How To Write a German CV? Tips & Examples

How To Write a German CV? Tips & Examples

Whether you are applying for a German university, for an internship or a job in Germany or Austria, your CV must be perfect because German recruiters scrutinize CVs! What is the best format to use? What is the difference with the english resume? What should I pay attention to?

We will explain to you how to write a German CV step by step with all the translations you need as well as an example of German CV in word and PDF to download for free.

How to say CV in German and what does it mean?

The translation of CV or resume in German is Lebenslauf. Der Lebenslauf means the course of life (der Lauf des Lebens), as does the original Latin word curriculum vitae.

The word das Curriculum Vitae (with capital letters) or das CV is also used in German, but it is much less commonly used than the word Lebenslauf.

In German, the cover letter is called das Motivationsschreiben and the application die Bewerbung.

➜ See our tips for writing a cover letter in German.

Do I need to write a one or two page CV in German?

Traditionally, the German CV was 2 pages long and recruiters expected your resume to follow this rule.

However, with the development of startups and the arrival of international companies with international employees, the (more modern) one-page CV is becoming more and more common in Germany.

Let's now look in detail at the format and the different sections of the German CV.

Your contact details or personal information ("Persönliche Angaben" in German)

Mention at the top of your CV your first and last name, your address, your phone number, your email address and possibly a link to your personal website if you have one. Some people also add a link to their LinkedIn profile.

Underneath, it is usual to add a section called Persönliche Angaben including :

  • Date of birth: Geburtsdatum
  • Place of birth: Geburtsort
  • Nationality: Nationalität or Staatsangehörigkeit (Amerikanisch or Britisch for example)
  • Marital status: Familienstand (ledig for single or verheiratet for married)
  • Driving license: Führerschein (only if important for the position)

Unless you are applying for a very traditional company, you can omit the marital status and the driving license.

Note: There are no spaces before the ":" in German.

⚠️ Important:
It is absolutely necessary to add a photo to your German CV. Most Germans have their photo taken by a photographer to make it look professional.

Work experience ("Berufserfahrung" in German)

List your work experience from the most recent to the oldest, indicating the dates of employment as well as 2 to 3 bullet points about your activities.

The more precise you are, the more convincing you will be. Don't hesitate to add numbers, it will give more weight to your achievements.

For example:

Erstellen eines wöchentlichen Newsletters mit dem Schwerpunkt Nachhaltigkeit, der zu einem Wachstum des B2B-Umsatzes von +10 % in einem Jahr führte.

Education ("Ausbildung" or "Bildungsweg" in German)

Preferably list your studies in ante-chronological order, i.e. start with the most recent diplomas, those that interest recruiters the most.

Do not translate word for word the names of diplomas that do not exist in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, as this would be useless, but explain them or find the equivalent in German.

For example:

  • Baccalaureate: Abitur in German
  • Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Physics: Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Physik
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics: Bachelor of Arts in Volkswirtschaftslehre
  • Bachelor of Science in Management: Bachelor of Science in Betriebswirtschaftslehre
  • Master in Social Sciences: Master in Sozialwissenschaften
  • Master in Social Sciences with high honors: Master Sozialwissenschaften, with high honors
  • Specialization / Major: Schwerpunkt (or Schwerpunkte in plural)
  • Stanford University: Universität Stanford

Specify your average grade, your specialization and your dissertation subject (Bachelorarbeit and Masterarbeit) with the grade obtained.

💡 Our advice:
Be sure to mention your grades because Germans and especially German recruiters attach a lot of importance to them! If your marks are below 2.5, do not mention them.

Equivalence of American and German grades

German GradeDescriptionUS Grade
1,0-1,3Very goodA

Language skills ("Sprachkenntnisse")

As a foreigner, you should give the recruiter a clear idea of your German language level. You can specify your language level in German and other foreign languages in the following way:

  • mother tongue or native speaker: Muttersprache
  • excellent level: verhandlungssicher in Wort und Schrift
  • very good level: sehr gute Sprachkenntnisse (in Wort und Schrift)
  • good level: gute Sprachkenntnisse
  • intermediate level: Grundkenntnisse

⚠️ Be careful:
The German term fließend means fluent. Fluent can mean that you are simply at ease with a language. Prefer the term verhandlungssicher, which means "confident in negotiation", i.e. that you are fluent in the language and have a good command of the technical vocabulary of the professional environment. By adding "In Wort und Schrift", you make it clear that this is the case in writing and speaking.

You can also specify your foreign language level (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) using the CEFR scale (Common European Framework of Reference scale).

