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Create a winning CV for the German Market

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The job market is changing. Over the last several years, employers of all sizes have reshaped their hiring practices. And the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends that were already gathering pace.

Many of the old ways of doing things don’t apply anymore. Talented job-seekers can’t rely on outdated strategies if they want to land their dream role. And this is particularly relevant when it comes to CVs (curriculum vitae) or “resumes”.

EU Business School invited recruitment and human resources (HR) expert Robert Gierse to discuss these important points. Robert is a lead consultant at Frazer Jones, one of the world’s most respected global recruitment firms. He manages the human resources (HR) talent program for Germany, and is involved in all stages of the end-to-end recruitment process, matching talented HR professionals with attractive employers.

In his presentation for EU Business School, he spoke specifically about how job hunters can identify their strengths and create winning CVs for the German market.

What Is a Winning CV?

Robert began his presentation by defining the term “winning CV” in negative terms. He outlined what a winning CV is not.

In short, a winning CV will not, by itself, ensure that you get your ideal job, make you the most attractive candidate, or allow you to ignore other aspects of the application process. Robert emphasized that CVs are critical documents. On their own, however, they are not enough to win a job.

On the flip side, a good CV can leave a positive impression of you as a professional and a person, thus significantly increasing the chances you will be accepted into the next stage of the application process. A well-structured CV also makes relevant information easily accessible to potential employers.

How to Create a Winning CV: What to Include

Robert outlined several key points that candidates should keep in mind when drafting their CVs.

All job-seekers should include the following sections in their CVs:

  • Contact details – Many applicants overlook basic information. But it is essential to make yourself accessible to hiring organizations.
  • Relevant past experience – Include descriptions of all previous tasks and responsibilities that are relevant to the position for which you are applying.
  • Achievements – Most people tend to forget that there is a difference between simply doing a job and doing a job well. You should list your stand-out achievements to make your CV more appealing.
  • An explanation of gaps in your career – Employers will often be concerned about gaps in an applicant’s career. Robert advises job-seekers to be open and honest about them while highlighting any enriching and educational experiences they had during the time in question.
  • Language and cultural skills  – In an increasingly connected world, language and cultural skills are in high demand. If you are applying to a German company, fluency in German is understandably important.

Robert went on to say that any CV should fundamentally be about highlighting strengths. And a typical candidate’s proficiencies usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Educational background
  • Soft skills
  • Flexibility
  • Motivation and potential for development

Candidates should highlight their strengths in all of these areas, specifically with regard to potential for development. When writing their CVs, they should keep in mind the ways that they can demonstrate their strengths and tailor their writing to this end.

Robert also emphasized the need for concise and relevant details. Candidates should include all information that will be of interest to recruiting organizations (and avoid superfluous points) but should ensure that it is presented in as concise a manner as possible.

How to Create a Winning CV: What to Avoid

After outlining what candidates should include in their CVs, Robert turned his attention to what should be avoided. Job-seekers need to be aware of common errors and poor stylistic choices that act as red flags to potential employers.

When drafting your CV, be aware of the following traps:

  • Lack of detail – It is essential to be specific, especially in relation to “what”, “where”, and “how”,  when describing skills, past roles, achievements and experience.
  • Overselling – Manage expectations by avoiding excessive self-promotion. If you describe yourself as the “most motivated person in the world”, you are setting yourself impossible standards. It is also unlikely that employers will believe such claims.
  • Anticipating problems – If you have any concerns, particularly regarding location, pay, and working hours, state them clearly and display an openness to solving them. Don’t try to come up with a specific solution without the input of the employer.
  • Underestimating the importance of corporate culture and values – It is vital for you to be clear about your values. Companies are searching for individuals that will fit with their broader mission and modus operandi. Displaying alignment will increase your attractiveness as a candidate.

Points and Peculiarities About the German Market

Robert rounded off his talk by highlighting some peculiarities specifically tied to the German market.

He drew attention to the following points:

  • Application photos are not mandatory – If you include a photo, it should have been taken by a professional and you should also be dressed in formal business attire.
  • Cover letters are often required – In Germany, the cover letter should express your motivation and describe why you are a good fit for the role.
  • Educational degrees should be backed up with certificates – German companies like to see supporting documentation in relation to academic and other qualifications.
  • Address your German speaking abilities clearly – If you speak German, clearly state your level of proficiency (A1 to C2).
  • Information about hobbies is not essential – If you do include details about hobbies, be specific and ensure they are relevant to the job.
  • Check that your social media profiles represent you adequately – There is a strong chance that companies will look at your social media profiles, so make sure that you present well. And don’t forget to create a Xing account, as the platform is still very popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Robert finished by emphasizing the importance of authenticity. Above all else, you should ensure that your CV is authentic and true to yourself. If you do this, you will almost certainly make yourself attractive to companies that resonate with who you are.

Are You Excited by the Prospect of a Career in Business?

Are you excited by the prospect of a career in business? Perhaps you see yourself working in human resources (HR) and recruitment like Robert Gierse? Or maybe you envision yourself at the head of your own disruptive startup?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then a degree from EU Business School will provide you with all the skills, knowledge and practical experience that you need to thrive in your chosen field. You’ll gain access to a world-leading community of business thinkers and entrepreneurs while studying on campus in one of Europe’s leading business hubs.

Take a look at our wide selection of bachelor’s, master’s and MBA courses to see if there’s a program for you. Study on our campuses in the European business hubs of Barcelona, Geneva, Montreux and Munich, as well as online. 

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