How To Find Work In Germany Without Speaking German!
Mar 12, 2021 0
Finding a Job and Working in Germany
With various generous options to obtain residency, it's not a complicated process if you tick the right boxes. Germany is addressing a clear need with its visa requirements specifically seeking to attract professional and qualified migrants who can provide the skills necessary to contribute to an advanced, industrial society.
Consequently, to be successful you will need to:
be educated to degree level OR possess a formal vocational training in a recognised trade.
ideally speak German to a higher intermediate (B2) level (Although this is not strictly a must-have, it will 10x your chances of finding a job).
be able to convincingly prove that you can run and sustain your own small business or gain sufficient revenue through selling your services as a freelancer.
Let’s take a closer look at the different possibilities the German government offers for those seeking to live and work in Germany.
EU Blue Card
The Blue Card, aimed at highly qualified professionals, offers a fast track route to permanent residency for those who tick the necessary boxes.
In Germany, the visa requirements for the EU Blue Card are as follows:
Be qualified to degree level (minimum bachelors).
Have either a job offer or a signed employment contract in your field of study, conditional upon being granted a work permit.
A salary of at least €53,600 (in 2019).
This is relaxed to a minimum of €41,808 (in 2019) for professions where there are recognised worker shortages, such as IT professionals, scientists, doctors, mathematicians and engineers.
However, this requires prior approval by the German Federal Employment Agency before a Blue Card is granted under these circumstances.
The benefit of a Blue Card is that after 33 months you are granted permanent residency (subject to a number of additional criteria being met). This shortens to 21 months if you can prove that you speak German to B1 level. Don‘t confuse this with citizenship, which carries a whole different set of criteria and typically can only be applied for after 8 years (with some exceptions).
If you don’t meet these pretty stringent requirements, don’t worry. There are other options available to you, as we explain below.
Standard Residence Permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)
If you don’t fulfil the criteria necessary for a Blue Card, you can still obtain a residence visa which allows you to work in Germany. The standard conditions will then apply, as they would for any third country national applying for residence in Germany for employment reasons.
Different qualifying criteria apply for this permit compared to the Blue Card, depending on the job you will be doing and the varying scarcity of eligible workers to fill the role.
Typically, if you have a university degree, then the first route available would be the Blue Card. But what if the job you’re being offered doesn’t meet the salary requirements necessary to qualify? For these cases, the process below is the route you would follow. Where the Blue Card is not an option, the employer must in the majority of cases attempt to hire a German or EU/EEA citizen.
However, not all professions are treated equally. Twice a year, the German Federal Agency for Employment (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) publishes their Whitelist of occupations in which there are severe worker shortages.
Employers seeking to hire qualified third country national applicants for these occupations do not have to first show that they have attempted to hire an EU national. Instead, the employer can offer the position to a non-EU national without having the Federal Agency for Employment checking the application. This means the whole end-to-end process is somewhat faster because it eliminates this step.
Job Offer as a Prerequisite?
For both the EU Blue Card and the Standard Residence Permit, you need to have a job offer before you can apply for and be granted these permits. So, how do you find a job, you’re probably asking? A good place to start is the jobs page, where you can search directly through the Live Work Germany website.
We’ll get to some of the other great places to look further down the article. Before you do though, let’s have a look at how realistic your chances are of finding work in Germany. We created a short quiz which you can download for FREE to give you some honest feedback on how attractive you are to potential German employers.
Freelancer / Self Employment Visa
Perhaps you’re not so keen on finding a job in the regular German economy and instead you’d like to work as a freelancer or start your own business? To obtain a residence visa (Aufenthaltstitel) by this means, you normally have to apply from your home country. However, if you’re legally resident in Germany on a student visa then you can apply from within Germany.
You are typically required to supply the following documents as part of your residence application to be self-employed or a freelancer:
Proof of income already gained in this capacity
Portfolio of work
Evidence of prior experience
Proof of funds to independently support yourself
Letters of intent from German companies who express an interest in contracting your services
For a more detailed explanation, and interactive coaching on exactly which bases you’ll need to cover in the documentation you submit, you can apply for an online course.
But I don’t have a job offer and I’m not self-employed…
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce…
The Job Seeker Visa
Unlike the EU Blue Card or a Standard Residence Permit, which are both issued on the condition of you being offered employment, the Job Seeker Visa allows a candidate to enter and reside in Germany for 6 months without a job secured, for the very purpose of looking for work.
