How to be seen as the best candidate for that job in Germany

How to be seen as the best candidate for that job in Germany
A man holding a 'Bewerbung' or job application. Photo: depositphotos/racorn
Some German companies receive hundreds - or even thousands - of applications for a position. How can you stand out? Careers columnist Chris Pyak explains.

The light is so bright, it nearly blinds the presenter. For a moment she takes the whole scene in: The huge auditorium, full of celebrities, each of them full of anxiety – will she pull their name out of the envelope? She takes a breath, opens the envelope and starts to talk:

“The job goes to…”

When you apply for a job in Germany, you are one of the people in the audience. You hope that your name is in the envelope, that you will be called on to the stage to receive your award: “Best candidate for this job.”

Woman holding a 'Bewerbung' or job application. Photo: depositphotos/alexraths

Here is your challenge. You are not alone. There might be a hundred, even a thousand of you in the room. They all hope to win the award – get the job. They are as competent and well educated as you are.

How do you beat them?

A while ago, I interviewed Saurabh Paramveer for the Immigrant Spirit Podcast. Saurabh is Product Owner for the new project at Zalando. They have no problem finding candidates.

Thousands of software developers apply for jobs with Zalando every year. Saurabh can afford to look for real stars – those who would win the Oscar – and hire the very best.

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

But what exactly makes you “the best”?

Here is the solution to your challenge. You see, the Oscar is not about “The Best”. They are always about “The Best” in categories: “Best supporting actor”, “Best Makeup and Hairstyling”, even “Best short subject, two reel”.

Sorry, what was that last one?

“Best short subject, two reel”.

That's a very specific category. 

Turns out, hiring managers think in these extremely specific categories, too. When Saurabh says that he wants to hire the best candidate for the job, he means a candidate who is not only a very good coder, but also has experience developing systems that work seamless with the software of other companies.

In Saurabh's project the “customers” are big manufacturers. “The best” candidate for Saurabh is someone who has experience with the specific demands that these integrations create.

It's the combination of two unrelated skills that makes you the number one in your field: “Great software developer, who also understands integration with…”, “Excellent anti-fraud specialist, who also speaks fluent Russian”, “Outstanding automotive Engineer, who also is very strong in software integration.”

Here is one thing that you can do today:

Take a blank sheet of paper and a pen. Find a quiet environment and 30 minutes of time. Think about the last three jobs that you had:

1. Which of your tasks / projects created the biggest value for the employer? Be as specific as possible.

2. What helped you the most to achieve these outcomes? Again: Be as detailed as possible.

3. Combination of which skills/abilities/attitudes made this possible?

Zalando's chairmen at a press conference for the companies new headquarters in Berlin's Friedrichshain in February 2019. Photo: DPA

Now you need to be brave.

Give a call or write an email to your last three supervisors. Ask them, which of your tasks/projects created the biggest value for them, and why? Compare results.

If you hope to compete with thousands of other candidates for the same job, my advice is: Don't.

Find the employers, who want exactly the combination of two or three abilities that make you unique. You are sure to win the Oscar if you compete in your category.

FIND A JOB: Browse thousands of English-speaking jobs in Germany


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.

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