Lebenslauf is the official German term used to describe a curriculum vitae or CV. As you may know, German people like things done their way. The German CV is thus also written in a very efficient manner yet different than expected in other countries. If you follow a few rules you will be able to make a true Lebenslauf.
Pointers for a good German CV
Here are a few golden rules for a good German CV:
- Picture – a typical German CV will always include a picture, generally you put this in the right top corner of your PDF file. Make sure that the picture is a professional picture. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t smile.
- Reader friendly – in Germany they will allow you up to two pages for your resume. This doesn’t mean you have to fill two pages or that you should cram as much info as possible onto your two A4’s. Therefore you should make sure that the font isn’t too small or ridiculously big.
- Logical structure – make sure you start your CV with general info about yourself. Do not just fill it with random information. We will tell you how to best structure your resume later in this article.
- Language – if you are confident in your German skills you can write your CV in German. Be aware that language mistakes in your CV can be fatal to your application. In other words, if you aren’t 100% sure, it’s better to stick with English. If the job requires German language skills and you are not sure if your level is good enough, you can apply for some classes to catch up.
What to include in your German CV
It’s important that you send a complete CV to your possible future employer and put them in the right order. Here’s a list of things you should/could mention in your resume.
Persönliche Angaben/Personal Information
The first thing you do when making your CV is filling in your personal information. Here you state your name (first and last), your place and date of birth, your marital status, nationality and last but not least, your contact information.
Time to boast about your diplomas in the section ‘Ausbildung’. Here you mention when, where and what you studied, in that order. Something important to remember is that you should mention your most recent studies first and then descend and end with your first form of education. In many other countries, it is the other way around so be careful!
If you specialized in your studies then be sure to mention this as well. For example, if you studied Eastern languages and cultures you can mention that you specialized in Japanese studies. This way, the employer gets a better view of your knowledge and talents.
Berufliche Erfahrung/Work Experience
Just like with the last section, the ‘Berufliche Erfahrung’ or work experience should be mentioned in reverse chronological order. Again it is important to note down the dates you worked, what your job title was and at what company you worked.
Everything that you still want your employers to know but doesn’t belong to any of the previous categories, welcome to ‘Sonstiges’. The things mentioned here aren’t absolutely necessary to put on your German CV but they can help you to stand out. Any relatable info you want them to know you can put here.
Prior Internships or Work Experience (Berufserfahrung – Projekte & Praktika)
Internships, student jobs or projects that aren’t quite worth mentioning in ‘Berufliche Erfahrung’ you can put here. It’s not because these experiences weren’t part of your main jobs that they aren’t valuable.
Language & Computer Skills (Sprache- / EDV- Kenntnisse)
Any type of certificate related to languages or technical skills you can mention here. For many jobs it is already expected that the applicants know multiple languages and/or have computer skills so it is smart to add these competences of yours and highlight them in your CV.
Voluntary Employment (Ehrenamtliches Engagement)
Volunteering work can help you by showing your goodwill and also how you have been taught certain competences from an early age. Many types of volunteering work indicate people skills, ambition and administration. Every experience is valuable so don’t dismiss a small volunteering job when making your own CV.
Hobbys und Interessen (Hobbies and Interests)
Some people might think this is a stupid section to put on your CV but it is important to every German. By mentioning your hobbies you actually show the employer what kind of person you are. Be careful in mentioning certain hobbies/passions cause they need to fit the kind of job you’re applying for. This is a very German thing to add to your CV and many employers will appreciate it.
Aside from a CV, we strongly recommend you to send a cover letter along when you apply for a job (if possible). In this letter you can write more about your competences or past experiences. It is a good way to express why you chose to apply yourself to this specific company and what your expectations are. This way the company can understand you better and see if you’re a nice fit for them. A cover letter should never be longer than one A4 paper, so don’t write too much, it isn’t an essay.
When applying for a job it helps to call the company you’re sending your application to. You usually would find an excuse to call them, such as asking them how they prefer to receive their applications (personal email, recruitment office, etc) for example. This call is just so the employer can hear your voice and have a personal connection with you. It makes them remember you more easily. So if you want to make a good impression and like the job offer a lot, giving a call can help you to actually be invited for an interview.