Anschreiben of the Bewerbung – Cover Letter for your Job Application in German
As with the job application in Germany, the Anschreiben aims at the same goal of the well-known cover letter: to achieve the invitation to a job interview. The Anschreiben is probably the most important document within the German application and allows applicants to let their personality flow into their application documents. Thus, the Anschreiben requires great efforts not only in complying to the specific rules of application formalism, but also in generating interesting content that underlines your motivation and skills. As many vacant jobs are in the focus of several dozens if not even hundreds of applicants, your Anschreiben must be impeccable in order to convince. This article intends to give you vital tips and hints for your personal Anschreiben when applying in Germany.
Anschreiben – Structure and typical phrases
The structure of the Anschreiben is very similar to the covering letter and shows strong compliances with an ordinary business letter. DIN A4 – paper format should be your choice before you start writing your text. A German letter always consists of preciese blocks. DIN 5008 is the relevant specification for writing letters in Germany. You do not have to make use of DIN 5008, but it may be a good source for getting a first impression or orientation. Usually, the Anschreiben should have a header with the applicant’s address followed by the employer’s contact information. A reference line is used to refer to the vacant post’s official name and, if eligible a reference code, too. Please address the responsible contact person in case the name is given within the job advertisement. Whenever a contact person is mentioned, she or he is supposed to be addressed with „Sehr geehrter Herr Mueller“ instead of the general „Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren“. The closing formula is also of importance and we recommend the classical „Mit freundlichen Grüßen“ followed by your name with even space left between both lines for your signature. Please do insert a signature which is neither too large or too small, both derivations are prone to express the size of your ego. The main part of your Anschreiben, the actual text, should be put into paragraphs in accordance with the structure of the information given.
Anschreiben – Content and Style
The Anschreiben requires an official and very formal style of writing. However, this does not essentially mean that an Anschreiben is written in a dull language full of phrases. Take your reader on a trip through your professional past, display your skills, your current position and your job motivation. Try to answer the question „Why should we actually employ you?“ and keep this in mind while shaping the text. In contrast to the familiar cover letter, try to write the Anschreiben in a less emotional way. The choice of words in a letter of application is way more emotional compared to a German Anschreiben, as in American or international applications, action verbs are considered to be relevant features. German employers however ask for a sober style that is based on facts. In accordance with common practice, this does not rule out decent self-promotion in total, but exaggerations are rather inappropriate. Some applicants have followed a steady career path, most actually do not. Never mention any kind of negativity in your text – or even suggest that you aim at a new job due to having problems with your current employer. Illoyal behavior is regarded as an utter no-go! Always write positively in your Anschreiben!
Anschreiben and Lebenslauf – Two documents of the Bewerbung that support each other
When generating your Anschreiben, always keep in mind that it never stands alone and must be seen in the context of all your application documents. HR specialists always check the Anschreiben in conjunction with your Lebenslauf – the Curriculum Vitae of the German Bewerbung – and seek to find potential discrepancies. Thus, your Anschreiben should support the facts summarized in your Lebenslauf and the other way round. Mentioning good grades in the Anschreiben would not be a wise thing to do when your Lebenslauf and diplomas show only average ones. For the Bewerbung in total, it is very important to keep an external perspective in mind when writing.
Tips and Hints for a successful Anschreiben
- Stick to the rules concering layout and formalism.
- Use the reference code if given and / or the correct job description.
- Check if a specific person is mentioned in the job advertisement and adress her or him personally („Sehr geehrte Frau Schulz,…“). Otherwise use „Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,…“.
- Write in a businesslike manner and find a balance between self-advertisement and facts (do not exaggerate).
- Choose the right tone, do not beg for a job or sound too condescending.
- Give the reader an overview of your professional background, your skills and experience as well as your job motivation and future goals.
- Aim at a sound signature size – not too large and not too small. Use a blue pen.
Flawless documents and a personal style show real interest in the job. Please avoid any kind of generic and boring phrases – and try to rule out all sorts of misspellings and grammatical mistakes as well. One page for an Anschreiben is simply enough.
