A software engineer is one of the most perspective professions nowadays, and with startups like Google and Facebook, it seems like everyone wants to become an IT expert. But how easy or hard is it to get a software engineer job in a country like Germany?
In fact, plenty of great German companies are trying to figure out how to find a good software developer. Not all of them succeed. This guide will provide all the necessary information you will need to get hired in Europe’s center of technology – Germany.
Estimate your chances in Germany
Estimating your chances in Germany is essential when applying for a job as a foreigner. Unfortunately, we aren’t all the same with all our equal rights when pretending on the job.
Especially the nationality and location of the applicant play a significant role in the hiring process. This is because employers in Germany choose candidates depending on where they live and come from over their qualifications and experience.
For a company, it is easier to hire someone from the EU who can start working next week rather than wait for a non-EU expert to make a visa to come to Germany.
Assuming all candidates have equal qualifications and experience, most companies in Germany will hire as follows:
- German citizens
- EU citizens / Permanent Residents who speak German
- EU citizens / Permanent Residents who speak basic to no German
- Non-EU citizens who speak German
- Non-EU citizens who do not speak German
Consequently, if you are from a non-EU country and don’t speak German, you need to put quite a lot of effort into getting a job even as a demanded software engineer in Germany. Be proactive!
Current situation in Germany
In 2019, Germany was missing 124,000 IT specialists, including software engineers. The demand has increased by 50% from the last year. To find a suitable person takes six months on average; some companies don’t receive an application for their job positions altogether!
This is a significant complication for German employers; many projects must be postponed or won’t be started.
Another problem of employers is that some German developers expect a high salary despite lacking skills or incapability to get a job done. Some practically don’t possess some critical IT specialist skills and knowledge.
Every third company with at least one job offer is looking for an IT expert. This shows the severe changes that are taking place in the German economy due to digitalization.
Software is becoming more and more part of the core business. This means that the software development process is now in companies across all industries and is becoming increasingly important. Software engineers, data scientists, and IT project managers are frequently searched for.
Furthermore, German schools aren’t managing to train enough computer science students; the numbers have only slightly increased over the years, disproportionally with the demand. In 2018 it was around 27,000 universities and vocational school graduates with IT majors.
Your skillset plays one of the most important roles when estimating your chances of getting a job in Germany. Often an employer hires a non-EU candidate because of their skills over anything else. This is your selling proposition.
As a rule for software engineers, hard skills over soft skills, usually, software engineers possess several skills and knowledge such as programming languages, software design, information systems, databases, and software architecture.
Typical hard skills a software engineer or software developer should have to work in Germany are:
- software development
- system design and architecture
- algorithms and data structures
- understanding product development
- consulting of software solutions
- English skills and, ideally, German
Not all are necessary, but one should master at least one programming language.
Some other abilities and soft skills will improve your chances, including:
- verbal communication, to work as part of a team
- written communication, to write reports and express ideas clearly
- research, using different sources of information
- time-management, to manage competing demands and projects
- project management
- information technology across various applications
- attention to detail
- logic and an ability to follow processes and procedures
You could also undertake further studies, such as a Masters’s degree in software engineering (full or part-time) or another IT-related field. Usually, a Bachelor’s degree it’s enough to enter a German company, but the better your qualifications, the higher your chances.
In-depth knowledge of programming languages is essential to working as a software engineer in Germany.
Another factor that is important for your job application is professional experience. It doesn’t matter how good your education is and how many certificates you have; if you have never tried it in practice.
Luckily, most software engineers are curious and often implement their knowledge already during their studies, whether it’s an internship or a part-time job. German employers can generally require between 2 and 5 years of professional experience, depending on the company’s field.
The experience should be closely relevant to the field that you’re applying for. Employers might also ask applicants for some of the code samples so they can see if the candidate fulfills their criteria.
Software engineers with a business background can even make it to the managing director. In general, every professional experience you have gives you better chances for a better position and salary.
CV and cover letter
These are the milestones of your application, and you should not underestimate their importance! in fact, a cover letter can be more important than your CV for the company!
Germany has different rules for both of these documents, and you should follow the guidelines and don’t send your American structured application.
