your job opportunities will be directly proportional to your German abilities. It is certainly worth enrolling in German classes before and while you are searching for a job in Germany or at home. If you do not feel confident writing your cover letter or Lebenslauf in German then at least write your emails to the HR office in German. Even if the company’s official operating language is English, you will be a far more attractive candidate if you can speak German.
Make it in Germany also offers a hotline and chatline for professionals seeking advice about working life in Germany. The service is also available in English. Their comprehensive PDF also includes a lot of helpful information for job seekers.
Have you worked in Germany? Share your experience in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!