Writing a German CV: What You Need to Know as an Expat

Updated on
July 1, 2024
Table of contents

If you’re applying for a job at a German company, you will, in most cases, need to create a CV in German. While each country has different rules for what makes an effective CV, the first prerequisite is, of course, that you have a good command of the German language. But what else do you need to pay attention to? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about drafting the perfect German curriculum vitae (CV).

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure your CV is written in German and proofread by a native speaker to avoid language errors.
  • Follow the standard structure of a German CV: Personal Information, Work Experience, Education, Skills, and Interests.
  • Pay attention to formatting details such as length, layout, font, and the inclusion of a professional photo.
  • Tailor your CV to the specific job by researching the company and using relevant keywords.
  • Avoid common mistakes like overloading information, ignoring local conventions, and poor language quality.

Essential Sections of a German CV

When crafting a German CV, it's crucial to include specific sections to ensure your application is taken seriously. Here's a breakdown of the essential sections you need to include.

Formatting Tips for a German CV

Length and Layout

When it comes to the length of your German CV, keep it concise. Ideally, it should be no more than 2 pages. This ensures that hiring managers can quickly scan through your qualifications without getting bogged down in too much detail.

Font and Style

Choosing the right font is crucial. Opt for a simple, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman or Arial. For a consistent look, maintain the same font across your CV and cover letter. The body of the text should be size 11–12, while the headings should be size 14–16.

Photo Guidelines

Including a photo is a common practice in Germany. Make sure it's a professional, passport-size photo. Avoid casual or overly stylized images. A good photo can make a positive first impression, so it's worth investing in a professional headshot.

Remember, your CV is often the first impression you make on a potential employer. Make it count by paying attention to these formatting details.

Highlighting Your Skills and Qualifications

Language Proficiency

When it comes to language proficiency, it's essential to be clear and precise. List all the languages you speak and your level of proficiency in each. You can use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to standardize your levels. For example:

Technical Skills

Your technical skills are a crucial part of your CV. Tailor this section to match the job requirements. Here are some tips:

  • List relevant software and tools you are proficient in.
  • Mention any programming languages you know.
  • Highlight any technical certifications you have.


Certifications can set you apart from other candidates. Include any relevant certifications you have obtained. This could be anything from a project management certification to a specialized course in your field. Make sure to include:

  1. The name of the certification.
  2. The issuing organization.
  3. The date of completion.
Including certifications shows your commitment to professional development and can give you an edge in the hiring process.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overloading Information

When it comes to your German CV, less is often more. Avoid wordy descriptions and the excessive use of adjectives. Don’t repeat the same responsibilities over and over if you’ve held the same role in more than one company. Keep it concise and to the point.

Ignoring Local Conventions

Your CV should not contain the words "me", "she", or "mine". Use a telegraphic style like “Design of XYZ” or “Achieved XYZ”. Avoid punctuation errors and ensure you use commas correctly, with a space after each comma, not before.

Poor Language Quality

In an era of spelling and grammar checkers, employers are unforgiving when it comes to errors in your CV. Proofread your CV carefully, run it through a spellchecker, and wheedle out any errors before applying. A mistake-free, well-formatted CV is a must if you want to make a good impression on potential employers.

Any mistake in your CV can be interpreted as a lack of competencies and self-organization skills. Make sure your CV is clean and professional to avoid giving off a bad first impression.

The Importance of Proofreading

Native Speaker Review

Having a native speaker review your CV can make a world of difference. They can catch nuances and errors that automated tools might miss. Germans are very particular when it comes to spelling and grammar, so a native speaker can help ensure your CV meets local expectations.

Automated Tools

Don't underestimate the power of automated tools. You can use online grammar checkers like Duden or LanguageTool to flag basic errors. These tools are great for catching mistakes in gender agreements, verb endings, and other common issues. However, they should not be your only line of defense.

Common Errors to Watch For

When proofreading your CV, keep an eye out for:

  • Typos and grammatical errors
  • Inconsistent formatting
  • Broken links
A single typo can give off a bad first impression, so double, triple, and quadruple check your CV before sending it out.

Tailoring Your CV for Specific Jobs

Researching the Company

Before you start tweaking your CV, do some homework on the company. Understand their values, culture, and what they are looking for in a candidate. This will help you align your CV with their expectations. Check their website, social media profiles, and any recent news articles about them.

Customizing Your Experience

You don't need to rewrite your entire CV for each job application, but you should make some adjustments. Focus on the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. Use bullet points to keep it snappy and easy to read.

Using Keywords Effectively

Many companies use automated systems to screen CVs before a human ever sees them. To get past these systems, include keywords from the job description in your CV. This will increase your chances of getting noticed.

Tailoring your CV might seem like extra work, but it's worth the effort. A customized CV shows that you're serious about the job and have taken the time to understand what the company is looking for.


Writing a German CV might seem daunting at first, but with the right tips and structure, you can create a standout application. Remember to keep it factual, tailor it to local expectations, and always proofread your German. Including a professional photo and clearly stating your language skills can make a big difference. So, take your time, follow the guidelines, and you'll be well on your way to landing that dream job in Germany. Viel Erfolg!

Frequently Asked Questions

What personal information should I include in a German CV?

In the personal information section, you should include your first and last name, date of birth, nationality, marital status, contact information, and a passport-size photo.

How long should my German CV be?

A German CV should ideally be one to two pages long. It should be concise and to the point, highlighting your most relevant experience and qualifications.

Is it necessary to include a photo in my German CV?

While not mandatory, it is common practice to include a professional passport-size photo in your German CV. Make sure the photo is high-quality and appropriate for a job application.

How should I list my language skills on a German CV?

You should list your language skills with their respective proficiency levels. Use recognized standards such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to indicate your proficiency.

What are common mistakes to avoid when writing a German CV?

Common mistakes include overloading information, ignoring local conventions, and poor language quality. Make sure to tailor your CV to meet local expectations and proofread it thoroughly.

Should I write my CV in German even if I'm not fluent?

If possible, write your CV in German and have it proofread by a native speaker. Clearly indicate your language proficiency level and be honest about your skills to avoid any misunderstandings.

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