A cover letter is a formal letter. It is not a repetition of your resume; it should consist of arguments about why you should be hired for that particular job and not the other candidate as well as why you choosed this company.
Check the job ad for special requirements, duties, and responsibilities and refer to your own experiences and skills.
A cover letter in Germany is never longer than one page. There shouldn’t be any spelling mistakes or wrong grammar.
You might already know enough about your CV: include information about you, your education, skills, and experience. You should adapt your CV and Covering Letter for every company individually and add a high-quality picture for a better impression.
Ideally, have both documents translated or conducted in German, but if you aren’t capable and don’t have funds to hire someone, English is fine too.
Job options for software engineers
Also read: Salary of a Software engineer in Germany.
With a degree in software engineering, you have a wide variety of jobs to undertake. In Germany, a software engineer can be hired in many industries for different positions. Still, they all have some of the underlying skills of the professions, which we will discuss later.
Most teams in companies are composed of several specializations of engineers. Here are the most common types of software engineering roles:
- Back-end engineers spend much of their time writing services and algorithms and architecting a system’s core bits and pieces and how it works.
- Front-end engineers make the services that the back-end engineers write accessible to the end-user through a UI. It’s not uncommon for front-end engineers to have some experience with UI design or often partner with a company designer.
- Operations engineers are responsible for ensuring the infrastructure that supports a product or service is reliable and stays up and running. Another primary responsibility is providing a system’s scalability.
- QA or test engineers are responsible for building systems that test the code the other engineers write to ensure it’s stable and reliable.
- Full-stack engineers do everything (back-end, front-end, operations, testing). These are less common entry-level roles unless they work at a small startup.
However, if you are an experienced software engineer, you may have a full-stack role in a German company. If your potential employer is an IT company, the team will include experts for every single role, making your job more specialized.
Possible job titles for software engineers related to their degree:
- Applications developer
- Database administrator
- Game developer
- Multimedia programmer
- Web developer
- Web designer
- Software engineer
- Software tester
Jobs where your degree would be useful include:
- Application analyst
- IT consultant
- IT technical support officer
- IT sales professional
- Sound designer
- Systems analyst
Types of employers in Germany
As a software engineer, you have a wide variety of businesses to work for in Germany: every big or middle-sized company needs an IT expert.
You could be employed by a company specializing in software engineering/development or other areas of IT which may be broad in scope or specific to an area, such as an app or website development. More and more businesses have their IT department as the most value-added business area.
Or you can be employed by a company that doesn’t have anything to do with IT but needs a specialist anyway.
These are a few examples of the types of companies you could work for:
- information technology
- financial services
- insurance services
The best-paid industries to work as a software engineer in Germany:
- banks and insurances
- medical technology
- automotive industry
- pharmaceutical industry
- educational institutions
- metal and chemical industries
- petroleum processing industry
How to apply for a job in Germany?
The proper application plays a significant, when not the most crucial, role in being hired by a German company. Your CV and cover letter must be optimized; you should know where to look for jobs and how to speak to employers.
1. First, you should create compelling professional profiles on LinkedIn and German versions of LinkedIn – Xing. These are two big social media platforms used by professionals in Germany.
Employers often choose candidates on these platforms; you can also apply for available jobs there or engage with HR departments of companies of your interest directly.
Don’t forget that LinkedIn and Xing are networking sites; you should try to expand your contacts list by adding the right people, engaging with companies you want to work for, following them, commenting, posting, etc.
2. LinkedIn is a must. You should apply for job postings on the biggest German job platforms such as Glassdoor, Stepstone, and Indeed. Another way is to check the websites of companies you want to work for in Germany; most of them post all their open positions on the Career or Karriere page.
3. Pick cities with the most job offers for software engineers, such as Munich and Berlin. Send your application, including (German way!) designed CV and covering letter to the job offers which interest you the most. When applying via email, your email text’s content is your short version of the cover letter. It must be official!
Attach the proper cover letter and other documents (CV, references/certificates) to your email, just referring to your papers in a short introduction.
4. Engage in conversation with companies who have responded, show your passion, motivation, and interest, and attend Skype interviews if they have invited you.
The interview of a software engineer can be a complex process in Germany. The manager will ask many related to the job questions. Consequently, your preparation must be excellent (read below).
