Which German companies want to hire foreigners?

Which kind of German companies hire foreigners? And which should you target for your next career move? Career coach Chris Pyak explains.

Which German companies want to hire foreigners?
Job applicants having an interview. Photo: depositphotos/adriaticphoto

Over the course of a usual week, I talk to 50 human resources specialists and managing directors. In my experience there are three kind of companies that will hire foreigners: “Can”, “Must” and “Want” companies.

'Can Companies'

“Can Companies' own the brands that we all know such as Adidas, Siemens and BMW. These are the multinational corporations with huge financial firepower. Very often they use English as their business language. They want the best people around the world – and they are willing to pay top money to get them. Even better: They also offer security and a real career.

SEE ALSO: What's it like for internationals working in Germany?

These “Top 40” companies are the ones where 80 percent of all candidates apply. Try to get in. But don’t focus on them exclusively.

Photo: DPA

'Must Companies'

“Must Companies” don’t really love you. They will open up for foreigners because they can’t find anyone on the local market. They begrudgingly  agree to give English-speaking candidates a try – because no one else applies. (And even then sometimes they don’t want you). They don't pay well and can’t offer you much of a career.

That is no accident: Their small profit margins are a direct result of their choices. They operate in a dying industry, have unattractive working conditions, are based in the countryside, and tend to be very small.

Often their bad finances are the direct result of their refusal to change with the times. This has led to to resist hiring foreigners for as long as they could get away with it. You can find work here – but do you really want to?

'Want Companies'

'Want Companies' – These are the companies that I love. They don’t need you. They want you. These company made a strategic decision (a term that a lot of HR departments would need to look up in the dictionary) on how they will satisfy their employment needs in the next five to ten years. Often they are startups who choose English as their business language from “Day One”.

As a result they don’t even know the German word “Fachkräftemangel”, or skilled worker shortage.

SEE ALSO: Why it's a myth you need to know German to get a job

A while ago I interviewed Zalando for the Immigrant Spirit Podcast: They receive over 100.000 job applications every year. They are looking for extraordinary professionals. (In the next column I will share with you how you become the number one in your category.)

A second type of these “Want Companies” might surprise you: These are the “hidden champions” of the German Mittelstand. You might never have heard of them – but their products are built into your iPhone, your car and your washing machine.

These companies are often family owned. Their managing directors cares deeply about their business – and their employees. And they want you to help them grow internationally.

Boxes with a logo from German retailer Zalando. Photo: DPA

I find that people who work in these companies are usually liberal: They are eager to learn, they trust in their employees and they are willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. Here you find a decent pay, a great career – and a team that really cares.

An opportunity for you: Most candidates apply for the “Top 40” – and forget the nearly three million small and medium sized companies in Germany. Look beyond the obvious – and you find great employers.

Why don’t you try it right now with the job search of THE LOCAL?

Chris Pyak is the Author of “How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans“. The managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH has worked in four different cultures and lived in five different countries.

Chris returned to Germany in 2011. His mission: Bring the Immigrant Spirit to his home country. Chris introduces international professionals to employers in Germany. You can contact him with your questions here.

On June 25th he will host a free webinar exclusively for The Local's readers. Find out how to sign up by clicking the banner below. 

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How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck!