A German CV is called Lebenslauf – a factual document of the information of the candidate. This CV is quite different from a typical American-style resume. To get a well-paid job in Germany relevant to your area of expertise, you should be able to write a perfect German CV.
Whether you are a student looking to emigrate to Germany or a professional looking to work overseas in a German-speaking company, this article will help you:
- To find the best resume format and layout
- To pick the right cv templates that fit the German Corporate Culture
- To write each section of the German CV
- To identify the DOs and DON’Ts in writing a German-style resume
We will also cover everything you need to know about writing a CV for jobs in German-speaking countries like Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and Liechtenstein.
German Resume Example
In order to demonstrate the correct structure of a German resume, we have provided an example resume for an assistant manager:
The Facts of the German Job Market
Germany’s salaries are among the highest in Europe. Statistics suggest Germany’s average salary is around 42,500 Euros a year 💰 (statista.com), whereas Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Iceland top the list with 65k, 66k, and 67k annual salaries consecutively.
Nevertheless, Germany is a popular destination for English-speaking professionals and workers to settle in relatively good careers.
Differences Between the German-style Resume and the American-style Resume
German CV specifications and American standards have many differences. Most standard resume practices in Germany are affected by their culture and the way the corporate works.
For instance, strict labor laws in Germany have made it difficult for companies to fire employees – making recruitment decisions critical. Most recruiters expect much detail about the candidate before making a final decision.
Here is a list of differences between the CVs in the two styles👇
- Called Resume
- Marketing product – sales pitch of the candidate
- Including a picture could disqualify your application
- Personal information shouldn’t be included
- One page standard
- Emphasizes performance and numbers
- Resumes start with a professional summary
- Reference letter not sent together
- Candidate’s signature not included
- Colorful, attractive resume templates are used
- Called CV (Lebenslauf in German)
- Factual document – no fluff
- Including a picture is required
- Personal information such as age, address, and marital status
- CV could be several pages long
- Emphasizes organization, duties, and responsibilities
- A professional summary is not included in the CV
- A reference letter from the previous employer should be sent along with the CV
- The candidate’s signature, place, and date should be included at the bottom
- Resume templates with minimal formatting should be used
Nevertheless, multinational companies have started to seek American-style resumes when hiring for their German subsidiaries. Most of the small and medium-sized businesses in Germany still prefer their own style of CVs.
How to Write A German Resume
As in writing any resume, you should first start with defining your CV layout, format, and template.
A typical German resume layout is as follows:
- Resume header
- Work experience
- Additional sections
The main difference in this layout is that it does not have a Professional Summary or an Objective Summary as in most American-style resumes. German resumes are considered factual documents – that do not include a sales pitch about the candidate.
The format defines the way you present your experience section. There are mainly three standard formats:
- Functional (skill-based): experience is listed based on the relevant skills.
- Reverse Chronological (traditional): The most recent experience is listed first, followed by the rest of the work experience in reverse chronological order.
- Hybrid (combination resume): a combination of functional and reverse chronological formats.
For the German resumes, we recommend using the reverse-chronological format to list your work experience as German hiring managers are more interested in your recent experience.
German CV Template
Picking the right resume template would be extremely important as German CVs are not considered a good place to showcase your creativity. However, a CV template could still be used to make a great first impression.
The recruiters prefer CVs with limited colors and text formatting. Therefore, use a template that is simple yet well-structured. Avoid using contrasting colors, or different fonts.
You can check out some of our ready-to-fill resume templates for your next German resume.
Begin Your German CV with The Header
As in American-style resumes, German CV starts with the header – but keep in mind the header in a German resume is way different than the American one.
Compared to an American resume that contains the name and contact information in the header, a German resume includes personal and contact information (Persönliches und Kontaktinformationen).
This shows a major difference from American resumes. German recruiters expect a certain level of personal information of the candidate to make a hiring decision. You can always choose not to disclose some of this information though.
