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

How to get hired in Germany when your qualifications aren't recognized
A woman at a job interview. Photo: depositphotos
How can you convince an employer of your worth when a fancy degree or certificate doesn't mean anything anymore?

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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