For more credibility, add tangible elements that attest to your language skills:

  • 6 Monate Aufenthalt an einem deutschen Gymnasium in Freiburg, Deutschland
  • 2 Jahre Berufserfahrung mit deutschsprachigen Kunden

💡 Our advice:
Don't mention languages in which you have only a basic or beginner's level, as this is of no interest to the recruiter. List only the languages you master and that you can use in a professional environment.

Computer skills ("EDV-Kenntnisse")

It is possible to have a section called Zusatzqualifikation or Sprach- und EDV-Kenntnisse in which you include your language and computer skills.

EDV stands for Elektronische Datenverarbeitung, which means electronic information processing in English. It sounds a bit old-fashioned, but it is the commonly used term.

You can represent your skills graphically or as follows:

  • Excellent level: hervorragende Kenntnisse (or Expertenkenntnisse)
  • Very good level: sehr gute Kenntnisse
  • Advanced level: fortgeschritten (or fortgeschrittene Kenntnisse)
  • intermediate level: Grundkenntnisse

Hobbies and interests ("Interessen" or "Hobbys")

The hobbies section allows you to say a little more about your personality and to bring out other personal qualities and soft skills. It can also show the recruiter that you are the right person for the job.

Use the word Interessen or persönliche Interessen instead of the more familiar word Hobbys.

In this section, you can add :

  • your hobbies, interests or travels

Be specific, it is more interesting to read the following rather than just soccer or reading :

Vier Jahre lang Trainer einer lokalen Jugendliga und Leiter des Teams in den stadtweiten Playoffs.

Mitglied eines Literaturvereins mit Schwerpunkt auf zeitgenössische französische Literatur.

3-monatige Radtour durch Asien (5600 km) für eine Spendenaktion gegen Krebs, die 9.000 Euro für das Nationale Krebsforschungsinstitut einbrachte.

  • any other activity that may be of interest, such as a blog

Gründung des Blogs, Verfassen von 45 Artikeln über Beauty und Fashion Trends in 2 Jahren, Reichweite von 8.000 Lesern monatlich.

  • social or humanitarian experience, volunteering or associative activities

2-jähriges ehrenamtliches Engagement beim Verein für Flüchtlinge, Organisation von 15 Veranstaltungen und Begleitung von 8 Flüchtlingen bei der Arbeitssuche über 3 Monate.

Our advice: A common passion shared by the recruiter can sometimes break the ice during the interview so don't neglect this section! (➜ 10 Examples of Interests & Hobbies to put on your Resume.)

The date and your signature at the end of the resume

At the end of the German CV, candidates used to add the name of the city followed by the date, their names and signatures. However, this practice has practically disappeared.

Diplomas and certificates ("Zeugnisse")

It is very important to attach your diplomas as well as your certificates from your former employers to your resume in Germany.

Ask your former employers or internship supervisors to send you a signed certificate specifying your dates of employment, your assignments, the qualities and skills you used and a personal assessment. The easiest way to do this is to send an example or to offer to write a letter that your former manager can modify or complete.

Most Germans send a Bewerbung in PDF format which includes the CV, the cover letter, diplomas with grades and certificates from former employers or internship certificates.

Lexicon and vocabulary to translate your CV into German

CV / ResumeDer Lebenslauf
Cover letterDas Motivationsschreiben
Training / EducationAusbildung
Baccalaureatedas Abitur
Bachelor's degree in MathematicsBachelor of Science in Mathematik
Master in EconomicsMaster of Arts in Volkswirtschaftslehre
Master in Economics / ManagementMaster of Arts in Betriebswirtschaftslehre
Master in PhysicsMaster of Science in Physik
Specializationder Schwerpunkt (Schwerpunkte in plural)
Professional experienceBerufserfahrung (or beruflicher Werdegang)
Internshipdas Praktikum
Certificate of internshipdas Praktikumszeugnis
Language skillsSprachkenntnisse
Computer skillsEDV-Kenntnisse
Native languagedie Muttersprache
Excellent levelverhandlungssicher in Wort und Schrift
Very good levelsehr gute Sprachkenntnisse
Good levelgute Sprachkenntnisse
Hobbies and interestsInteressen (or persönliche Interessen)
Letter of applicationdas Motivationsschreiben
Job applicationDie Bewerbung
Job interviewdas Vorstellungsgespräch

Translation of important words and terms from English to German.

Jerome Feys

Jerome Feys

Job in Berlin's Founder

As a recruitment expert and founder of Job in Berlin, I have corrected over 1,000 resumes. Since 2015, I've been sharing my expertise and delivering tips on resume and cover letter writing, as well as techniques for a successful job interview.

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