German CVs or ‘Lebenslauf’ tend to be more comprehensive than their UK counterparts. The main body is about the same length, but you are also expected to include a cover letter, photograph page, references and certificates, which increase the length substantially.
These are commonly expected as part of a job application. Make sure that you communicate the following key information:
- Why you want to work for this company?
- Why you can do this particular job? (focusing on your skills, experience and knowledge)
- How your career path has brought you to the point of applying for this vacancy?
It is common practice to include a photo with your CV. Format this as a separate page, with your personal information and make sure the picture is recent, a headshot and that you are wearing business appropriate clothes. If colour photographs do you no favours, consider getting a black and white picture instead. However, avoid humerous expression or novelty ties – this is not the place to project your personality.
German employers expect candidates to include personal information that candidates are counseled against including in a British CV, such as marital status, sex, date of birth and even the number of children. This may be phased out as a result of anti-discrimination legislation but for now it is still common practice. The easiest place to include these details is usually on the photo page.
If brevity is the soul of wit, CVs targeted at jobs in Germany should be the essence of soulfulness i.e. short and to the point. Keep the main body of your CV to 1 – 2 pages max.
If you have worked abroad, particularly in Germany, it is important to include this in your CV, as having international exposure will help to demonstrate the breadth of your experience. Allied to this is your linguistic ability. The obvious one is German, but also emphasise your other languages, specifying the level and examples of how you have used them.
Avoids breaks in your CV at all costs. You must account for all periods of your career. If there were any gaps, even for a few weeks, you must explain what you were doing in that time. For a UK company a space of a few weeks between jobs would often not require a great deal of comment. However German companies will probably enquire further. Offset this by making explanatory notes on your CV where relevant.
German employers usually expect to see references at the application stage so make sure you include copies of your employment references with your application, as separate attachments to your CV. You should also include copies of your relevant qualifications (degrees, diplomas or certificates).
Spelling and grammar
Double and triple-check your CV to make sure it is error-free. Of course you should be doing this for your cv anyway, but it is particularly important when applying for roles with German companies, which can be quite unforgiving of basic errors. Additionally, if you have translated your CV into German have it checked by someone with an excellent knowledge of the language to ensure your application is taken seriously.