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What’s different about the work environment in English-speaking countries

More flexibility

Except for technical or highly specialized positions, businesses and educational institutions in English-speaking countries generally seek applicants from a wide variety of educational and employment backgrounds. Especially for student applicants and recent graduates beginning their careers, the focus is on the candidate’s potential, their ability to ‘fit in’ and the transferable skills they bring.

More competition

The Internet has globalized the job market which means competition can come from anywhere. It is easier to search for and apply for open positions therefore candidates are sending more applications.

Companies believe that what you’ve learned in one position can be successfully applied in another so candidates from a variety of fields and backgrounds will apply.

The number of applications a prospective employer must consider has increased substantially and they can choose from a large field of candidates.

More opportunities

In English-speaking countries, and particularly the United States, people not only change jobs, but also careers much more often than they do in Germany. Sometimes it is by choice and sometimes by necessity. In both cases, the process is very fast. If the worker is to be replaced, the company will start the search immediately and hire as soon as they find someone.

This ‘turnover’ of employees makes it worthwhile to send an application to a company you are interested in to keep on file. However, employers generally want to fill open positions as quickly as possible. For non-citizens, work regulations and visa requirements can make this difficult.

More need to market yourself

It is sometimes said that it’s not the best person who gets the job, but the person who is best at getting the job. Employers or universities expect you to ‘sell’ your skills, experience and potential. This is not a comfortable thought for a German, but you wouldn’t apply for a job or a program if you didn’t think you could handle it – show them why you can!


More need to network

Networking is sometimes viewed as shallow and superficial, but personal connection is probably the most dominant factor in a successful job search. A recent survey by the Gallup organization found that “job seekers are most likely to say they used friends and family (74%) and referrals from current employees at a company (70%) as resources when searching for a job”. (Gallup survey)

For employers, the question always is, ‘Are you as good as you appear on paper?’ With so many applicants to consider, someone with personal knowledge of the candidate can be the deciding factor. Therefore, it’s crucial to develop your network of resources and referrals. (See 5 things you can do now to make applying later easier and more successful)

More confidence needed

English speakers tend to agree with Henry Ford, who said, “Whether you think you can do a thing or not, you are right.” Healthy optimism and self-confidence (but not bragging) are marketable skills. People who believe in themselves are more likely to accept challenges, solve problems and persist when things are tough. Employers always find a place for people with ‘can-do’ attitudes.

Faster-paced business climate

Business decisions are often made rapidly and you need to lead with your strengths and capture attention quickly. The person reading your CV may have to look at dozens or hundreds of applications and they rarely spend more than 30 seconds before deciding whether to proceed or to reject the applicant.

Brief is better

Make your case as clearly and concisely as possible. Fast-paced businesses value communication that is brief and to the point. Your writing must have a professional tone, but edit it until every word counts. Mirroring business style demonstrates you understand the business world and that you value the reader’s time.


About those grades

Be sure to read the Grade and degree conversion section for guidelines on writing the education section of your CV. The grading systems vary and there has been some grade inflation in English-speaking countries, which will influence how your grades are interpreted. There are also semantic differences. A top mark in Germany is described as ‘very good’ while a top mark (A) in the United States is described as ‘excellent’ and a (B) is ‘very good’.

There is less emphasis on grades in business applications in the United States. In fact, if you have been working for two years, grades are irrelevant. Include grades only if they are high marks. You can also report your grade point for your major if that is higher or the grades for the last two years if you had a rocky beginning. They will not be interested in your Abitur score. The UK is more grade-conscious so explain your marks in terms of the UK grading system.

Universities applications will need to include more grading detail. For further information check the respective website of the university.

Avoid negativity

Don’t include anything negative. German students often try to be completely honest and volunteer that they don’t have experience in a particular area. Finding out what you haven’t done isn’t helpful to the employer. They need to know what you have done, and, more importantly, what you will do for them if they hire you. Remember, your application is a marketing piece. Have you seen an advertisement that points out all the negative aspects of a product?

Health issues or personal problems should not be discussed. If there is something negative that can’t be avoided and needs to be covered in the interview, figure out a way to show what you’ve learned from the experience. Failing makes you human. English speakers love hearing about someone turning misfortune or failure into success so make it a good story. Many employers will ask for a weakness. Turn one of your strenghts into a weakness.