To apply for a Job Seeker Visa, the candidate must present evidence of the following as part of their application:
Valid passport and biometric photos
Necessary funds to cover their 6 month stay in Germany
Work experience in their field of study (standard is 5 years but this can vary).
Bachelor’s degree certificate (or greater)
Cover letter outlining your reasons for applying for the visa
Evidence of travel health insurance which covers an extended 6 month stay in Germany (apply for the best German Insurance here)
Job Seeking for Graduates of German Universities
For graduates of German universities, you’re allowed to extend your residence in Germany for a period of up to 18 months after graduation, for the purpose of seeking employment.
The process is relatively straightforward:
The work you’re seeking must be relevant to your studies (which I guess in most cases it will be)
You must have the available funds to support yourself during this time, or have somebody who can act as a guarantor.
Along with your passport, you will need to show:
your degree certificate (or a document from your faculty office stating you have successfully completed your studies, if your degree certificate hasn’t been issued yet)
proof of ongoing health insurance cover to convert your student visa into a residence permit for seeking employment. (apply for the best German Insurance here)
Unlike the Job Seeker Visa, on this residence permit you’re also permitted to work in any job you wish in order to support yourself, while you seek relevant employment to your field of study.
Finding English Speaking Jobs
The good news is that YES, it IS POSSIBLE to find English speaking jobs in Germany.
The not-so-good-news is that your chances of finding an English-speaking position are highly dependent on a number of critical factors. It’s important you understand your realistic chances of finding work, before you spend valuable time and energy chasing after a unicorn.
Germany isn’t Dubai or Singapore…
My best advice would be to approach this pragmatically and evaluate your present situation based on the factors and tips below. This will enable you to look at what other areas may be worth exploring to improve your chances of success.
There is certainly no shortage of English-speaking HR Managers, or Digital Marketing Executives, or Sales Professionals. However, look towards the STEM-related professions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and the situation is very different.
Here, German language fluency is often less important and these professions are also where there tend to be more worker shortages of suitably qualified candidates. Looking for opportunities “off the beaten track” is also more likely to net you success than applying to well-known companies which openly have a policy of hiring in English.
Don’t chase what everyone else is chasing.
(For the guys remember what it was like trying to catch the attention of the most popular girl at school!)
You need to be more creative, strategic and cunning to bag that perfect job in a competitive market. So think about it:
What do you bring to the table?
How are you unique?
Why should an employer hire you?
Your Employment Depends on…
The Seniority Of The Position
This is arguably the most critical factor. The rule of thumb is: The more senior the role, the less important it is to be fluent in German, especially in multinational, foreign-owned companies.
The Role And The Industry
Some industries and job types are by nature less dependent upon language skills. You’re less likely to need fluent German if you work as a programmer or software engineer than if you work in a client or customer-facing role such as Sales & Marketing or Project Management, dealing primarily with German-speaking clients.
It goes without saying that any position requiring communication skills or interaction with clients, customers, and external suppliers is going to be trickier if you don’t speak the native language.
The Size Of The Company
Larger multinationals are more likely to adopt English as the international language of business. This not only applies to foreign corporations but also some larger German firms too.
Medium sized, family owned businesses are much less likely to offer jobs in English, although ironically, these are the very companies that are most struggling with a skills gap for essential vacancies.
Perhaps I’m stating the obvious here, but it’s going to be easier for an experienced candidate to bag an English speaking job than a fresh university graduate.
There are way more candidates than there are well paid English speaking roles. English speaking jobs in Germany are in high demand because there are plenty of well-educated international jobseekers seeking work in Germany who don’t (yet) speak fluent German.
Your Network is your Net Worth. Everyone has a valuable network of contacts, even if they don’t realise it.
Look further than your “obvious” contacts - Who else do you know who could help you?
Maybe they know someone who knows someone who can hook you up.
Your former university professor or tutor, Fellow alumni who may have contacts in Germany
Friends / relatives of your partner
Any German friends or followers you may have on social media, Your German language tandem partner
I can’t stress this enough. Your network is your NET WORTH. The LinkedIn search function is your friend here. Use it to identify headhunters in your profession or i ndustry. Spend 30 minutes or so typing in different keywords into the search, for example “pharmaceutical jobs Frankfurt”. You will soon get an idea of who is in the game and which positions are advertised in English.
