If you’re interested in working in a German-speaking environment you will need to know how to present a German job application and what that includes. Even though resumes may be an international idea, there are still many differences from country to country when it comes to writing a resume to suit the recruiting environment for each culture.
A resume is the first impression you will make on a prospective employer and if you need to present a resume in German, you will need to take into consideration various factors such as cultural preferences and professional standards. What a German recruiter expects to see in a job application is not the same as what an American recruiter expects.
The name for the German resume, or CV as it is more widely known in Europe, is the Lebenslauf. In the world of recruiting in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other German-speaking regions, the Lebenslauf is regarded as less of a marketing product and more of a factual document. This means that instead of including lots of professional or academic achievements and details about responsibilities undertaken in previous positions, the resume itself will simply list details that are of interest to German employers. Maintaining this format will allow the jobseeker to get their candidacy into the next recruitment stage – the interview.
The following guide will answer the questions: what is a Lebenslauf? and show you how to write a German resume that will fit the recruitment standards for German-speaking companies.
Writing a Resume in German
Knowing how to write a resume in German is vital if you’re planning on either moving to a German-speaking country or aim to work within the German market.
A simple translation of your current resume will not be enough to produce a successful job application and you should always be mindful of literal translations in German because the language has many rules and tricks that make it difficult to fully grasp.
If you already have a good level of German you will be able to make a decent go of writing a German resume or Lebenslauf with some professional guidance. If, however, you do not yet dominate the language, you could find yourself with some serious issues when it comes to writing your German resume from scratch. One way to avoid these problems is to use an online German resume builder that allows you to use German resume templates that are pre-constructed and approved by specialist German recruiters.
Whether you decide to write your German resume using examples of Lebenslauf or not, the following tips will help you to optimize your personalized German resume.
- At the very beginning of your German resume, you will need to add a header which should include your name as the title. Never title a German resume with the word Lebenslauf itself.
- German recruiters prefer to receive resumes in a professional and executive manner, without a variety of different fonts and colors, etc. This means candidates should stick to traditional resume styles instead of the emerging creative resume layouts which can be popular elsewhere.
- It is essential that jobseekers do their research before applying for a job with a German company. In order to fully tailor your German resume to a specific vacancy, you must investigate the company culture, rules and regulations, hiring processes and generally have a good background knowledge of what the company is looking for in the suitable candidate.
- As has been mentioned, German resumes are simply factual documents that do not require candidates to embellish or decorate with superfluous information. It is essential that candidates stick to the facts and make no outrageous claims or include irrelevant details that are not directly related to the vacancy, sector or candidate’s professional profile.
- In German resumes it is extremely important to take special care with spelling and grammar. Mistakes of this kind are taken very seriously by German recruiters and a simple typo could cost you your chance at an interview for your dream job. Keep in mind that hiring managers in German-speaking countries are especially particular about well-written and linguistically perfect resumes.
Considering the nature and difficulty of the German language, even if you are practically fluent, it is a good idea to have someone review and proofread your German resume before sending off your application. In addition to using German resume templates and heeding expert advice on resume writing, your best bet at getting through to the next selection stage is to use your resources: friends, teachers, peers, managers, etc. to help you construct a winning German resume.
German Resume: Layout and Sections
To create a German resume with the right structure and style for German companies, there are some general rules to bear in mind. The German resume format differs slightly from a general resume format. The following tips will give candidates the information they need to lay out a German resume in the correct manner:
- The standard length of a German resume is 1-2 A4 pages. Candidates should not produce resumes that exceed this length because they will be discarded. It is more common to see a 1-page resume that 2 but it is acceptable to use 2 pages if all the information included is relevant to the job application.
- It is advisable to use only one standard font and size of text throughout the resume, with few changes for titles/subtitles. Applicants should also avoid using too much text formatting in the form of italic or bold lettering.
- The most common format for a German resume is to include a professional headshot at the top and to divide the existing sections into two columns, in order to place the dates that correspond to the activities or qualifications on the left and the details of the experience on the right.
