Best Ways and Sites To Find a Job in Germany
Last updated: 14 April 2020 / by Sam Williams
A note about COVID-19: This guide is based on the general rules, but there may be some temporary restrictions in place due to the presence of the COVID-19 virus. We are keeping the situation under close review and will update our guidance as necessary.
Unless you are retired or independently wealthy, the chances are that you will need a job to pay your way while you are living in Germany.
The good news is that Germany has a buoyant labor market with low rates of unemployment, and providing you know where to look, you will find plenty of jobs.
To help you get started, look at our guide on finding a job in Germany and the best sites to use.
The German Job Market
In the last decade, unemployment rates in Germany have tracked at consistently low levels, but some areas are better than others.
Some states have lower rates of unemployment, particularly southern regions such as Bavaria.
Do not automatically head to the main cities; look at the employment rates for your field of work before you choose where to move to.
The jobs that you will find available in Germany depend on the skills you have and the industry you are searching in. Some industries are more open to hiring foreign workers than others, and you might not even need to speak German to get the job. There tends to be a general shortage of skilled and qualified workers, and there is also a demand for vocational professionals.
In general, the unemployment rate is higher for expats than German nationals, so you will need to take every opportunity to improve your chances.
One way to do this is to learn the language; you will find many guides telling you it is not essential, and that is true. Nevertheless, if you speak at least a reasonable level of German more positions will open, and you will be more attractive as a prospect.
You will find there are lots of language schools in Germany where you can improve your skills, or even just have a refresher if you’re a bit rusty.
Getting Prepared – Do I Need a Visa?
Before you can start work in Germany, you’ll need to make sure you have the right type of visa or permit in place. These are different depending on where you’re coming from.
If you are a citizen of a fellow EU/EEA country or Switzerland, no visa is required to work, just a valid passport or ID card.
Individuals from some countries, such as the US, Australia and Japan, do not need a visa to travel to Germany, but on arrival must obtain a German residence and work permit. They can stay for up to 90 days without working with no need to apply for a permit, but extended stays or the intent to work requires the residence permit.
If you are from neither of these groups of countries, you will need to obtain a German visa and residence permit to be able to work. It is not always easy to get approved for a working permit, and much will depend on your qualifications. There is a website – Make It In Germany – where you can find out the likelihood of being able to work in your chosen area in Germany.
For those that need a visa to be able to work, planning is essential as the process can take several months to complete.
If you are a professional where qualifications are essential for the job, you may not immediately be able to work upon arrival in Germany.
Qualifications from your home country may not be accepted as proof of your competence, and without further preparation, you may discover that you’re unable to work in your chosen field.
There is a service that enables existing qualifications to be verified for use in Germany. Even if it is not essential for your work in Germany, having recognized qualifications may place you into a higher pay-scale.
University degrees can receive validation for Germany from the Central Office for Foreign Education (known in German as Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen). A Statement of Comparability can be issued, which describes the foreign qualification and its application but doesn’t go quite as far as issuing a formal recognition certificate for use.
Best Sites to Find Work in Germany
One of the easiest ways to find a job in Germany is by searching online. Countless German job sites carry all types of employment, from casual and part-time positions to highly-skilled, professional roles.
Here are some of the best sites to try:
EURES – the online network of jobs provided by the European Commission. All types of jobs are included here and there are multiple ways to search.
- Make It In Germany – geared towards skilled workers, the site is available in both German and English, plus six additional languages.
- Deutscher Pflegeverband (the German Care Association) – a dedicated portal for those seeking employment in the caring industry.
- Monster – a very busy and popular general job site, with a wide variety of types of work
Stepstone – available in German or English, you can search by sector or location
Indeed – acts as a type of metasearch, collating jobs from multiple sources
- Die Zeit – the online newspaper publishes the latest academic jobs online every Thursday
Aside from job sites, there are other ways to search online. Social media are increasingly popular and many companies are reaching out to engage with potential employees rather than pursuing traditional routes.
Many multinational companies are based in Germany, and they often advertise their vacancies on their own website. If you have an idea about who you want to work for, look on their site for the latest positions. You might find these under the headings of “Vakanzen“, “Karriere” or “Stellenangebote“.
Other Ways to Find a Job
Although online is arguably the most popular and convenient way to find a job, there are other places to search too.
Germany has employment exchanges, known as Agentur für Arbeit, dotted around the country.
The Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) is the largest of these with a network of approximately 700 dotted around the country. Its ZAV (International Placement Services) are set up for foreigners trying to find work.
They offer communication in both English and German, and you can ring or email to find your local office. Aside from local offices, they also have an online portal where you can search for jobs.
