Must I apply in deutsch?
Is it OK to apply in English?
I know that international experts, who are not fluent in German wonder how to apply. As for me, English is the only language I’ve learned and to be honest, my hands are still wet from those french lessons in school.
I tell you what I did to investigate on this topic.
I asked as many HR and Managers I would find on a job fair what language they preferred or accepted when a new application pops up in their mailbox. That’s why I decided to go to the recruiting fair in Dortmund last year because I knew that’s the place where you meet them all.
English or German, that was my topic of research. 👍
Now, let’s start our investigation tour.
In Hall 1 of the Westfalenhallen (Westphalian Exhibition Halls), more than 30 companies were in attendance for the Recruiting day. Every single one of the companies were in need looking for engineers and IT professionals. The event was advertised with the key words “Recruiting Day” and “Career Fair”. The organizer was the VDI e.V., who is recognized as a representation for engineers and natural scientists and plays a major role in Germany.
Professional appearance: Suits
In the hall or the rooms, almost all of the visitors were dressed professionally, i.e. in a suit, and with CVs and cover letters held under one’s arm. Only a few wore jeans. Some wore sneakers with their dress slacks or suit pants, which (I think) is a pretty weird combination.
The booths of the companies were placed closely together; at almost every booth were printed job listings on the tables or hung on movable walls where they were well visible.
Friendly and open atmosphere
The company representatives at the stands were all super friendly. As soon as they saw that I was stopping at their booth, and watched the entire presentation from a distance, then looked in on one of the representatives standing there and eventually approached, they friendly turned to me and asked how they could help me.
Very easy-going and easy to deal with, even for people who feel insecure or awkward in such conversational situations.
“Real” Executives and HR-Manager to answer my questions
I was quite pleasantly surprised that not only staff from the Human Resources department were representing the companies. No, there were also very well-informed employees at the booth, such as project or department heads.
And they told me about posts in their department that they currently needed to fill, in a down-to-earth and realistic manner.
I liked the fact that the Recruiting fair was well attended but not overly crowded. Thus, the representatives at a stand had enough time to take their time, and to talk to each individual candidate. As far as I noticed, representatives answered technical questions about areas of responsibility and about open vacancies in some detail.
International engineers seeking a job
While wandering around at the recruting fair, I also noticed quite a few foreign engineers and graduates, “all dolled up” (nicely dressed) and actively engaged in discussions with company representatives. Some were talking in German, others in English.
Approaching the tables, I was always greeted with kindness and openness – even though they were promptly very disappointed that I was not an experienced engineer with a desire for professional change!
What real chances do international candidates have?
When I presented myself as a consultant for international MINT professionals, everyone was happy to share information.
Only few knew that there is an English-language master’s program in Electrical Systems Engineering and Computer Science in Paderborn.
The rest, however, said quite frankly that they have never had anything to do with international applicants (yet).
The idea that international candidates might be interested in applying to vacancies in their Company was obviously very strange to them. Are ‘these People’, I was asked, really allowed to work in Germany?!
Applying in German is an advantage
Now, we are in Germany, and so clearly, an application in German is better than one in English. But I knew that one before asking!
Every company has unique corporate circumstances
It was really interesting that I heared very different stories from companies’ day-to-day operations. Of course, I was aware of it, but on that day, I really understood: Every company is different!
They gave me the following information when I asked whether applications in English are welcome:
- “Yes, our job advertisement is in English. But that refers to the developer at our locations in the Czech Republic and Poland; in our branch in the Germany the candidate must speak German.” Upon asking, I was told that it must be at least Level B2.
- “Yes, we also have English-speaking staff. In some areas it is ok. But right now, I need a sales engineer for German customer companies – and he/she needs to speak German fluently. “
- “We are a medium-sized company and have 120 employees. We‚re growing fast and get lot‘s of new employess. Our sales targes are very demanding, it’s difficult to make them. And we need to maintain the quality of our work. Our colleagues don’t just work in export – they’re always assigned to several departments. This is only feasible if someone speaks German well. An English application is basically ok if the profile is right. We’ll definitely at least look at the application “.
- “Yes, we have English-speaking staff as well. But they’re in Baden-Württemberg – it’s not going to work here in Dortmund.
They evaluate applications in English
All company representatives told me right away that they check each application – no matter in what language it’s written.
An application in German is of course particularly welcome.
A company representative said that an application in German had the advantage of being read and understood by all the employees involved – not every colleague feels comfortable reading or speaking English.
But then he immediately declared there are exceptions: depending on the task or department, that may be different, as it depends very strongly on the specific colleagues in the department and their attitude towards the application. If the team does not agree with a certain candidate, the managers will not decide to hire.
Furthermore, it is also important that the technical profile matches the HR criteria. But if that’s not the case, some recruiters said right away, they would not pass on an application to the department.
Telephone interviews show how comfortable a candidate feels with the German language
It is common for many HR managers to call the applicant.
A phone call is easy and fast, and provides the HR people to get a personal picture of the skills and potential of an applicant. You can quickly see if and how well you can communicate with each other in German.
If this works out reasonably well and the applicant demonstrates potential, then the next step is an invitation to an in-person interview – not to mention the possibility of perhaps being employed!
On the Safe Side: Apply in German and English
One company representative clearly recommended that international applicants apply with German and English documents.
The reason for this: in some specialist departments, colleagues only understand little English. Here, a candidate with German documents would be more likely to have a chance.
The workforce of many companies is older and/or speaks no English.
Several times, I have been told that it is not a matter of course that every employee can communicate well in English. Sometimes, this has to do with the age of the workforce; sometimes it’s simply because the employees are not accustomed to international people and can’t really imagine working with them.
The point: how much German is enough?
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer.
Companies would prefer to have fluency in German, obviously! And at least the CV and cover letter in German. But if the profile really fits well professionally, and the working environment makes it possible, companies are also willing to compromise on language skills.
A visit to a recruiting event is advisable
“A personal conversation with the applicant is very important to us”. This they all told me again and again, at every booth.
Many representatives hope to meet a good candidate.
Just like a company representative from a software house said: “I met two good candidates here last year on this recruiting day. We hired them, and we’re very happy with them. I hope to have good conversations today – and maybe I’ll find someone to fit into the team!“
We’ll see each other soon on a virtual job fair
Since Corona has arrived in our world, personal meetings at a job fair will not exist for the time being. But it won’t be long before we meet at a virtual fair.
My first time with more than 150 people in a virtual space was last week. That was fun! And the hurdle of getting to know each other did not exist.
Many of us had smaller or bigger problems with the equipment, many aspects didn’t work out so well the first time. But all in all it was a great experience and I’m sure that the organizers of job fairs will take advantage of it soon.
I’m positive that we will soon be meeting live at a virtual job fair.
If you recognize me, please say hello!
The next step
Do you need a professional feedback on your career strategy for Germany?
You’re welcome to book a Mini-Coaching and receive a first feedback on your CV – either German or English. You’ll learn what steps you need to take next to find a job and boost your career in Germany.
Ich freue mich auf Dich!
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