How To Write A German CV To Get Noticed By Employers – People from outside of Germany are often surprised to discover how different German CV’s are, compared to elsewhere. What’s more, many employment guides instruct job seekers to follow outdated practices and include personal information that could expose them to unnecessary bias.
If you’re curious about how to craft a well written cover letter, read German Cover Letter Tips To Help You Get Noticed.
How To Write A German CV To Get Noticed By Employers
So just how do you write a German CV? What’s necessary to include and what things should you leave out?
Let The Berlin Life set you up for success and help you create a CV that follows the country’s standards, reduces bias, and get you noticed by potential employers.
What are the essential elements to include on a German CV?
It’s important you include these pieces of information:
- Contact information – Email and phone number.
- Location – Your current city and country. This will inform employers about potential relocation needs.
- Visa status – If you already live in Germany, let employers know if you have a Blue Card, permanent residency, etc. This way employers if visa assistance is required.
- An “About Me” blurb.
- Highlights of your professional experience
- Education – Degrees, courses you’ve taken, and/or boot camps you’ve completed.
- Relevant certifications, trainings, or conferences you’ve spoken at or attended.
- A list of related skills – This could be people related things like managing teams. It could also be technicals skills like programming languages or use of certain tools like Adobe Photoshop.
- Languages – Specify your levels like, German B2 or native English speaker.
What is an “About Me” blurb and why should I have one on my CV?
Start your CV with a few sentences that tells the world about who you are, professionally speaking. Think of it as a sort of “in the nutshell summary”. This is where you can truly show off your personality. A well written statement can make you stand apart from the crowd and like a cover letter, it acts as a teaser that leaves employers wanting to know more.
It be shouldn’t be more than two to three sentences long and should explain what you do for a living, things you’re passionate about, and the value you can deliver.
I work as an Agile Coach, and this is my current “About Me” blurb:
An IT project manager turned enthusiastic Scrum Master and then passionate Agile Coach. A servant leader supporting organizations in their agile journey, guiding departments, teams, and individuals to develop to their fullest potential.
How should I present my professional experience on a German CV?
For each place you’ve worked, include:
- Your company name
- Title or role
- Start and end dates
- Responsibilities and/or accomplishments
- What the company does (optional)
- URL (optional)
It’s not uncommon for people who’ve held the same role at more than one company to repeat the same responsibilities multiple times throughout their CV. For example, a person who works as a team lead usually holds regular one on one meetings with the people who report to them. This person may have been a team lead at three different companies and in such a case, there’s no need to repeat this responsibility three different times.
I’d recommend listing out your personal accomplishments instead. In the case of a team lead, you could say something more specific like:
Worked with my employee to develop a personal growth roadmap that led to her becoming a team lead within one year.
See how much better that reads?
If you minimal experience in your field, you can highlight projects you’re worked on, meetups you regularly go to, books you read, conferences you attend, and/or volunteer work you do. i.e. A newbie software engineer may build their experience by contributing to open source projects.
What other information could I include on my German CV?
Other optional information to include on your CV:
- A website – Link to your portfolio or blog, showcasing you and/or your work.
- Social profiles – LinkedIn, Github, Twitter, Instagram etc.
- Volunteer work.
- Passion projects or side hustles – Take me for example. I’m more than just a coach. In addition to my day job, I run a travel blog and this site, The Berlin Life.
- Hobbies – A list of what you love doing. Maybe you’re an aspiring chef, ardent cyclist, or a wine connoisseur.
I personally like putting things like this on my CV, as it feels authentic and makes me feel more relatable. But not all companies are that cool or forward thinking just yet – especially more traditional German companies. Check out the vibe of the company to which you’re applying to get a feeling about whether or not it’d make sense to include these items on your CV.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you and you should include what you think makes you look like your best self, will enhance your overall CV, and most accurately represent you as a person.
What information shouldn’t I include on my German CV?
Despite what a lot of German employment guides tell you, there are certain things that you shouldn’t include on your CV.
1) Avoid sharing too much personal information.
Many will tell you that in Germany, that it’s normal and even required to share things like marital status, your date of birth, country of birth, as well as how many children you have on your CV.
Traditional companies may still expect this as it previously was the norm, but you absolutely don’t need to to provide this data. Some German companies are now even asking applicants to not include this information in their job applications.
2) Maybe take a pass on using a photo as well?
Photos are yet another unfortunate factor that could add bias during the recruitment process. Use your best judgement and do whatever makes you feel comfortable when adding photos to your CV.
If you do decide to feature a photo on your German CV, keep it professional looking and/or aligned with the general culture of the companies to which you’re applying. Typically, a simple head shot does the trick.
I’d also recommend keeping your photo on the small side and not something that takes up an entire page of your CV. Such a prominent and large photo can come across as a bit too much (aka self centered and egotistical), unless you’re applying for job where such photos are commonplace like an acting or modelling gigs.
What else do I need to think about when writing a German CV?
We’ve told you what to include and not include, but what else is there?
1) Keep it short and sweet.
German CV’s tend to be one to two pages maximum. Some tips on keeping your CV brief:
- Avoid wordy descriptions, like the excessive use of adjectives.
- As mentioned above, don’t repeat the same responsibilities over and over if you’ve held the same role in more than one company.
- Only list relevant certifications, trainings, and conferences and even then, no more than a handful. Link to your website or LinkedIn profile instead, so interested employers can go there to learn more.
- If you’ve had a longer career, skip listing what you did at those first jobs and only detail what you did in your more recent positions.
- As with cover letters, don’t write a novel and summarize, summarize, summarize.
2) Presentation is everything.
Accessibility is important factor to consider. That said, make your German CV easy to read. Use consistent formatting, a readable font (a minimum 16px font size), and large bolded headlines. Use bulleted lists or a two column format.
3) Proofread your CV before submitting your job application.
This seems obvious, but take time to ensure there are no typos or grammatical errors on your German CV. Check that the formatting is consistent, there’s a logical flow of information, and links don’t lead to broken pages.
If possible, have a second or third pair of eyes review your cover letter.
Pro tip: Post in our Facebook group and ask fellow members to take a look and give you feedback.
4) Honesty is always the best policy.
Be truthful about your education, work experience, professional accomplishments, and language levels. Exaggerations could come back to haunt you and set false expectations with your potential employer.
Berlin’s small and people talk. A potential employer may know someone at one of your former companies and reach out to them for information. If this happens and it’s found you misled your potential employer, it could cost you not only the job but your reputation.
5) Be human.
Try not to go overboard with keyword stuffing. Be strategic about how many points you pull from the job description and add into your CV. Avoid long lists like the plague, as no one wants to read a page of every single conference you attended.
While keyword stuffing techniques may help you get noticed by algorithms, your CV will come across as if it were written by a bot. Even worse, this may bore or frustrate your reader, which is the last thing you want to happen.
Keep your German CV as natural sounding as possible, while still adding in key points you want to convey.
Should I write my CV in German, even if I don’t speak German?
This is a good question, which we examine more closely in our article, Are There English Speaking Jobs In Berlin?
Some recommend writing your CV in German to get noticed by HR software algorithms, as it’s more likely your profile will bubble up to the top of search rankings.
Honestly, this might actually work! However, be careful and use your best judgement, as it could backfire if they discover your actual level of German doesn’t match the level of your job application communication.
Pur top tip here? Indicate your language level on your CV, like A1, B2, etc.