AVOID MAKING THESE GERMAN CV MISTAKES

Avoid Making These German CV Mistakes – As a professional who creates content and coaches people about finding work in Germany, I spend a lot of time researching what others say to remain updated on current trends and more importantly, sort out the good information from the bad.

Sadly, as I touched upon in a recent newsletter blast there’s shockingly a lot of terrible advice out there. This misinformation can be found in various publications and or touted by influencers, many of who lack any qualifications to dole out job search or career advice. If they were recruiters or other HR specialists that would be one thing, but getting advice from someone who just moved to Germany and works in tech, for example, is like self-diagnosing a disease by using WebMD versus seeing an actual doctor.

So let’s dispel those popular myths about German CVs to help you sort out what’s true vs what’s false and ensure you don’t make these common mistakes yourself.

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COMMON GERMAN CV MISTAKES

These are some of the most common mistakes that people mistake with their German CVs.

Recommended reading: For the complete lowdown on how to write a German CV, view our super detailed and helpful guide.

1) Stuffing Your CV With Keywords

People talk about how companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan CVs for keywords and present them with the top candidates. They encourage heavy keyword stuffing techniques on CVs that make your text appear unnatural and as if it were written by a robot.

This is one of the biggest myths out there and after personally talking with multiple recruiters in Berlin and accounting for my personal experience as a hiring manager, I can confidently confirm that humans read and make decisions on all job applications.

So write your CV for human consumption and don’t rig it full of keywords for ATS purposes. The only place your profile needs to be optimized for keywords is on job search platforms like LinkedIn or Xing.

Recommended reading: What Are The Best Berlin Job Search Websites? 

2) Altering Your CV Based On German Stereotypes

Many go on about how Germans are this way or that way, reinforcing outdated and offensive stereotypes.

Examples include people saying things like Germans are direct, efficient, and <insert another stereotype here> to explain why CVs should only be 1-2 pages max. They claim that Germans don’t like CVs with different colors, fonts, and font sizes.

Having a CV that doesn’t span multiple pages or creating one that’s easy to read has nothing to do with German culture or preferences but are simply basic principles for putting a CV together.

3) Oversharing Personal Information

They advise sharing all sorts of personal information such as your date of birth, marital status, and the number of children you have.

Sharing these details introduces unnecessary bias into the recruiting process and could cause employers to make snap decisions about you, such as rejecting you for not living close enough to the office or assuming that your kids will see you taking numerous sick days.

None of this information is relevant during the recruiting process and even beyond. Date of birth, marital status, and the number of children should never, ever be included on a CV. Such information will be needed later for payroll purposes, but only after you’ve been hired for the job.

4) Adding Photos

People will also instruct you to include a photo on your CV and that adding one is a “must”. They say that an employer can tell a lot about your level of “professionalism” based on how you look in a photo instead of actually just reading about your education, experience, and skills.

While adding a photo is widely practiced, you don’t need to include one unless you want to and these days, more and more employers ask applicants not to include their photo on their CVs.

Recommended reading: German CV Photos – Are They Even Necessary?

5) Explaining Employment Gaps

It’s also advised that you need to explain employment gaps on your CV and that failing to do so creates a bad impression. The fact that you took time off at any point in your life is no business of your potential employer and shouldn’t influence their decision to invite you to a first interview.

You can explain gaps if you like, but don’t feel compelled to do so. If you are comfortable sharing this information, Indeed has some great tips about how to approach employment gaps.

6) Incorporating A Signature

Another weird myth is that you should include your signature on your CV because “Germans love signing things”. Aside from this being another horrible stereotype, this adds zero value to your CV and should never be included, period.

7) Writing Your CV In German

It’s often advised that you should write your CV in German, even if you don’t speak German well or at all. This provides your potential employer with the impression you have language proficiency when the reality is different.

While it can help you get noticed by employers who may still want to hire you despite the language barriers, you may not want to take this chance. If you do decide to write your CV in German, at least indicate your true language level and be sure to feature it prominently.

8) Not Adding Hobbies To Your CV

If you’re tight on space, you can leave out this information, but it’s actually fairly commonplace to add your hobbies and interests to your German CV. It makes you appear more human, shows that you have interests outside of work, and can even be used as an icebreaker during interviews. For example, I’ve personally asked candidates about their hobbies during interviews as a technique to get to know them better and help them feel welcomed and relaxed.

9) Customizing Your CV For Job Applications

There are certain areas of a CV that you can customize for job applications, but keep the changes to a minimum. Cover letters are way more important to personalize than CVs.

These are the CV elements that you could slightly adjust and reword for a job application:

  • “About Me” statement
  • Skills
  • Responsibilities and accomplishments attached to your current or previous professional experience

Say you’re applying for a certain job, like product manager, you’d read the job description posted on the company website and then pull certain words or phrases from that and incorporate it naturally into your CV (see the above advice about keyword stuffing). 

How To Avoid Making These German CV Mistakes

1) To find out more about how to write a German CV, read our detailed guide.

2) I offer personalized 1<>1 coaching to help you create a CV that’s not only fit for the German market but helps you highlight your skills, experience, and education in such a way it lands you an interview. Read more about my coaching services to see if I can be of help and book a free consultation call for us to discuss your situation in greater detail.

3) Review our list, Professional Career Coaches In Germany to take you even further in building a career in Germany.

Bottomline, be careful about the information you consume and look at who’s giving the advice. Seek out official sources or knowledgable people you can actually trust, like the career coaches mentioned above.

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About Our Author

  • Cheryl Howard

    A Canadian who’s been living in Berlin for 10 years, Cheryl’s moved here not once, but twice. During her time in Berlin, she’s had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and permanent employee for a number of Berlin companies. She even managed to find a new job during the pandemic. That said, Cheryl knows what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.

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