RESEARCHING GERMAN COMPANIES DURING YOUR JOB SEARCH
When searching for a job, people often tend to skip out on doing company research altogether, as it’s commonplace to think that it’s not important. After all, the company should be hiring you based on how well they think you’ll do the job, not on how much information you know about the company.
The current job market is a competitive one, especially if you’re applying for English jobs in Germany. About 95% of the jobs in the country require at least some level of German fluency, so the few English jobs available tend to have tons of applicants. This is why our number one tip is to learn German, but failing that, how else can you make yourself stand apart from other candidates?
Having a well-crafted cover letter is important, as is a CV, and another way to improve your job application is by researching the company to which you’re applying. You can use information from your research to bring into your cover letter, CV, and later on, your job interviews.
Researching a company will also help you come to an understanding of whether or not you like that company and want to work there. You may find the company is way more awesome than you ever expected or you could uncover some painful truths that make you not want to work for that company at all.
HOW TO GO ABOUT RESEARCHING GERMAN COMPANIES
There’s a lot that goes into researching German companies. Although the effort will take you some time, it will pay off when you’re able to use the data to write a good cover letter, ace a job interview, and most importantly, impress your potential employer with all of your knowledge. All of these things combined will hopefully land you your dream job in Germany.
Here are our top ways to go about researching German companies:
1) Do a deep dive into their company website.
Browse through their website and do a thorough review. Become familiar with the company’s product and service offerings, learn about its purpose and mission, read its press releases, and know general information about its executive team. This information is important to know, as they may ask you about this during a job interview. If you’re able to answer the questions and ask thoughtful questions in return, this will show you’ve done your homework and are serious about the job.
You also need to know what you can expect when you work there. Visit their career page and see what perks they offer employees, what kind of culture they have, jobs they offer, and what they expect from their employees. They may talk about having an open feedback culture, offering German classes, or providing a €2,500+ annual training budget. You may discover they are highly selective about who they hire.
If the company has a blog, read it through too. Do they have product-oriented articles aimed at their customers? Perhaps their software engineers write about the technology they work with and how they work together as a cross-functional Agile team. Maybe their People team writes about what the employee onboarding process looks like.
There’s so much to be learned when reading through the company website. Note down the things that stand out for you, any red flags that come up, as well as any questions that spring to mind.
2) Read independent news articles about the company.
Head on over to your preferred search engine (we love Berlin-based Ecosia because they plant trees!) and launch a search on the company. Disregard press releases and see what people are really saying about the company. Have they made news on big sites like TechCrunch or other media outlets? Have Youtube (or other) content creators made videos about the company’s products and services that are honest reviews and not paid partnerships?
Read any articles that appear interesting and watch related videos, regardless of whether they’re negative or positive. It’s important to build a well-rounded perspective and this is just another way to broaden that perspective.
3) Take a look at the company’s competitors and see how they compare.
Find out who the company’s main competitors are by searching for “<company name> alternatives” or “<company name> competitors”.
Then closely examine these companies and what they offer. Specifically, note what’s different about them vs the company to which you’re applying. What’s similar? Who has the biggest market share? Who’s the most innovative? Is it a crowded and competitive space, with multiple companies vying to get to the top?
Researching German companies and the space they operate will allow you to gain a better understanding of their industry, who’s at the top of their game, who’s the most financially stable, and more. It’s also another chance to get more data for questions you can ask during the job interview or use certain points in your cover letter and/or CV.
4) Determine the company’s financial health.
In our ever-volatile and unstable world, investigating a company’s financial situation is crucial for knowing if you want to work there. This is especially applicable for startups, where on average only one in ten companies survive. Trust me, I know the pain of this personally, having been laid off three times in four years!
Find out if they’ve received funding, how much, and from who? Do they have one investor or several? Have the investors remained consistent and stayed with the company for a long period of time? Just who are their investors? Investigate them too.
