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How to get started on the job search in Germany

Embarking on a job search is often the trickiest phase. Germany, facing a labor shortage, boasts numerous job openings in select professions or sectors, creating a landscape where demand often outstrips supply. While companies may advertise positions, they sometimes struggle to attract applicants meeting their specific criteria, leaving vacancies unfilled. However, securing a job in Germany is not a mere stroll in the park; it demands a meticulous job application strategy, substantial research, and thorough preparation before taking the plunge. This blog article can serve you as a starting point.

1. Understanding the German job market

The first crucial step is gaining clarity about the demand for your unique background and profile within the German job market. Assess whether your skills and expertise are in high demand or if you are entering a competitive pool of applicants already residing in Germany. If your profile is deemed high in demand, your journey becomes more favourable, as companies are not only actively seeking your skills but are also more inclined to invest time in onboarding candidates from abroad.

Broadening your understanding of the German job market involves identifying companies facing challenges in attracting qualified applicants. While large corporate multinationals may weather the labor crunch better due to their global appeal, the real demand often lies within small and medium-sized enterprises, known as “Mittelstand” in Germany. These companies frequently find themselves in urgent need of skilled professionals to sustain and advance their operations.

Don’t be deterred by unfamiliar names; many Mittelstand companies are industry leaders, globally recognized in their niche. These businesses, often family-owned for generations, represent stability and expertise, creating an appealing work environment for skilled professionals.

Consider exploring opportunities in startups as well. These emerging enterprises offer a dynamic atmosphere, typically with a younger workforce comfortable with English. Moreover, the German government actively supports newly established companies, providing a conducive environment for career growth. By understanding the diverse landscape of companies in Germany, you can strategically target those aligning with your career aspirations and skill set.

2. Skill Alignment

Once you’ve identified your target companies, it’s imperative to ensure that your skill set aligns with their requirements, especially when it comes to language proficiency, notably German. Analyze positions advertised by German companies to pinpoint any gaps in your skill portfolio. Be prepared to bridge these gaps through language courses or additional training to enhance your employability.

Moving forward, focus on crafting application documents tailored explicitly for the German job market. German HR departments typically expect a concise and structured Lebenslauf (CV) presented in a table format and limited to two pages. This reflects the emphasis on clarity and brevity in German business culture. Remember, it’s not just about quantity and sending out as many applications as possible, quality reigns supreme. Each application should be meticulously customized to align with the specific job requirements.

Consider participating in workshops offered by ProRecognition, to gain deeper insights into the nuances of the German application culture. These workshops provide invaluable guidance on optimizing your application documents, ensuring you stand out in a competitive market. By aligning your skills with the expectations of German employers and presenting them effectively, you significantly enhance your chances of securing the desired position.

3. Strategic Job Hunting

As you embark on the job search, familiarize yourself with the various job portals widely used in Germany. The Make-it-in-Germany portal stands out as an excellent resource, specifically catering to companies open to hiring applicants from outside Germany. Platforms like Stepstone or Monster also feature a diverse array of job listings. However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that companies pay to advertise on these platforms, limiting the scope for some organizations with budget constraints.

A strategic approach involves not solely relying on these portals. Instead, focus on exploring opportunities with specific companies directly. Many organizations, especially in the Mittelstand (small and medium-sized enterprises), may not extensively use paid job portals but regularly update their openings on their websites. By directly visiting the career pages of companies aligning with your goals, you enhance your chances of discovering positions that might not be widely advertised. This targeted approach allows you to tap into a broader spectrum of opportunities and increases your visibility to potential employers.

4. Patience and Process

Germany’s work culture is deeply process-oriented, and this reflects in the recruitment procedures. Be prepared for a methodical journey, as hiring in German companies can be a deliberate and time-consuming process. Multiple steps, rounds of interviews, and potential delays due to decision-makers being on vacation are all part of the norm.

As you navigate through application pools, meticulous adherence to instructions is crucial. Germans value precision, and following guidelines diligently showcases your commitment and adaptability. Proactivity is equally vital—timely follow-ups demonstrate your eagerness and professionalism, traits highly valued in the German work environment.

Additionally, as a non-EU job seeker, anticipate questions about the specific requirements for employment in Germany. Familiarize yourself with the intricacies of the migration process, showcasing your preparedness and understanding of the legal aspects. If your qualification necessitates recognition before visa issuance, proactively addressing this during the application stage can expedite the overall process. Some companies may already be well-versed in hiring international candidates, while others may be navigating this terrain for the first time. Providing clear and informed answers instils confidence, potentially smoothing the path toward your employment in Germany.

5. Salary Expectations

Before delving into the job search, gaining clarity on salary expectations is a strategic move. Utilizing online comparison tools is a good starting point. However, as an international professional, it’s advisable to lean toward the lower end of the salary range. German companies, recognizing the need for onboarding individuals from different backgrounds, often view non-German hires as “starters.” This perspective, despite your wealth of experience, is grounded in the expectation that you’ll need training in new skills and technologies prevalent in the German work environment.

Understanding the taxation system is paramount. Running your anticipated salary through a netto-brutto calculator provides insights into your in-hand income after taxes. In Germany, approximately 30% of your salary will go towards taxes.

6. Experiences from other candidates

Embarking on a job search in Germany can be likened to a marathon rather than a sprint. Reflecting on our collective experience, we’ve observed that success in job hunting varies. Some individuals may find opportunities swiftly, while others encounter a more protracted process. It’s essential to recognize this diversity and, regardless of the timeline, commit to continuous learning from each experience.

The job search, even in a labor-short market like Germany, presents its challenges. Applicants should embrace this phase as the initial hurdle in what might be a series of challenges. In German, we refer to this as the “Feuertaufe” or baptism by fire—an acknowledgment that beyond job searching, there are additional hurdles, including navigating German bureaucracy, interactions with compact foreigner offices, and addressing the potential scarcity of affordable housing in urban centers.

In conclusion, embarking on a job search in Germany demands a strategic approach, emphasizing research, and patience. Beyond the quest for employment, it’s an expedition into a dynamic market, enriched by the diverse landscapes of corporate giants, medium-sized enterprises, and innovative startups. As you navigate this journey, remember that setbacks are not roadblocks but stepping stones to refinement and as the labour market will keep evolving, new opportunities come up constantly.