The Perfect German Résumé
First impressions matter when applying for a job. Put your best foot forward with German employers by using an application style they recognize.
A German curriculum vitae, or Lebenslauf , doesn’t look wildly different compared with résumés from other parts of the world. Applicants include a cover letter and list their educational degrees and work experience. When applying for a job in Germany, keep in mind there isn’t just one way to write a CV. There is no "perfect" version. The following is a general idea of how to structure a CV that won't end up at the bottom of the pile.
The first section of a German CV lists an applicant’s personal information. Titled Persönliche Angaben, or Personal Information, the section includes first and last name, place and date of birth, marriage status, nationality, and contact information. Each detail should be listed separately. Make sure to attach a passport-sized photo to the right-hand corner of the document with the name and date of birth written on the back.
Under the Personal Information section, an applicant can include a subsection called Profil, or Profile, where she gives a short description of herself and what she does. Rather than using vague descriptions like “hard working” or “creative,” an applicant can use this space to describe herself in concrete terms, highlighting specific skills, experience, and fields of study. German employers value a direct explanation of experience. This will begin to tell them an applicant’s professional story and history.
The title of the second section is Ausbildung, or Education. In this section, an applicant describes where she went to school, what she studied and how it is relevant to the job she’s applying for. Start with the dates of attendance, the name of the program and the university. Many people also include special areas of study within the degree program. Perhaps the degree is in Political Science, but an applicant focused specifically on Eastern European Affairs. Include that information. It helps an employer get a bigger picture of the applicant’s base of knowledge. Applicants should also include information from their high school years. In Germany, that might mean listing where and when an applicant received her Abitur. Other countries describe high school diplomas differently. Just make sure to include the name of the high school, the dates attended and the final degree received.
The third section is titled Berufliche Erfahrung, or Work Experience. Jobs should be listed in reverse chronological order. With each position, include the dates worked for the company, the position held, and the name of the company. Follow that with a simple description of the tasks performed. Descriptions should be kept short and to the point. No need for a lot of buzzwords or business jargon. In general, German employers like CVs without fluff, just the facts.
If an applicant has special skills she wants to mention, like second or third languages or technical certifications, she can list them under Sonstiges. This section gives applicants another opportunity to stand out and demonstrate background or useful training for the job. Applicants can also include volunteer work or scholarships received.
Opinions vary whether a CV submitted to a German company should be written in English, if the applicant is a native English speaker. This depends greatly on the type of job someone’s applying for. Employers advertising jobs requiring good German language skills would likely react positively to a grammatically correct CV in German. However, if an applicant’s German isn’t very advanced, it may be best to write the CV in English, using the traditional German CV format. This is better than giving an inaccurate representation of the applicant’s level of German skills and is perhaps also less intimidating for those job seekers who have not yet mastered the German language.