„Usually, the German job application consists of three documents called Anschreiben, Lebenslauf and Zeugnisanlage. There are however significant differences between the typical cover letter and the German Anschreiben. You will find lots of relevant information on TT Bewerbungsservice.“
10 Hints for a great Anschreiben!
- Do some research regarding the employer and the industry you are aiming at before you start writing your Anschreiben.
- It is always best to have your Lebenslauf finished before you commence with the Anschreiben. That way, you have both the Lebenslauf and the job offer at hand to identify relevant connections.
- Your Anschreiben should have the structure of a typical German formal letter. Certain elements are to be used: header, recipient, place and date, reference line, opening, main text, closing, signature, and name.
- Please use a consistent design and layout for all parts of your German application including your Anschreiben.
- Try to find the name of the responsible contact person if he or she is not mentioned in the job offer. Have a look at the employer’s website. In Germany, the contact persons are sometimes rather well-hidden to assess whether an applicant made an effort in visiting the website.
- When mentioned in the job offer do not forget to add the offering number to the reference line of your Anschreiben.
- Use a language both suitable to your background and to the job vacancy you are aiming at.
- Always write your Anschreiben using a positive perspective and never state anything negative about former superiors or colleagues. Avoid negative issues.
- Tell the employer why you are well suited to fill out the job vacancy, and how you intend to make a difference.
- Do not forget to insert a signature into the Anschreiben. It is best to scan your signature for the Onlinebewerbung.
In most cases, German employers will ask for an Onlinebewerbung, the job application via internet. There are two common ways of applying: 1. By sending the PDFs of your application documents via email. 2. By uploading your PDFs using a web portal. The latter is often restricted to very large organizations and companies, while the smaller ones tend to use emails for their recruiting activities.
The various elements of the German Anschreiben!
The header is called Kopfzeile in German and should contain your name, possible degrees as well as your address and your contact details. You might also want to use the same header for all your Bewerbungsunterlagen.
Usually, the job offer contains the correct employer’s address. However, some employers intend to make applying a little more complicated. In those cases, you will have to research the address and the responsible contact person. The last option to find a suitable address would be using the one as stated in the disclaimer (Impressum). By the way, in German the addressee is called Adressat.
Please make sure that you use the same dates for your Anschreiben and for your Lebenslauf. There are various notations in Germany regarding place and date. Examples: „Hamburg, 11.11.2017“, „Hamburg, den 11.11.2017“, „Hamburg, 11. November 2017“, „Hamburg, den 11. November 2017“. Using the word „den“ is rather conservative and therefore not necessary.
The German word for reference line is Betreffzeile or Betreff. There a numerous ways of spelling the Betreffzeile, however you should always mention the precise title of the job advert and, if applicable, the reference number (i.e. Job-ID, Kennziffer, Stellen-ID), too. For instance, the reference line of a German Anschreiben could be the following: „Bewerbung – Stellen-ID: 111/2017 – Projektmanager (m/w)“ or „Bewerbung als Projektmanager (m/w) [Stellen-ID: 111/2017“. Please use bold letters for the Betreffzeile.
The opening or the Anrede, to be precise, is rather simple. Either you know the name of the contact person, or you do not. If the latter applies, you would choose „Sehr geehrte Frau [name],“ or „Sehr geehrter Herr [name],“ as an opening. Otherwise the Anrede is „Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,“. Other openings are not suitable for the job application context.
It is very recommendable to use serveral paragraphs for your main text. That way you can deal with several topics in your Anschreiben, and create a common thread. Issues such as the desired salary are to be placed into the last paragraph.
There is not that much to say regarding the closing of an Anschreiben. In Germany, it is best to use „Mit freundlichen Grüßen“. The closing is followed by your signature and your full name.
„There are significant differences between a cover letter in an international context and a German Anschreiben.“
Till Tauber ist seit 2013 als freiberuflicher Bewerbungsschreiber tätig und greift hierzu auf sein Wissen als Diplom-Ingenieur mit zusätzlichem MBA-Abschluss zurück. In dieser Zeit hat er mehr als 3.500 Bewerbungen im Kundenauftrag geschrieben – und weiß, worauf es beim Anschreiben sowie beim Lebenslauf ankommt. Auf TT Bewerbungsservice schreibt er zu aktuellen Themen rund um die Bewerbung.