Job interview: essentials
Never underestimate the importance of a job interview; you need to be prepared 100%. In Germany, they usually make several rounds by giving candidates some coding exercises and different practical and theoretical questions related to the job.
Many companies practice technical rounds to test your knowledge (hard skills), followed by a cultural round on soft skills and a general interview with maybe the CTO, CEO of the company, or department manager.
This can happen in a single day or span across several days, depending on the availability of the interviewers. Sometimes there are more rounds, and the hiring can take a while.
What should you know to be able to pass a job interview and hiring process in Germany?
Since you will almost in 100% of cases receive a coding exercise to complete, you need to know how to code. When you are applying for a software developer job, this is quite obvious.
You should be able to solve algorithmic problems in the language you are comfortable with. Still, most companies have their preferences for languages, so you should only apply for those you master.
2. Architecture design/data modeling
The interviewers also will test your knowledge in these areas of software engineering; it will be a part of your job.
Architecture design and data modeling are essential for any developer to learn and understand. So they can decide which platform is best based on the company’s goals.
3. Previous projects
In most cases, candidates must have several years of experience to apply for a job in Germany from abroad. Consequently, you should already have some completed projects behind you and be capable of talking in detail about them.
A typical question for this section will be asking you about a critical situation from your past projects and what you did to handle that.
The interview process
The interview process for software engineers often looks like this. After you have received a positive response to your application, the company will send out a take-at-home coding challenge, and you get two days to finish.
If they like the results, the manager will schedule an interview with you via skype if abroad or life if you are already in Germany. Prepare thoroughly: read about the company, its history, goals, achievements, and the job position you applied for.
Common job interview questions
Which questions should you expect in your first software engineering interview? That depends on the role you’ve applied for. Software engineering jobs tend to fall under two categories: domain-specific or general programming.
The process is fundamentally different from the general programming or web development role. These interviews evaluate your problem-solving ability and coding proficiency, so recruiters are likely to ask technical and behavioral questions.
Both of these interviews include a take-home test that requires you to debug or build something.
Some common questions you should expect during your software engineer interview for the German company:
- Describe the process you use for writing a piece of code, from requirements to delivery.
- What has your experience been like as part of an agile software development process, if any?
- What is responsive design? What is the difference between fixed and fluid layouts?
- What is your process for testing and finding bugs in an application?
- Tell me about a challenging software development problem and how you solved it.
- What would you improve in this source code, and why?
Additionally, candidates receive some technical questions where they need to use existing knowledge to find a solution, including some calculations.
Other skills your potential employer might ask for include Java, C++, SAP, and PHP knowledge. They may also test how capable you are of dealing with developer tools such as UML and tools for test automation and programming, such as reports- and barcode generators.
If you have made programming a hobby, you will have additional good points: anyone who pursues work-relevant activities in their free time enjoys their job.
To prepare for possible interview questions for a job in Germany and all countries, you should check the book “cracking the coding interview.” Former foreign applicants recommended it. As they say, this book immensely helped during their software engineering job interview in Germany.
Follow examples of others
Thousands of IT specialists come to Germany every year from EU and non-EU countries. You can network, ask about their experience, and learn from them.
Moreover, there are other countries where software engineers find very attractive job offers; you can connect with people there. Search in Quora for questions and people who responded, check FB groups, and engage there or discover people on LinkedIn.
Nevertheless, the German government relies on immigration as a part of the solution to the shortage of IT professionals. They understand that it is not foreign experts who depend on Germany, but Germany depends on them.
Since 2012 employment of foreigners had been increased in IT and STEM fields overall. This had begun thanks to introducing a new immigration program – the EU Blue Card. Im March 2020 German government made some changes in immigration law, which make it even easier for non-EU nationals to come to work in Germany.
The regulations were made particularly easy for IT specialists: now they can enter the country and search for a job without a degree but with several years of working experience in the IT industry.
Most software engineers and developers come from non-EU countries (59%) such as India, Russia, Turkey, Balkans, respectively, and EU countries (41%). The future of Germany pretty much depends on foreign IT exerts unless companies find a way to outsource these processes to other countries.
I see more and more people will come from non-EU countries to work in technology in Germany in the future. European countries don’t have enough potential for the exponentially growing German economy.
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