For help with creating a German Lebenslauf, candidates can use German resume templates or online examples that show exactly how to write a German resume to make sure their candidacy stands out of the crowd.
What to Include in a German Resume
Knowing how to structure a German resume is not the only aspect that should be considered when you need to present a job application for a German company. There is also the content and sections to be included in a German resume.
The most common parts of a German resume are as follows:
Personal and contact details
Persönliches and Kontaktinformationen
This section should include a professional photo in the top-left corner with the personal details, and candidate’s name as the title, either by the side of just below as part of the header for a German resume.
The contact details should consist of the following:
- Address – Adresse
- Phone number – Telefonnummer
- Email – Mail
- Website or professional online profile such as LinkedIn
The personal details are to add to the factual nature of the German resume and include certain data that would not usually be included on an American resume. This section should list:
- Date of birth of applicant, written simply as born – Geboren
- Nationality – Staatsangehörigkeit
- Marital status – Familienstand
Previously, it was also common practice to include the number and ages of children that an applicant had as part of this German resume section but it is becoming less and less popular as recruiting techniques change.
If you are uncomfortable adding any of this information or including a photo on your German Lebenslauf, you should be aware that it is not a legal requirement for a job application in Germany. Nevertheless, German recruiters will be expecting to have the information readily available so do be prepared to answer questions of the same kind at an interview.
This section can either be placed before or after the work experience section depending on the needs and profile of the candidate. For students or entry-level applicants, it is possible that a German resume with a strong academic history in the initial part of the document will have a more positive impact on a hiring manager than one with a bare job history as the starting point.
The courses and certificates included in this part should be written in reverse-chronological order. That is to say, beginning with the most recent and relevant certification and working backward.
Due to the differences in education systems around the world, when you are writing a German resume, you should try to show the equivalents for your qualifications and your grades, if you choose to include them.
This is particularly important for a German resume as a 4.0. GPA is the highest grade in the U.S., whereas this same digit represents the lowest possible pass grade in Germany.
The following table should help you to demonstrate your grade accurately for German recruiters to understand:
Schooling in Germany is very different from the US and there are various types of secondary schools but the best equivalent for a high school diploma in the US would be either from the comprehensive school known as Gesamtschule, which is only available in certain German states or the country-wide academic secondary school known as Gymnasium. The high school diploma earned here is called das Abitur. In Austria and Switzerland, this diploma is known as the Matura diploma. These schools also offer honors courses which are known as Leistungskurse which could be useful to highlight if you have completed any extra modules or credits in your academic history.
Additionally, German recruiting managers will fully comprehend the International Baccalaureate (IB) system if you have been schooled using this grading system.
Moving on to higher education, universities in Germany are also divided into different sectors so it depends on your specialist area which one applies to you.
College/University – Universität
Teacher College – Pädagogische Hochshule
Art College – Kunsthochschule
Technical Institute – Fachhochshule
Training Institute – Verwaltungsfachhochshule
Often as part of a German job application, candidates will need to have official certificates translated.
Degrees from German colleges are given names in English – Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.Sc), Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng), and Bachelor of Laws (LL.B). There are other Bachelor degrees in arts and education. This can also be called a Diplom.
Following this, a Magister is the name given to a master’s degree. Finally, a Ph.D. is recognized as in English.
This section should also include any professional training courses which offer relevance to the vacancy you’re applying to. Remember, the aim is to demonstrate your pertinent qualifications and show the hiring manager that you are suitable for the position on offer.
Similarly to the education section on a German resume, the candidate’s job history should be laid out in reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent or current work experience and working backward.
Each separate previous role should detail the dates of employment in the left-hand column and the rest of the information on the right. This other information includes:
- Job title
- Company name and sector if it is unlikely to be known to the prospective employer
- Location – remember to write out the full state name if you’re applying to work abroad.
- Description – under each job title, there should be a short and concise description of the most pertinent details of each post held.
Unlike American resumes, the information here is purely factual and does not need to incorporate professional achievements or demonstrate skills used on the job.