- Name – Name
- Marital status – Familienstand
- Age/ Date of birth – Geboren
- Nationality – Staatsangehörigkeit
Contact details should include the following:
- Address – Adresse
- Phone number – Telefonnummer
- Email – Mail
- Link to your personal portfolio or the LinkedIn profile
The photo: Vital on The German CV
Another important part of a German resume header is the attachment of a professional photo of the candidate. This is a common practice in Germany whereas, in America, Canada, the UK, Australia, and some other countries, this is considered a capital offense – one that can send your CV straight to trash.
While you selecting a template, make sure you pick one with space to add a picture.
Here are the key photo guidelines you should consider:
- The photo should be a professional headshot – showcasing head and the shoulder only
- Dress appropriately for the photo. Try to wear low contracting colors that go with the resume colors
- Consider hiring a professional photographer
- Choose a suitable background color or a composition
- Keep your eyes on the camera
- Smile and let your personality shine through
- Do not use selfies
- Avoid distracting hairstyles or fashions
- Avoid holiday or party photos
As in the American resumes, you should use reverse-chronological format to write the experience section – starting with the most recent experience and going backward.
What is different here is how you write the section and the information you provide about the previous employer.
Steal this format to write your experience section👇
- Company name and industry
- Job title: you can list multiple job roles you held in the same company
- Time period
- Location: State the country and the region
- Description: Short description highlighting the duties and key responsibilities you held and the type of work you carried out
Writing the description in your work experience would be quite different from an American resume. Here, you do not have to write about the skills utilized while doing the job, achievements in your job, or the accomplishments – only write the factual information about your work.
In contrast to American resumes, instead of writing about jobs that are irrelevant to the position you apply for, write about an internship or a volunteering work you have participated in.
Here is an example experience section for a teacher:
The education section in German resumes usually come before experience. This is partly because German hiring managers give more value to your education and skills rather than your achievements.
However, you can place this section before or after work experience based on your profile – if you have a strong academic background, you could give priority to the education section.
When listing your education, use reverse chronological format to state the latest education qualifications first.
Both your secondary education and higher education are important for the German CV.
Do not state your GPA in the resume.
German GPA scale system is different from the USA system which ranges from 5 (the lowest) to 1 (the highest) as opposed to the USA scale system which goes from 0 (lowest) to 4 (highest).
If you possess good grades that you want to communicate, make sure you do that without confusing the German employers.
Shortly state the key learnings of each degree or educational qualification.
Here is an example education section for a German resume:
Unlike in the American resumes, you should not use the skills section to promote yourself in the German CV – as your resume should only include factual information.
Write a mix of soft skills and hard skills giving priority to your hard skills.
These are the skills that characterize your relationship with others and provide the recruiter an idea as to how you behave under different situations. These are more generic skills and difficult to prove.
Often based on your most recent job experience or education. German recruiters value these because they are industry-specific.Refer to the German job description to find out the key skills they’re looking for. Five to seven skills in bullet points would be ideal.
About Me: Summarize Your Professional Profile
The professional summary section accounts for the major difference between American and German-style resumes.
In American resumes, a professional summary stands as a sales pitch to the hiring manager highlighting the key skills, expertise, and achievements of the candidate. It also emphasizes why they should hire the candidate and how his/ her expertise could be beneficial to the company.
German resumes on the other hand do not require such sales pitching from the candidate – it’s a factual document of the candidate’s education, experience, and skills.
Therefore, a German resume does not consist of a professional summary.
However, if you’re applying for a multinational in Germany with foreign management, you may still include a professional summary on your resume. If you wish to include one on your resume, below is an example that may help. 👇
Professional Summary for a Software Developer
A Professional Objective is similar to a Professional Summary, which you should not repeat on the resume. The Professional Objective is intended for those with limited work experience: students and candidates going through a career transition.
However, we advise you not to include this section on your German resume.
Additional sections for your German Resume
Additional sections are a great way to provide factual information that will influence the HR recruiter’s decision. Below we have highlighted the type of additional sections you can include in your German resume. Take a good look and only include the sections that are relevant to your personal profile.
