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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Write a German Lebenslauf

Resume, CV, whatever you call it -- if you are looking for a job, you are going to need one. And if you are looking for a job in Germany, you are going to need a properly formatted Lebenslauf.

How to Write a German Lebenslauf

Literally translating to something like "life walk-though," a Lebenslauf is the German form of a resume or CV. After a lot of research, I wrote my very first Lebenslauf about one month ago. I immediately sent it off to two employers, heard back from one of the employers two days later, and went in for an interview two days after that. After hearing back that I got the job the very next day, I ended up signing the contract on September 30th and starting work on October 1st.

Note: I also got asked to interview for the second job I applied to, but I had already signed a contract by then.

After that whirlwind of excitement, I though it would be helpful to share what I learned about turning an American resume into a German Lebenslauf.

Here are the main sections you need to include on your German Lebenslauf:

1. Header

Just like with any other type of resume, you need to start your Lebenslauf off with your basic information. This most typically includes your name, home address, phone number, and email address. Here is an example of what mine looks like:

German Lebenslauf Example

The important thing to remember with a German Lebenslauf is that you also must include your photo. Although this would be entirely illegal in the U.S., German employers expect it and will likely throw your Lebenslauf right in the trash if it is not included.

Photographers in Germay are very experienced with taking application photos, just make sure you show up in business casual. Of course, you can probably also take them at home as long as you have some nice lighting and a decent camera (that is what I did).

2. Personal Data

The next section is personal data. For this part, you should include basic information such as your date of birth, place of birth, marital status, how many kids you have, and your nationality. Here is what mine looks like:

Personal information on a German resume

As an American, I found this section quite shocking. Although employers can often guess things such as age by a person's education and experience, it is totally illegal for them to explicitly ask. An employer definitely cannot ask about a person's marital status or whether they have kids. In Germany, however, all of this information is expected.

3. Education

Depending on where you are in your professional life, the next section is either education or experience. Since I am currently in graduate school, I choose to put education first. Here is what that section looks like:

Education on a German resume

Instead of "Deutsche Universität" or "American University," you should obviously write the real name of your specific university or high school. Since I am in graduate school, I normally would not write my high school on my resume, but a high school diploma (or Abitur) is very important to Germans and must be included.

4. Experience

The next section is experience and should include all of the same things that your resume or CV would include. Here is my example for the experience section:

Experience on a German resume

Obviously this section can come before education if you have already been out of school for a few years and would like to highlight your work experience.

5. Skills and Qualifications

The skills and/or qualifications section is another part that Americans and other non-Germans can probably copy directly from their old resume or CV. Here is an example of what this section may look like:

Skills on a German resume

Make sure to include your languages, computer skills, and any relevant certifications you may have. The Germans really love certifications.

6. Interests

Whether or not to include this section on an American resume is debatable, although from my experience, hardly anyone does. If you are looking for a job in Germany, however, employers want to see it. Here is what my hobbies and interests section looks like:

Interests on a German resume

I actually did quite a bit of research on what one should include in this section before writing it because I just found it so weird and irrelevant. During this research, I found quite a few studies stating that approximately 80 percent of hiring managers say that they expect to see a hobbies/interests section on a Lebenslauf. Worst case scenario, the employer doesn't read this section. Best case scenario, it will open up a nice discussion during the interview.

I hope that helps anyone hoping to start their job search in Germany! 

Leave any questions in the comments below!


  1. Great post! I find the German Lebenslauf to be so foreign compared to the North American CV/Resume. It's so helpful that you outlined the tips above. Thanks!

  2. Just the incentive I needed to update my resume. I agree with KuK - very helpful post, and I think Americans will find it very interesting what is expected on German resumes. It was even recommended when I first wrote mine in German that I include my kids' birthdays (which I have since removed)!

  3. Kids birthdays? Marco also told me that it was also once required that you write your parent's professions. I mean, these things have no purpose except to discriminate against someone...oder?

  4. Glad it could help!

    They are so different. I was so lost when I started writing mine, but I guess it turned out okay since I found a job with it!

  5. Ha! Yep - yesterday I also removed my father's occupation from my resume! I'll ask my husband if he knows why these bits of info are expected, because I also don't see a reason to include it except to give the employer one more reason to toss out your resume. But of course if you leave the information off, they'll toss it anyway.

  6. How timely - in today's local paper there's an article about a pilot program in Baden-Württemberg (mainly Karlsruhe) to have applicants send resumes without a photo, without their birthday/age, and even without their name or nationality. Why? To avoid discrimination! This program/study has been going on for two years and they are finding that this is a fairer way to go about the initial steps of hiring. Go figure...

  7. Well, at least this is one area where the U.S. is slightly more progressive than Germany... Glad that Germans are acknowledging it as a problem, but I cannot imagine these customs would change for many many years.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this! I am bookmarking it as I, and a few of my other expat friends, could definitely use a helping hand with this!

  9. I am happy that you find it helpful!

  10. You don't actually HAVE to include a photo of yourself - I managed to get two jobs without a photo. But a lot of employers will throw your application straight in the bin if you don't have one.

  11. That is the struggle. Most employers and hiring managers in Germany do expect these things, and some even expect more (do you have kids? what are their birthdays? what were your parents' professions? what did you have for breakfast this morning?).

    I had a boss in the U.S. who would throw out applications if they DID include an "interests" or "hobbies" section. You can never really know...

  12. A german friend actually helped me \with mine and I was all like, why do you want to know that? haha.

    (catching up with past posts)

  13. Thanks for the insights! I am just starting my German job search and have a follow-on question for you: I've been at home raising kids for the past 6 years -- how best to address this gap in my out-of-the-home employment? In the CV itself, cover letter, both? Any pointers from your research appreciated!

  14. Good question! I just asked the German boyfriend, who has done a fair share of hiring, and he said that something like that (non-professional) does not belong on a CV, but he said it definitely has to be addressed somewhere. So, I would say to write it in the cover letter.

  15. Another question if you don't mind: In the German employment world, is it OK to contact a hiring manager directly even if the job advert says to apply via its website/HR portal? In the US job market (and depending on the industry), that sort of personal touch was often welcomed and a way to get noticed, but I don't want to step on toes here. Any Marco wisdom on that one?

  16. Marco's wisdom: he says you obviously have to submit your application to the HR department, but he said a call or email to the actual hiring manager (for example, to ask a specific question about the job) could be a nice touch that will get you noticed (but of course it is a gamble, as it could get you noticed in a negative way).

  17. There are goood fonts for resumes which is highly experienced staff that have all of the help you needed.


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