More financially important things to find out? What are the company’s revenues vs profits? Are they increasing or decreasing year over year? What’s their run rate? Were they affected by the pandemic? How did they conduct themselves? Is the company still on Kurzarbeit? Have they laid people off before due to poor finances and if yes, did they do it more than once? How did they perform after cutting costs? Does their future look bright?
If the company is a publicly-traded one, you’ll be able to find out the related information on their websites. If they’re not public, you may be able to find press releases about funding rounds. Sites like AngelList also provide an overview of start-ups, their backers, various funding rounds, and more.
You can also ask finance-related questions during an interview. Note, that it’s possible that they can’t/won’t share specific details on their finances, but they should be able to tell you how the company is doing from a high-level perspective.
Knowing more about a company’s financial health and their expected future outlook can help you decide if working for that company is for you. Some people really like working at startups and thrive in fast-paced, challenging environments – even when the risk of the company going out of business is high. On the other hand, if you see the company regularly laying off people due to making poor business decisions on repeat, you may want to steer clear of them altogether.
5) Peruse the LinkedIn profiles of people who work for that company.
Find the company on LinkedIn and examine the profiles of people who have worked there or currently work there. Start with the C-Levels (think CEO, CFO, CTO, etc.), then look at your hiring manager, and others who’d be on your team.
You can find out a lot this way. There could be some red flags like employees not staying long at the company or the management team is completely replaced. You’ll also cool some cool things – like employees being active on LinkedIn, where they share articles they’ve published, status updates about the company, and more.
This is just another way to continue collecting information about that company. It may also spark ideas about questions you may want to ask in an interview.
Our pro tip? Avoid sending connection requests to anyone you look at when doing your research, as it could come across as aggressive at this early stage. Leave it until later, like during the interview process or after you’ve been hired.
6) Analyze how the company responds to customer complaints on social media.
Another good way to research a German company is to look at how they respond to customer complaints on social media. Start by finding out where they have a social media presence – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, etc.
Review the accounts and take a critical look at whether the company responds to complaints made on social. Do they promise a follow-up, ask the customer to send them a private message, or respond in a comical fashion that makes you laugh? Or do the complaints go unanswered?
If they show up on social media and go out of their way to make their customers feel heard, this demonstrates they value their customers and actively work to retain their business. On the other hand, if the company doesn’t reply to customer complaints at all, it could also be a sign that they don’t treat their employees very well either.
7) Visit sites like Trust Pilot to see how they’ve been rated by their customers.
In addition to social media, reviews are another way to see how well a German company treats its customers. You can see if they have reviews on Google, as well as sites like Trust Pilot. Another way to see if there are negative reviews of the company is to search for something like “<company name> sucks” or “<company name> complaints”. This may lead you to blogs, forum discussions, etc.
Read through the reviews and see what customers are complaining about. This will give you a good idea about the pain points their customer’s experience. While you can’t take every complaint at face value, knowing this information is powerful. It could be that these challenges would profoundly affect the very role you’d be taking on or it could be that through your role, you’d be working on a solution to tackle those very challenges.
Continue to document your thoughts, as information learned through reviews can help you bring some interesting questions to your interviews.
8) Read employee reviews on platforms like Glassdoor.
Use sites like Glassdoor to review what other employees have said about working for the company. You can also find out more information about the salary levels they offer, as well as get insight into what the company’s recruitment process is like.
You can glean a lot from Glassdoor. You may find out that a company really cares about their employees having a good work/life balance or you may find out that they make people work unpaid overtime.
While the reviews can tell you a lot about how the company treats its employees, what the company culture is like, and more, it’s also important not to take the reviews too seriously. Some companies ask their employees to provide positive reviews (I’ve worked at places that have done this) to create an overly positive image. On the other hand, a disgruntled or terminated employee may leave a scathing review that makes the company seem like a terrible place to work when it’s the opposite.
Something else to keep in mind is that teams, departments, and bigger business units often operate much differently and employee experiences will vary. It’s important to look at people in similar positions as you and see what they’re saying about the company. For example, there’s a certain food delivery company in Berlin that’s made headlines over the past year for treating their drivers very poorly. Yet talk to someone who works in the office and they may sing praises for the company.
