How to get hired in Germany when your qualifications aren’t recognized

How can you convince an employer of your worth when a fancy degree or certificate doesn't mean anything anymore?

How to get hired in Germany when your qualifications aren't recognized
A woman at a job interview. Photo: depositphotos

KFZ, u.U., bzw., mfG, WTF?

We Germans have a thing for abbreviations. We even have a name for it: Abkürzungsfimmel, or rather: Aküfi.

We also use abbreviations in our professional life. We hear the name of a famous university and we think: “She is super talented.”

He worked in this job for 20 years and we translate that as experience. A master's degree becomes synonym with the actual skill.

SEE ALSO: Find an English-language job in Germany

It's important to remember: The abbreviation is not the real deal.

When you move to a different country, your abbreviations might lose their meaning. No one ever heard of your famous university. That “world leader” employer that you used to work for – well, that just elicits a shrug.

And the value of your degree will be doubted, just because it's foreign. (Unfair, but sadly true.)

When you cannot rely on abbreviations to promote your value to the labour market – what do you do? You need to convince employers with the real thing, not the short code. 

SEE ALSO: Which German companies hire foreigners

“The real thing” is not your skill, either.

Say you are a shaman by profession. It's cool that you attended an advanced training course called “Rain Dancing: New moves for the disco age.” But does your employer care?

No. He wants to know if you can make it rain. 

Job applicants waiting for that big interview. Photo: depositphotos

A boost to employability

Even before being invited to a job interview, the paper version of you will still matter. Through this website, you can check if your qualification is recognized in Germany or what the equivalent qualification would be.  

You can also contact the governmental organization through the website if you have any questions.

Now let's imagine that you've passed the Human Resources department. Here is an exercise to improve your employability, whether you are interviewing for a new job or a promotion to your current one.

Imagine you are your potential boss. What is the most valuable result that you achieved for your current or previous company? Why was this result so important? Write down the answers to both questions. 

Let's take an interview for a sales professional, as an example.

You might face this typical question: Are you a good fit for our sales team?

That's easy to answer: How much money did you make for your current or previous company? What was the profit margin? Are the customers still happy?

But can you explain in detail where you generated the biggest value for your employer? And why it matters?

At the end of the day employers don't want the abbreviation. They want the real thing.

A bonus question if you are still deciding what to apply for: You can also use this exercise in a slightly different version. By asking: Which of my daily tasks do I actually enjoy?

Sometimes a better life quality can be achieved through a promotion in the same profession. But sometimes it takes finding the guts to do what you love instead.


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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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!