Spend time each day on LinkedIn to grow your professional network. Look at new contacts’ profiles and contacts to see if anyone there is also worth reaching out to. It takes time and effort but it pays off. Not all open job positions are advertised.
Finding A Job in Germany – Useful Sites for Expats
So we’ve explained the “how?”, and now we’re going to explore “where exactly?”!
LinkedIn is a useful tool in Germany because it also has a strong, domestic competitor called Xing.
What this means, in practical terms for the non-German speaking job seeker, is that LinkedIn jobs tend to be more scaled towards larger, international companies (although this is by no means a hard and fast rule), whereas Xing is more geared towards medium-sized, German speaking companies.
LinkedIn is at its most powerful as a tool for connecting with headhunters, some of whom will be recruiting for English speaking jobs in Germany. You just have to build up a presence and increase your number of connections to link in with them (see what I did there?).
Treat your presence on LinkedIn a bit like building up a following on any other social media platform. If you want to build influence, invest time into regularly updating your profile, having a professional photo, writing blog posts on LinkedIn on topics relevant to your professional career, and cultivating your network.
Generic German Job Search Sites
Now, while the offerings on these sites are overwhelmingly aimed at Germans, it is worth panning for gold here. Not everyone will bother to look on these sites, so you could gain an advantage over your fellow jobseekers.
Remember my advice from the previous post? True, only around 5% of the job advertisements posted here will be in English but it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to sift through the ones that aren’t, right?
The major job search sites in Germany are:
Generic German Job Post Aggregators
Aggregator sites differ from the job search sites above, in that they apply an algorithm to find job adverts and bring them all together in one place. Some (but not all) of these also generate revenue through allowing companies to advertise their positions directly on their sites.
From most to least useful, in my opinion, the main sites are:
Because Indeed and ZipRecruiter are internationally active sites with a presence in several countries, you could check out their site in the UK or US to familiarise yourself with the general navigation of the site in English language before tackling the .de site. Think one step ahead.
Employer & International Candidate Matching Services
Developed out of necessity, these are a smart and innovative concept and potentially very useful to international job seekers looking for English speaking jobs in Germany.
Employland, founded i n 2014, allows candidates to create profiles for free and have them matched together with potential employers. At the point of a successful conclusion of an employment contract, the employer pays a fee.
ImmigrantSpirit works in a similar manner. This is the project of Düsseldorf-based Life Coach and Headhunter, Chris Pyak. Chris works with numerous companies to connect them with potential candidates. Candidates can register on the site for free and submit their CV and covering letter and Immigrant Spirit will match them with potential employers.
Germany-USA Careers Service works along similar lines, but is based in the U.S. and aimed at Americans looking to work in Germany. GUCC aims foremost to place Americans with U.S. companies and government agencies which have a presence in Germany.
Even though this one is a German l anguage site, it deserves a mention on its own because of a certain nuance of the German jobs market: Namely that job adverts by and large do not indicate the expected salary range.
Experteer bucks this trend as a portal for senior roles paying above €60,000 per year. Because it tends to play at the higher end of the market, there are also more job descriptions in English.
Sites Aimed at English Speakers / Expats
Europe Language Jobs
Europe Language Jobs is a portal especially for bi- and multi-lingual job candidates who are looking for international roles where they can utilise their language skills. Many positions on their site are with companies based in Germany.
A user-friendly site posting English speaking jobs in Germany, EnglishJobs.de allows you to search by major city or Bundesland. Most of the open postings on here are geared towards engineers, developers and programmers.
A fairly similar set-up to the previous site, however ExpatJobseeker.de seems to be much broader and less focussed on IT jobs.
Advertising itself as Germany’s news in English, The Local has an English jobs section, although this is a search-bot function which gathers job descriptions from other sites which are posted in English, rather than original content.
The JobsIn family of sites offer job postings in English for several German cities. Each one has its own unique URL. Here are the l inks for Munich, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig.
Germany StartUp Jobs
Germany StartUp Jobs is a fairly new site which also plays predominantly in the tech / IT field but has some other job categories too. There is a particularly strong focus on jobs in Berlin, which isn’t surprising given that it’s mainly jobs in tech industries which are listed.
These are worth a look too, but mainly offer German language job ads.