Another option is private recruitment agencies in Germany. You will find under them as Arbeitsvermittlung in Gelbe Seiten, the German Yellow Pages. You have to be very careful with these agencies as some may charge a fee for placing you in a job; this can be as much as €2000.
Look out for recruitment agencies that are registered with BAP – Bundesarbeitgeberverband der Personaldienstleister (the Federal Employer’s Association of Personnel Service Providers).
For those seeking academic or highly qualified positions, the Saturday editions of the national German newspapers publish the latest vacancies.
Networking is another way to find new positions, and it is a popular approach in Germany. If you are not familiar with this very direct way of looking for work, it can feel a bit intimidating at first. However, it does not take long to get into the swing of things, and after a few attempts, you’ll be much more comfortable.
Search for local networking meetups in your district and turn up, armed with a copy of your portfolio (die Mappe – see more about that below). Meetups.com is a good place to start looking for groups that suit your needs.
If the idea of real-life meetups sounds too overwhelming, there are often virtual hangouts too. LinkedIn, or Xing – the German equivalent – are ideal for improving your connections.
What is the Recruitment Process in Germany?
You may have gone through the recruitment process many times in your own country but do not make the mistake of assuming it will be identical in Germany.
There are very specific expectations that a prospective employer will expect you to follow, and if you are not aware of these, you may fail at the first hurdle.
Submitting a portfolio, die Mappe, is the usual procedure in Germany, and sometimes you may even be explicitly asked for this. Die Mappe is a suite of documents that comprehensively outline your suitability for the role. The following should be included:
- A covering letter (anschreiben)
- Your CV (lebenslauf)
- Copies of your academic certificates (including recognition certificates, if appropriate)
- Copies of references and testimonials
- Passport photos
If you are submitted this in paper, all of the documentation apart from the letter should be printed on good quality paper and placed inside a folder. The letter goes on top of the folder, and this is then placed into an A4 envelope, not folded.
Increasingly, companies may ask you to submit your portfolio electronically, but the requirements are the same.
You should take the covering letter seriously; it is not just a token gesture. Every part of die Mappe is scrutinized during the process and will contribute to the decision whether to call you for an interview.
The letter should always be typed and be no longer than one side of A4. The letter should be concise and factual; personal motivation is less persuasive than why you are the best person for the job.
Before applying for the job, take the time to find out the precise title of the person you are writing to; titles are important in Germany. Speculative applications are fine and can be addressed to Personalabteilung.
If you don’t know the name of the person, you can open the letter with Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren.
If you know the person’s name you should start with Sehr geehrte(r) Frau/Herr and their last name. The letter can be closed with Mit freundlichen Grußen.
Your German CV should be laid out in the way a German employer expects, otherwise, it may not even get read. You can find more guidance about how to write a CV the German way here.
If your German is very basic or non-existent, it is better to make the application in English. This will avoid any embarrassment should you reach the interview stage.
Even if you do not need a visa to begin work, the nature of your job may mean that you need to provide proof of your background.
You can obtain a German criminal record check (a Führungszeugnis) from the local registry office in your area (Meldebehörde).
German Culture – What to Expect When You Have a Job
Once you have a job, you may notice some cultural differences compared to your home country. The following tips can help you fit in more quickly:
- Make sure you are punctual. Germans always expect rules to be followed strictly and this includes timekeeping. Even if you are only going to be a few minutes late, it would be expected to call ahead and apologize.
- Business attire is typically conservative, understated and formal. Casual wear is not the cultural norm in any season.
- Every transaction is structured, and you can expect your working day to be planned precisely.
- German speech is typically direct and in the workplace, it’s not expected to compliment others on advancing routinely. Humor is not common within a business context and subtle hints can be missed.
- Personal lives and working lives are kept very separate, which can sometimes be mistaken for lack of friendliness, but this is not the case.
- Ensure you follow colleagues’ lead on the use of “Sie” and “du“. This lack of differentiation isn’t present in the English language, and it can lead to an unintentional offense when speaking German. It is not uncommon for co-workers to continue to use the more formal Sie, despite working together for many years
The above hints are a generalization and every workplace has its own individual character.
However, you can expect German employers to be fair, highly structured and very clear with their communication.
Germany has some of the lowest working hours in Europe, and employees are encouraged to take their holidays and enjoy family time. A healthy balance of work and personal life is expected in Germany, and employees typically get more annual leave than on average across the EU.
The above guide will provide you with all the basic information you need about starting work in Germany.
Whether you are planning on living and working in Germany for a relatively short time, or the longer term, you will discover there are many opportunities for all types of foreign workers in the country.
Learning German will certainly enhance your opportunities, and you will find the German people are very encouraging to those who are just starting out.