Making a German CV - this is how you do it
October • 7th, 2020
by the Expat in the City Team
Why A German CV (“Lebenslauf”)?
Due to the continuing globalization companies in Germany are more and more internationally oriented. The business language in a growing number of companies is English. However, in most German companies the most spoken word is still German and a certain level of German is often required for a job in Germany. When you are applying for a job in Germany it is advised to send a German CV (Lebenslauf). This shows that you are also able to speak German, something that is highly valued. In this article our partner CVmaker.de gives you tips & tricks and common translations for your German CV.
The German word for CV (which is an abbreviation for the latin words curriculum vitae) is Lebenslauf, the word CV is not or seldomly used. In this article we talk about an English CV with which we refer to the American or British format. The comparisons made are based on these formats.
Differences and main focus areas for a German CV
There are a number of noticeable differences between an English and German CV. Before you apply it is wise to find out whether the company you are applying at is of German origin and thus has a German corporate culture or whether the company has more of an international culture. Then you can allow some more ‘modern’ CV layouts instead of the basic, straightforward CV that is appreciated by most German HR professionals. When creating a German CV, here are a few things to keep in mind:
While in an English CV you don’t provide a lot of personal details, a German CV includes a little more details. Not all are necessary, add the ones that you feel comfortable with sharing.
First and last name
Date of birth
Place of birth
Optional a LinkedIn profile, but only if it is updated and representative.
In an English CV you would only add these personal details:
First and last name
Optional a LinkedIn profile, but again only if it is updated and representative.
In the UK or USA adding a photo to your CV is not common practice. In fact for some office jobs it is a no-go. Photos are considered unnecessary as it says nothing about your skills and can lead to discrimination. In Germany, although it is not mandatory, it is strongly advised to add a photo to a CV. It is considered to make the CV more personal and increases the chances of being invited to an interview. Make sure to use a professional photo, preferably by a professional photographer. Make sure that it gives a good first impression as it will be the first thing the recruiter sees. The best thing to do is to take a half-portrait of yourself (not a selfie!), smile and look into the camera. Choose professional clothing, which also represents your personality and a neutral looking background.
Personal profile text
An English CV always has a personal profile. In Germany it is not very common yet to add a short profile, but this is slowly changing. It could still be a way to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants. Whether it is a good idea to add
it depends a bit on the company where you are applying. If it is a traditional company then better leave it out, if you are applying for a job at a more modern company then it could help you to get the interview. In short, do some research before you add your short profile to your German CV. The short profile is placed after your personal data, right before your work experience. Make it is short and to the point. Who are you, what sets you apart and why are you the best candidate.
Length of a German CV
A German CV is maximum two pages. On these pages all information should be presented in a concise and clear way.
A signature is probably one of the biggest differences between an English and a German CV. In Germany, you put the place and date in the bottom left corner of your CV and you place your (digital) signature in the bottom right corner.
Layout of your German CV
Germans appreciate it very much if your ‘Lebenslauf’ has a business-like appearance and a clear overview. Avoid bright colors and unnecessary additions. Dark blue, gray and dark green are good colors for a German CV.
Bonus tip! Have your CV checked before you send it
Make sure that your resume does not contain any spelling mistakes. No matter how small the mistake, your CV will most likely end up in the trash after your future employer sees the spelling mistake. Therefore, have your German CV checked by a German native speaker before submitting it.
Example German CV
The German Lebenslauf pictured above was created with online cv builder CVmaker.de. It allows you to easily create and manage your cv's and applications in different languages. Get going and land yourself your new job in Germany.