If you have any internships or voluntary experience, it is more common for German resumes to encompass those details, as long as they are relevant to the vacancy, in this same section as equal to other paid work experience. They should be incorporated naturally in the chronological timeline to show where and when you undertook these responsibilities throughout your career.
Attempting to make your candidacy stand out on a German resume may seem like a complex challenge, given that a recruiter only wants the facts and no extra convincing arguments about why to hire you. However, if you add a skills section to your German CV, this could be just the thing to catch the hiring manager’s eye without boasting.
Use bullet points to list a mix of soft and hard skills that you possess and which relate to the vacancy or sector you’re looking to work in.
You can also add languages – Sprachen and IT skills – EDV (Elektronische Datenverarbeitung) to express your knowledge in various languages and computing expertise. Remember that you should mention the name but also explain the function of any specific programs you have used so that the hiring manager can understand the practicality of this skill.
With languages, you should describe your proficiency in terms of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) detailing each level from A1 (beginner) to C2 (native fluency). This will allow the German recruiter to get a better understanding of how well you are able to use the language in a professional environment.
Hobbies and Interests
Interessen and Hobbys
Finally, something that is not commonly seen on American resumes is a section dedicated to personal interests. However, on a German resume, this section is much more popular and allows the potential employer to gain an understanding of the applicant’s character as a whole.
Ensure to only mention relevant hobbies that provide evidence of your previously mentioned experiences or skills. Also, strategically, this is a useful section to add if you want to show your comprehension of the company culture or demonstrate extra traits that you feel will be beneficial to your candidacy, such as including leadership roles in associations or social clubs.
Finally, there is one extra part to a German resume that must be adhered to in order to be accepted for a job application process. This final touch is the addition of the candidate’s signature along with the place and date at the very end of the Lebenslauf.
Employing a German resume builder online is a guaranteed way to build a Lebenslauf that will attract attention for all the right reasons. Candidates can ensure to include all the necessary sections, in a suitable format for German recruiting practices and use German resume templates that have been approved by HR specialists.
German Resume Example
One of the best ways to create a German resume that attracts attention from a prospective employer is by using German resume examples that show exactly how the document should be laid out and what information should be included or excluded.
German resume samples can also inspire candidates with the practical examples used in each section to describe work experience or effective skills. Take advantage of different German resume examples that can help you to create a unique, customized German resume of your own.
It is imperative that each German resume you create be tailored specifically to fit not only your professional profile but also to match the needs of the employer and vacancy on offer.
ResumeCoach has dozens of practical tips and examples available online to help applicants construct a winning German Lebenslauf with specially designed German resume templates.
Difference between American and German Resumes
The main aspects that differ between American and German resumes include some peculiarities that are specific to German resumes. These elements are rarely found in job applications in the U.S.
The first major difference between American and German resumes relates to the content of the resume itself. Normally, on a resume for a job offer in the U.S., you would find a resume objective, summary statement or qualifications summary section at the beginning, that gives the reader an introduction into the profile of the candidate naming some of the key skills and expertise they possess. This is non-existent on German resumes.
Essentially, as it is similar to a sales pitch for the candidate and a German Lebenslauf is completely factual, it does not require this section. Instead this type of description, the objective as it is commonly known in the U.S. – Betreff in German – would be included in the German cover letter.
Another dissimilarity between the two recruitment processes is that although references are increasingly less common on American resumes, all German applicants have a written form of reference that they receive upon leaving a previous job. The name for these references is Arbeitszeugnis and they are readily available to deliver with the German resume.
In American resumes, sometimes we purposefully structure the document to conceal certain information for example if we have had gaps in our employment. However, in the German resume, candidates are recommended to include an explanation for possible employment gaps. This could be in order to avoid being discarded for lack of a steady timeline or even to demonstrate other skills and qualifications that the applicant possesses due to the reasons they were not working: further study, military service, travel, parenting leave, etc.
These differences can make it challenging to know how to write a German resume, which is why it is helpful to use a multi-lingual resume creator that shows each section to include, with tips and examples from HR professionals.