Working in Germany: It's a myth you need to speak German to land a job

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Chris Pyak - [email protected]
Working in Germany: It's a myth you need to speak German to land a job
A woman at a job interview. Photo: Depositphotos/eggeeggjiew

German career Coach Chris Pyak sheds light on the number one worry he sees among his job seeking clients - and explains why it's easy to overcome.


Since 2013 I have helped international professionals to get English jobs in Germany. Over the years I guided hundreds of internationals in their job hunt in Germany. Thousands participated in my yearly Expats Career Survey.

Here's the number one piece of feedback which I receive: "They say I need to speak German to get a job."

But is language really what keeps you from being successful? In my analysis of the German job market I realized that the majority of all job openings do not require German language skills.

READ ALSO: Find English-language jobs in Germany

Only a few exceptions

Sure, there are jobs like medical doctors and nurses where the German language is a legal requirement. A lawyer or an accountant won’t get anywhere without reading German law – which is confusing enough for native speakers, let alone foreigners.

But these jobs make up a very small percentage of the available job offers. The majority of all jobs that demand a university degree are software developer, consultants, analysts, sales people, project manager, engineers and manager.

A recruiter looks at an applicant's CV. Photo: Despositphotos/alexraths

I regularly interview companies that hire professionals for all these positions – and they do a great job in English. The challenge: Only 1% of German companies are so forward thinking that they hire in English. 

Most HR departments still insist on fluent German language skills. 

Over the years, I have easily talked to over 800 HR managers. There are the extreme cases where an HR manager insists on “fluent German” – for a sales position that focuses on cold calling corporate clients in France.

'German required'?

And there's also the not so seldom case when international candidates were told “German required” by HR – just to discover that the whole department works in English after they talked directly to the manager with my help.

This is what makes me really sad: I have analyzed the German job market for six years already. I speak to hundreds of HR managers and department heads. Thousands of expatriates share their story with me – and I don’t see progress.

Here is the thing: In way to many cases it is not “German language”, that holds you back. It’s discrimination. 

The German "Institut für die Zukunft der Arbeit" (Institute for the Future of Work) is a government agency. It tested how many job applications the average candidate needs to send in order to secure one job interview.

Here are the results of the survey - and my advice on how to deal with this situation.


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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Anonymous 2019/10/09 11:11
@Dame Good:<br /><br />What you said is hypocritical. You go to Turkey and you must integrate because your boss's identity and culture are important to him. But what about yourself? Isn't your identity important? Why should you change just because you're working abroad? English is an established international form of communication, it doesn't hurt your identity.
Anonymous 2019/09/27 14:49
I do think discrimination exists but not in this sense. Discrimination is when you speak German and they still dont choose you. You are in Germany, if they can find someone know the language with good skill, why would they choose you? Being hamonized with the company culture and the colleagues is important. It doesnt make any sense when everyone have to speak English while they are local because only 1 staffs speak English. You can finish your job but you will always feel you are out of the group and will end up think they discriminate you. I am Vietnamese and I am not yet good in German. Dont make excuse!
Anonymous 2019/09/27 09:45
However the author makes a good point: why are HR departments requiring German skills for a job where you don't really speak German but English. That sounds like discrimination to me.
Anonymous 2019/09/26 19:23
This article does not make much sense at all to me. I would imagine that anybody who moves to a new and foreign land, and wants to call it home, would want to learn the their host's customs, language and integrate as fast as possible. I think the author here expects the whole world to became anglised and speak english. For example, if I wanted to live and work in Turkey, I certainly would not expect my perspective boss to speak English, just to facilitate me. I would expect him to speak his native language. I am sure, his native language, and customs etc are very important to him, because that is how he is, his identity. If I wanted to have a successful life, career in Turkey, I would naturally immerse myself in Turkish culture. Become 'More Turkish, than the Turks themselves'. It's basic common sense really.<br />And headscarves? I thought the article was about lack of basic, functional language skills in the German labour market.<br />This article is absolute rubbish, and the author's insinuations at the end of the article are particularly annoying and irksome. <br />

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