9) Find out what it’s like to work there by asking others.
If you have a social media account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., and if you feel comfortable asking publicly, pose a question to your followers about what it’s like to work for that company. Perhaps there are also some local Facebook groups where you can ask such questions anonymously.
You may find yourself inundated with public replies and private messages where people tell you what they know about that workplace and even what the interview process is like. As with employee reviews, you can’t take what’s said too seriously, but at least you can gain more information about your prospective employer.
10) Check if they have an employer branding strategy.
Good companies have an employer branding strategy, where they actively share what the company is doing, what they value, and what it’s like to work there. The best place to see whether or not an employer has such a strategy is via LinkedIn. You’ll see if they make an effort to introduce their employees, highlight what they are working on, and share the benefits they offer to their employees. A Berlin-based company, Blinkist is very good at doing this for example.
You can further check if they have a blog where they write about things from an employee perspective. Buffer is very good at doing this with blog posts like, The Most Common Questions We Get About Working at Buffer.
While such strategies surely only show the shiny side of things, it provides a further glimpse into the company itself and how they treat its employees.
Documenting Your Research About German Companies
While you can just read things about German companies and arrive at some obvious conclusions, I recommend taking notes as you go about your research. This will ensure you don’t forget anything and help you develop a holistic and well-informed picture of the German company you researched.
Open up a fresh Google Doc (or whatever tool you prefer to use) so you can highlight important points, document your thoughts, list out your questions, bookmark URLs, and more.
Next, review your notes and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. For example, document your questions in a list, URLs in another, what you don’t like about the company, as well as things you like.
Ask yourself questions like this:
|What do I like about the company?||i.e. You like the company culture, they didn’t fire anyone during the pandemic. They’re the only carbon-neutral company in Berlin.|
|What don’t I like about the company?||i.e. They don’t respond to customer complaints on social media. They have not updated their tech stack in a decade.|
|Why do I want to work there?||i.e. They have a renowned CEO and you want to work with him or her. Their service is awesome and you want to be part of making it better.|
|What questions do I have?||i.e. They don’t have a public record of their finances. You want to ask about how the company is doing money-wise.|
As you look through your notes, you’ll start to notice certain themes coming up. These themes capture your motivations for wanting to work for that company, or conversely, your reasons for not wanting to work for that company.
If you’d like to work for that company, use these themes to develop points that you can bring into your cover letter and later, your interviews.
It’s completely normal that while you’re researching German companies, you find out things about the company you don’t like. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide to continue with your job application. If you don’t feel comfortable with what you find, it’s perfectly acceptable to look for a job elsewhere. Trust your own judgment and start applying at companies that align more closely with your values. If you still decide to apply for a job there, you can always discuss your concerns later on during the recruitment process.
While researching German companies will feel like a time-consuming and tedious task, the more practice you get, the easier the research will become, as well as your ability to complete it more quickly.
We hope these tips help you figure out how to go about researching German companies. If we’re missing any good tips, let us know in the comments.
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An honest and detailed guide with tips from a career coach and hiring manager, advising you on how to find a job in Berlin in 2023.
Cheryl Howard, Founder @ The Berlin Life
Hi, I’m Cheryl. My mission is to help you move to Berlin and find work.
A Canadian in Berlin for 10+ years, I have the unique experience of moving to Berlin – not once, but twice. During my time in Berlin, I’ve had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and a permanent employee for numerous Berlin companies. I even managed to find a new job during the pandemic and again in 2023, during Germany’s recession and massive layoffs in tech.
My day job has involved work as a hiring manager, overseeing the recruitment of countless people, as well as a team coach helping teams and individuals work better and find happiness in their careers. Through my side projects, I’ve also shared my personal experiences by publishing a series of helpful blog posts, creating a thriving community of job seekers, and hosting events to help people find work in Berlin. In 2021, I decided to put my coaching and recruiting talents to use by creating The Berlin Life, bringing my existing content and community together in one spot.
The combination of my personal and professional experience means I know exactly what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.