Lebenslauf is the official German term used to describe a curriculum vitae, more commonly known as a CV. As you may know, German people like things being done their way. The German CV is thus written in a very efficient yet different manner to what you’d see in other countries. If you follow a few rules you will be able to make the perfect Lebenslauf in no time.
Pointers for a good German CV
Here are a few golden rules of 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 document. 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 sides. You should therefore 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 best to structure your resume later in this article.
- Language – if you are confident in your German skills, you should 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 a German course at our Berlin language school to refine your skills.
What to include in your German CV
It’s important that you send a complete CV to your potential employer and put the information 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 writing your CV is to fill 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.
Now, it’s 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 specialised 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 specialised in Japanese studies. This way, the employer gets a better view of your knowledge and field of expertise.
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 which company you worked for.
If there is anything else which you would like your employers to know but that doesn’t belong in 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 make you stand out from the rest. 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. They are still valuable, but just belong in a different section as they don’t count as real work.
Language & Computer Skills (Sprache- / EDV- Kenntnisse)
Any type of qualification relating to languages or technical skills can be mentioned 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 and highlight them in your CV.
Voluntary Employment (Ehrenamtliches Engagement)
Voluntary work can help you show your goodwilln and passion for helping others, and also the competences that you learned from a very young 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 writing your CV.
Hobbys und Interessen (Hobbies and Interests)
Some people might think this is a stupid section to have on a CV but it is important to every German employer. By mentioning your hobbies you will show the employer what kind of person you are and that you can efficiently balance work and home life. 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 when you apply for a job (if possible). In this letter you can write more about your skills or past experiences. It is a good way to express why you chose to apply to this specific company and what your expectations are. This way the company can understand you more and see if you’re a nice fit for them. A cover letter should never be longer than one A4 sheet of paper, so don’t write too much, it isn’t an essay.
When applying for a job it might be a good idea to ring the company you’re sending your application to. This usually means finding 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, so that they can put the words to the voice when they sit down to read over your CV. It makes them remember you more easily. So if you want to make a good impression and like the job offer a lot, giving them a call may increase your chances of being invited for an interview.