I am a native German- born and bred in Southern Germany, growing up with Schnitzel and Spätzle, going to Weihnachtsmarkt and drinking Glühwein.
So when I applied for a position as a recruiter on the German market, I did not assume it to be hard as I knew culture, language and even dialect (if needed).
My colleagues, however, gave me different impression: recruitment in Germany is “tough”, people “do just not respond”, the economy at the moment is too strong for a lot of people to be interested in new positions, the salaries are “too high.”
After working on this market for a while, it is interesting to investigate if the general statement that recruitment in Germany is tougher than on other markets is true.
On the one hand, there is the undeniable fact that German members of networks like LinkedIn or the German job network Xing are much slower in responding than other nations.
I am not entirely sure why but while most Americans add me within five minutes of my contact request, Germans take their sweet time and, in average, respond after three to five days.
It can be up to three months, with the position obviously being closed by then.
And while I do not have a logical explanation for this (yes, we do have smartphones, no, we are not social media haters), it is a fact. And it slows your research down immensely at times.
When talking about contacting someone by email or on one of the various social networks, a hesitant attitude towards being contacted in English can be observed.
Out of five people who were contacted in English without responding, three responded when being contacted in German, and even if only to say they are not interested.
The problem here is not that the candidates do not speak English.
Most Germans, even if they are working in medium level positions speak English fluently. The issue is rather that by some Germans (at least fifty percent in my perception), it is seen as not trustworthy, almost fishy to be contacted in English. Nothing good can be behind it, so they assume. This is due the fact that many dubious emails being sent out in Germany are in English- think loan sharks, strip clubs and internet traps.
The other issue of neglected contact messages lays within the content.
Most Germans prefer short, straight forward messages that tell them the most important details: what, who, where. They do not necessarily care about all the “I hope you are well” “Have A Great Day” and “One of my colleagues has been in contact with you and referred you to me” phrases.
This does not entail at all that the message should not be polite. Politeness is appreciated as much in Germany as anywhere else. As long as it is polite and short- efficiency is always appreciated by your German candidates.
As for phone calls, both German and English work equally well. However, I have observed in the past that Germans, probably like any other nation, feel more comfortable and open up more when talking in their mother language. You talk about the current weather, the area where you are from, the annoyance or joy of Karneval (madness that happens every year in February) and might be likely to stay in touch in the future only due to your shared nationality in a pretty multicultural world, especially in recruitment.
As for scheduling interviews, and even if it is on skype, consider yourself warned: most Germans take their weekends and vacations pretty seriously.
It comes as no surprise that BMW and a few other German companies are among the first to introduce a policy that prohibits bugging employees with emails and phone calls during their time off. In a lot of cases, candidates announce to me: “I want to mention here that I am on vacation next week.” My international coworkers haven often interpreted this as “I can go do an interview whenever.” What it means is: “I am not available, will not answer my emails and I will avoid phone calls.”
There are, of course, exceptions, depending on seniority and motivation in terms of finding a new role. However, as up to 12 bank holidays plus 30 vacation days are part of German work life, people go on vacation often and they do it for at least a week.
It is especially hard to schedule meetings around Carnival time (February), as everyone who is not out drinking and celebrating went skiing, Easter (everyone is obviously hunting for Easter eggs), May/June (tons of bank holidays) and of course Christmas.
Even though this might seem like an annoyance, especially to people from a different working culture where being reachable 24/7 is essential, it helps to know these details in advance.
So yes, recruitment in Germany is in many aspects harder than in other countries.
Others, however, make it much easier. Read about why in the second part of this article- coming soon.
Written by: Lisa Endriss, Research Associate at ExecutiveSurf