German translations for frequently used words
To apply, apply for - bewerben
Course, training - Kurs
Certificate - Zertifikat
Skills - Kompetenzen / Fertigkeiten
Extracurricular activity - außerberufliche Aktivitäten
Interests - Hobbys
Employer - Arbeitgeber
Employee - Arbeitnehmer
Company culture, corporate culture - Unternehmenskultur
Language skills, languages - Sprachkenntnisse
Mother tongue, native language, native speaker - Muttersprache
Fluent, near native - fließend
Proficient, advanced, near native - sehr gut
Intermediate - gut
Basic, elementary - mäßig
Reading - lesen
Written language, writing - in Schrift
Spoken language, speaking, verbal communication - mündlich
Eager to learn, curious, studious - lernbegierig
Representative - repräsentativ
Motivated, eager - motiviert
Dedicated, devoted, committed - engagiert
Experienced - erfahren
Characteristics, personal traits - Eigenschaften
Focus points, priorities - Prioritäten
Distinguish, distinct(ive), differentiate - sich unterscheiden
Sensitive - einfühlsam
Impressive, imposing - beeindruckend
Leadership, taking the lead, give direction, manage, to run - Führungsfähigkeit
Communicative, having strong communicative skills - kommunikativ
Stress-proof, stress-resistant, able to work under pressure - stressresistent
Result oriented, focus on results - ergebnisorientiert
Reliable, trustworthy - zuverlässig
Confident - selbstsicher
Client-friendly, customer-oriented - kundenfreundlich
Knowledgeable - fachkundig
Trained in - ausgebildet in
Skilled at - geschickt in / qualifiziert in
Expert at - sich auszeichnen in
Irreplaceable - unentbehrlich
As pointed out earlier in this article, it is common in Germany to add more details to your CV than in for example the United Kingdom or USA, where name, address and contact details are enough.
Personal, personal details - persönliche Angaben
First name - Vorname
Usual name, calling name - Rufname
Surname, last name, family-name - Nachname
Email, email address - E-Mail
Telephone, telephone number, phone number - Telefonnummer
Place of residence, city - Wohnort
Address - Adresse
Postal code, zip code, post code - Postleitzahl
Street name, road name - Straßenname
Place of residence, city, town - Wohnort
Date of birth, birth date - Geburtsdatum
Place of birth, birthplace - Geburtsort
Gender, sex - Geschlecht
Marital status - Familienstand
Nationality - Staatsbürgerschaft
Work experience, career summary, work history - Berufserfahrung
Role, position - Tätigkeit
Currently, present, current position, “year / date” onwards - aktuell
Outline, role description/summary - Tätigkeitsbeschreibung
Responsibilities, key responsibilities - Verantwortlichkeiten
Achievements, accomplishments - Leistungen / Erfolge
Involved with - beteiligt an
Contribute to - beitragen zu
Coordinate - koordinieren
Orchestrate - organisieren / auf den Weg bringen
To be in charge of - Die Leitung innehaben
Cashier, checkout girl/boy - Kassenmitarbeiter
Sales representative, sales employee - Verkaufsmitarbeiter
Stock clerk, shelf stacker - Regalauffüller
Customer service representative, customer service agent - Kundendienstmitarbeiter
Driver - Fahrer
Hospitality - Gaststättengewerbe
waiter, waitress - Bedienung / Kellner
Construction worker, builder - Bauarbeiter
Carpenter - Tischler
Mechanic - Mechaniker
It is generally more difficult to translate your education to the German equivalent as the German education system and therefor the types of schools differs from your home country. Here you will find an overview of the most commonly used translations:
Education - Ausbildung
Propaedeutic year, foundation programme - Vordiplom
Thesis - Diplomarbeit
Intership, traineeship, work placement - Praktikum
Primary school - Grundschule
Dissertation - Dissertation
Depending on where you are from you need to find out what (and if there) is an equivalent of your education in your home country. It is not uncommon to use the English name of your school. Recruiters are aware that the German system differs from other countries. If you went to High School, you can name it high school in your CV.
Here is how (in general) the German school system translates.
Hauptschule/Realschule/Gymnasium/Gesamtschule: High school / secondary education.
Vocational Training (Berufsschule)/University
B.A. - Bachelor of Arts or B.Sc - Bachelor of Science: Fachhochschule
M.A. - Master of Arts or M.Sc. - Master of Science: Hochschule
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