Language proficiency is something that most recruiters are concerned about. If you are an ex-pat looking for an employment opportunity in the Germany, having proficiency in German language would be a big plus.
Your fluency in English and other EU languages will give you an edge in the shortlisting process.
When you are writing the language section, have a look at the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).
Also, check out our ready-to-fill resume templates where you can find plenty of German-style resume templates that come with simple yet great features to demonstrate your language proficiency and other sections.
Computer Skills & Certifications
If you have completed any course on computer science, programming, or information technology, you may list them here.
Having basic computer and system literacy would be valuable in any job as German companies employ many computer-based systems in their businesses.
Some jobs in Germany require the candidate to present a valid skills certification. Mention it if you already hold one. If not make sure you apply for one immediately. For instance, if you are applying for a job that involves you driving a vehicle, you should have the required EU driving license.
If you are a student or applying for an academic-related job, you may list the research papers and publications that are under your name.
German recruiters are a little biased towards the educational qualifications of the candidates. Therefore, if you have such academic achievements, make sure you put them in an additional section to gain more visibility.
Interests and Hobbies
This is another place where the German resume differs from the American one. You can list a couple of personal interests in your German resume.
However, make it relevant to the job you apply for.Whether the CV is German or American, it should only include the relevant information . In a full factual document, this is the only chance you get to express your personality and communicate how you would fit into the organization’s culture. The interests you mention here should add value to your candidacy – not just the things you do in your free time
This final section completes the German resume: date and the signature of the candidate. As you have the flexibility to add a couple of pages to your German resume, keep space to put the date and signature at the bottom.
Do not put a separate section naming it as “Candidate Signature”. You can also put your e-signature here.
Tips to Improve Your Resume in German
Make your next German CV stand out from the crowd with these pro tips:
- Check the job description to determine whether the potential employer expects the CV to be in English or German
- Include a link to your LinkedIn profile or portfolio website in the header of your document. Verify that the link works in both PDF format and MS Word format.
- Choose the right resume template that matches German Corporate Culture as well as your personality – check out our ready-to-fill resume templates.
- Get your final CV draft checked by a native German writer.
- Prepare a cover letter to go along with your resume – check out our cover letter templates to get an idea
Summary: Write a Perfect German Resume
- Be factual rather than self-promotional.
- Include your name, contact information, and personal information in the header of your resume.
- Do not include a professional summary.
- The experience section should be succinct, and factual.
- Showcase your education qualifications together with key learnings.
- Include a combination of soft and hard skills.
- Use additional sections such as languages, skills certifications, and interests to demonstrate relevant extra traits.
- Put your signature and date at the end of the document.
- Your German resume could extend to a couple of pages (ideally 2 to 3).
Complement Your Resume with Your Cover Letter
A cover letter would be a great way to showcase your personality and achievements to the hiring manager.
As the German resume only focuses on the factual information of the candidate, the cover letter can be used to describe your interest in the company and the position.
You could write about your key achievements in the previous job, how your experience and skills helped the previous employer, and how that would be potentially valuable to the new employer.
Have a look at our cover letter templates to create a great cover letter for your German recruiter.
FAQs about the German Resume
What if I have a career gap in my German resume?
German recruiters are very much concerned about employment gaps in your CV. However, having career gaps is natural for most candidates.
If you have a gap in your career, you should disclose it to the recruiter without trying to hide it in the resume.
State what you did in that period. This may include volunteering, traveling, taking part in a research project, or taking part in an expedition. You should include this information in your German CV.
Should I write my CV in English or German?
It depends on the company and the position you apply for. If you’re applying for a job in a multinational organization in Germany, they would expect your resume in English. However, most German companies operate in Germany.
Refer to the job advertisement for the language requirements. Use the language of the job advertisement if there is no reference to the CV language.
Can I apply to jobs in Germany without speaking German?
The German market goes beyond its language. In many cases, even if you don’t master the German language, your English skills may be highly desirable. However, we do recommend having a basic command before aspiring to jobs abroad.