How to Land a Startup Job in Germany as a Foreigner

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With a working environment that gives the possibility to perform multiple jobs simultaneously, freedom to take initiatives, and substantial learning and advancement opportunities, startups in Europe have become a popular career option for entrepreneurially-minded people of all ages. According to recent rankings, Germany is the number one country in the EU’s startup ecosystem, thanks to its healthy economy, interest in financially supporting innovative businesses, and a diversified digital hub network. The perfect startup climate has contributed to success stories like, for example, SoundCloud, Flixbus, or Zalando. 

Yet, how do you become a part of such a buzzing and booming world if you are a foreigner? How do you get to experience the potential and thrill of working at a startup in Germany?

This article will help you learn all you need to know how to land the perfect startup job from Berlin to Munich and beyond. Now, let’s start at the top.

Be attentive to the paperwork

Maybe you have heard this before, but Germans love their bureaucracy. Here, no one gets to cut through red tape, which means that the rules apply to everyone equally when it comes to paperwork, and you are not the exception. 

In general, to work in Germany, you need to obtain a residence permit to take up gainful employment. Some nationalities first need to get a working visa, so getting a residence permit will usually depend on your country of origin. In most cases, you will also need to get a job offer, proof of your qualifications, a registered address in Germany (Anmeldung), and importantly health insurance, which is mandatory. For ex-pats who work as freelancers or in the startup sector, a private health insurance Germany-based is an excellent option since they can freely join without any further requirements. An additional plus is that the companies that offer it provide customer support in English.

Learning how taxes work, how much savings you will need to bring for a deposit on an apartment, and the costs of living in a particular city are valuable information you need to have in advance. After all, it is essential to know what you are getting into before setting up life in a new country. 

Tailor your application and assess your experience and expertise

Exciting startup jobs in demand in Germany are any software development (front-end, full-stack, mobile), UX/UI or other designers, and roles such as digital marketing, content manager, growth hacker, and similar. However, if a startup has recently got money, the chances are they need staff across all functional areas. Interestingly, unsolicited applications are typical and usually welcomed in Germany, so give yourself a try even if there is no advertised position.

When looking for a post, make sure you do good background research on your interest picks. Focus on quality over quantity and investigate the job or company you are applying to and tailor your application according to it. Make sure you have something unique to say about precisely why you are interested in the position and why you are the perfect fit. Keeping it short and to the point is a must. 

When it comes to your skills, make sure to present them in the best possible way, highlighting your experience and in the context of the position you are applying to. Having at least a couple of years’ experience is vital since it is harder to bring candidates over from another country if they do not have something unique and different to offer. Also, startups, especially early-stage ones, have various needs and do not necessarily want a person who will focus 100% on one thing. Keep this in mind in your initial contact and when you get the chance for a meeting. You will want to make sure the team understands all the skills you bring to the table, not just those related to your core area of expertise. 

Get connected

Germany’s hubs are developing fast because they tend to connect, combine forces, and collaborate. The same applies to you. The best way to get connected and network when scouting for a job is the internet. Take advantage of LinkedIn or XING, create an appealing profile, and get in touch with interesting people. Look for Facebook startup communities or visit discussion boards like Indeed.com to network with career professionals and other job seekers. All these tools are a great way to get a sense of what is in demand on the market, look for exciting possibilities, meet like-minded people, and “sell” yourself.  

Keep in mind that startups prefer proactive employees that can show their value. Making them know your name before seeing it on a job application can skyrocket your career. To achieve that, start engaging with them on social media. Share their blog posts, start conversations in the comments, and advocate for them. Once you see that your engagement produces results, send them a message saying who you are and what you have been doing. The rest will follow. 

If you are already in Germany, consider joining a co-working space. Being exposed to (and in contact with) other creative minds is a great way to keep yourself updated with what is going on. Be open and friendly, attend events, parties, and invite people to coffee or lunch. Use every possible occasion to gather information on which companies are the best to work for, their salaries, and the best places to meet new and influential people. 

Prepare yourself for the interview process

In Germany, there are often many steps between application and contract. So, if you want to land a job, you better be well prepared. А mitigating circumstance is that once you have a tailored application, getting ready for the interview becomes easier.

The interview process, which is typical for many local startups, consists of a few phases. The first one is an initial screen with the recruiter, followed by work on a task that later should be presented to future team members for feedback. If successful, the finishing stage is an interview with the hiring manager.

Make sure you use the interview to demonstrate your traits and expertise. Show your most significant projects and any side entrepreneurship experience you may have (even if they don’t seem related to the position you are trying to get).

Another thing that will be discussed during your interview is the salary. Knowing your branch salary scale shows that you are well informed and know your worth. However, keep in mind that German wages are usually significantly lower than the ones offered in, for example, London or Los Angeles. But, so is the cost of living in Germany. For example, a two-bedroom apartment in a good neighbourhood may cost between 900 and 1400 euros with utilities. Transportation costs are reasonable, and supermarkets are relatively cheap, which means that you can live comfortably on an average startup salary.

Final thoughts

Each startup has a unique attitude and dynamic created organically from its founders and later shaped by the team’s work styles and values. So naturally, not everything you’ll do at a startup is going to be sunshine and buttercups. Yet, embrace new tasks, long working hours when needed, and support your colleagues when things get busy. What is sure is that in exchange, you’ll get the exceptional opportunity to help form a company in its infancy, build a diverse skill set along the way, and fully experience living abroad. 

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