Which soft skills strengthen your competitiveness? Which soft skills are German CEOs, CTOs, HRs and recruiters keen on?
Picture: Jaroslav Plotnikov
At CeBIT 2018, I spoke to over 100 people – CEOs, CTOs, HRs, recruiters. 54 agreed to the quick interview and expressed their opinions on my questions.
The questions were always the same – it was all about what German employers expect from an applicant. Of course one has to be highly qualified, but the qualification alone is not enough. What applicants should not ignore – are the soft skills. Which of them should an applicant have, so that he can be included in the final selection and finally in the team?
Of course, not all interview participants answered all the questions. But I was happy about every single opinion.
Are you a German company? / Does your company have a branch in Germany? Do you employ foreign IT specialists? How many, from which countries?
Finally, I asked a fun question:
A large number of respondents laughed and gave their “contratips”. I have summarized them in the article How do you destroy your career in Germany? “Advices” from employers
At the end I always asked for a book recommendation:
Please remember that the answers do not come from the public relations departments. Most respondents wanted to keep their anonymity because their opinions are subjective and sometimes differ from the given company-ideology.
This question made many interviewers smile… and was seldom answered. Some Germans named such misunderstandings about Germans, such as punctuality and strictness, as being exaggerated.
Make a bad impression: Applications “for everything”, no red line in the CV, insufficient or not recognizable motivation of the applicant, mistakes in a resume, lack of work experience.
You can’t expect perfect German / English from foreigners, but the typing and sloppy mistakes really don’t belong in the application documents!
In order not to be sorted out from the beginning, one should show that he has already acquired something about the company. “Sample applications” are often ignored right from the start or answered with “sample rejections”.
An employer becomes very attentive when the applicant can make the impression of wanting to work in his company, being loyal to his company and not want to overrun to a competitor.
Qualification of applicants is probably the most important (but not the only!) criterium. The employers / HR want to see clearly that the applicant’s professional knowledge corresponds to the particular job advertisement. Work experience should be at least three years.
The most frequently mentioned soft skills are the ability to work in a team, openness and hand-on mentality. The latter means being open and helpful, not isolating. Also the self-reliance and personal responsibility were very often mentioned. Employees who show initiative are very welcome.
Other highly valued soft skills: creativity, reliability, personal responsibility and a focus on the solution (not the problem).
In professions that require direct customer contact, communication and a very strong customer orientation are a must.
to bring German language skills (minimum level B1) and willingness to improve them. Openness towards the German host society and German culture.
Yourwork hunting in Germany begins with the preparation of the relevant CV, cover letter and sometimes also a letter of motivation. While your CV will be attached to your applications without any changes, you should at least slightly adapt the cover letter to the particular job offer.
In the application process, study each job ad with the greatest attention to detail. Do your best to ensure that your application does not look like a “template request”. Go through the company’s website. Look in Wikipedia. Your goal: to find plausible arguments why you want to work in this company.
Your application documents should be complete: Curriculum vitae, cover letter, references. The first two is a must.
You can be a nerdy, no worries. What really counts is that you are reliable, open to new things, can deal with criticism and flexible enough to support teamwork with your individuality. You clearly express all this in your application – the company should understand your added value.
Emphasize your strengths without false modesty. The trick is in the perspective: your strengths should always be profitable for your employer. Wrong: I am good at it… Right: Your company benefits through me because…
Don’t make empty statements. If you’re gonna say something, it has to be well-founded. If you intend to do something and speak it out, it is a question of honor that you realize it. Be careful with excuses and explanations. How to avoid that an explanation turns into an excuse? If you can’t do what you promised or can’t keep to the deadlines, do something to make your boss see that you: a) recognize your mistake; b) try to solve it and c) want to learn from it.
Regarding the language skills the opinions of the interviewed respondents were clearly divided. The majority clearly emphasized the importance of the German language. To make a career in a German company or even get a job, the applicant should have at least German level B1*.
However, technical directors and managing directors often declared that English skills (level B2 and higher) were quite enough to work in their companies.
* – For language levels (A1,A2,B1,B2,C1,C2) see the Wikipedia entry: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
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