Application tips

Every company has certain requirements of job applicants. Likewise, the companies you target should suit you. For that reason, you should make sure you’re well informed. That will allow you to score points in your application letter and job interview.

Short & Sweet

When applying for jobs in Germany, you should keep several things in mind.

Germans attach great value to complete and mistake-free applications.

It’s also important in job interviews to demonstrate solid knowledge and argumentative skills as well as punctuality, honesty and seriousness.

Various sizes, similar demands

As a rule, foreign students with German degrees have the same job chances as German applicants. In general, it’s worth using projects and college and university groups during your studies to establish contacts with companies for which you might be later interested in working. Personal contacts can be very helpful when you’re starting out on the job market.

Job prospects exchange ideas
Job prospects exchange ideas© DAAD/Jan Zappner

Big companies and SMEs

DAX firms: Know the company!

„Before making first contact, you should get a clear picture of a company from exploring its homepage or doing research online“, says Christian Fischer of Deutsche Telekom. It’s important to demonstrate in job interviews that you’re well informed. The more precisely you can explain why you’re applying for a job at a particular company, the better off you’ll be. Especially at large companies, personnel managers expect students to have at least a basic knowledge of current affairs. The major daily newspapers and their websites can give you a good overview.

SMEs: Here, too, be prepared!

When you apply for a job at an SME, you should also take a careful look at how that company presents itself. Who founded it? Who is at the helm now? What values does it represent? The answers to those questions will help you have a convincing job interview. On the one hand, you will show that you take the company seriously, and on the other, you’ll better be able to argue why you want work for it.

„You can prepare for any interview – from the first handshake to the right tone of voice“

Julia Monzel, Career Service from the University of Cologne

German skills: Your native tongue can help, too

Whether it’s with German or English, many applicants exaggerate their language abilities on their resumés. Personnel managers are quick to notice when they do.

Jasmin Fröhlich, the head of personnel at family owned Berner Trading Holding, says ‘German is not a must’. But if you’re applying for a job with lots of contact with customers, there’s no way around fluent German. Your own native language can be useful as well. For instance, the Berner group needs Russian speaking employees to communicate with its Eastern European subsidiaries. ‘We often train our leading managers in Germany and then send them to our subsidiaries abroad for a time’, Fröhlich explains.

Make sure you have a realistic assessment of your abilities and skills and be forthright and honest. No one can do everything right from the start – which is why no one expects a perfect resumé. ‘There’s no such thing as an uninterrupted curriculum vita’, says Fischer. Lateral shifts may make you more interesting, provided you have a good explanation for why you did what you did.

Application help from universities

Application materials: First impressions are decisive

You’ve found an interesting job opening and want to apply? Your application is the first impression you will make with the company, and it should be as positive as possible. Regardless of whether it’s in digital or conventional written form, a job application in Germany consists of:

  • 1. A cover letter,
  • 2. A resumé and
  • 3. Copies of leaving certificates.

Most job announcements tell you what specific application documents are required. Pay attention as well to the desired format.

Student shows his application documents
Student shows his application documents© DAAD/Jan Zappner

Your cover letter

Your cover letter introduces you to the company. It’s where you can describe your motivation for wanting a certain position. In addition, you should engage with the company and list which of your skills fit the demands of the job. Read the job announcement carefully before you apply. What qualifications does the company require? What responsibilities does the position entail?

You can find model application cover letters on the internet you can use as inspiration for how to formulate your thoughts. But beware! As the Federal Employment Agency’s job application training at advises, ‘Every application should be unique: Copy-and-paste elements from other application can get you immediately disqualified’.  What’s more, your cover letter should be no longer than one side of A4.

Your resumé

Your resumé or curriculum vitae (CV) lays out your training and education, qualifications and skills. German resumés . Instead, German CVs are written in the form of table with categories like personal data, language skills and individual interests.

Make sure you don’t include too much information on your CV. Your last vacation in the Maldives is probably not of much interest. The interaction portal “Europass” offers a good introduction into how to .

Leaving certificates

Part of your application should be your leaving certificates from school and university. If you have certificates from internships, include them as well. It’s important that you send copies and not originals. Many companies don’t return applications.

Ideally, have your certifications translated into German or English so that your achievements have their full impact.

Your application photo

German companies don’t insist on application photos, but they are customary. Choose a neutral but expressive portrait photo that shows your head, neck and upper body and nothing else. It’s worth investing a bit of money in professional photos. Vacation snaps, selfies and private pictures are taboo.

Usually, application photos go at the top right of your resumé or on a cover sheet.

Grammar and spelling

German may be a complicated language, but applications are manageable. If you feel uncertain, ask friends who are native German speakers to check what you have written. Grammar and spelling mistakes cast your application in a negative light.


Make sure everything is laid out neatly in a unified form: white paper without smudges, the same font size and type for all texts and legible scans and copies.

Most job announcements indicate how applications should be filed: by mail, email or online. You must abide by these requirements. For example, if a company requests applications in the form of a pdf, you should not send yours as a Word document or worse still by mail. If you are uncertain, contact the company and ask in what form you should send your application.

Application tips at a glance

Have a look at each different step. Additionally, you may also have a look at Make it in Germany’s helpful video below. 

Thumbnail© Make it in Germany

Explainer videos - Job application


You can get a lot wrong, but also a lot right when you apply for a job.

If you follow conventions, prepare well and avoid unnecessary mistakes, you will significantly increase your chances.