Hiring in or for another country can prove challenging. Next to legal, administrative and of course linguistic differences there is often a "soft" factor that comes into play: the cultural differences. These become increasingly visible during the interview process when German candidates and international employers meet for the first time. To ease this process of getting to know each other, we have compiled 5 facts about German candidates that can help foreign employers to a smooth start when interviewing and hiring Germans.
Germany's unemployment rate is the lowest in the EU with 5.9% (01/2017) - combine this with a lack of skilled workers and the demographic trend towards an ageing population et voilà: You got yourself a recruiting challenge. Top candidates are a much sought-after and highly contested commodity. And they know it. Hence, they have high demands when it comes to their employers. They expect the interview process to be smooth and fast. They will want to know the exact conditions of their employment: How many days of paid leave (at least 24)? Will they be reimbursed for overtime? Is there a company pension scheme they can get into? Is it an unlimited contract (they will expect that to be the case)? And - most importantly - they will expect to be paid a fair amount of money for their labor. Generally, German candidates will focus on the nitty-gritty of their employment and want to have every possible information before they make a decision. So be prepared for a lot of questions. German candidates, thus, may seem like they are scrutinising every last detail rather than just interviewing for a position because they would love to have the job. But this is just the usual close evaluation.
Not exactly famed for smooth talking, Germans usually have a very direct style of communication. If you want to put it nicely, you would call it straightforward - others may simply call it rude. That is however, most of the times, not the case. Germans just like to get to the point quickly. As a rule of thumb, try not to make more than 2 minutes of smalltalk - usually pertaining to the weather or to something similarly harmless - before the interview starts. Anything above that might make your German interview partner uncomfortable - the level of uncomfortableness will increase exponentially with the number of minutes spent small talking.
Give me the facts!
Connected to this very direct style of communication is the German love for facts, numbers and anything that can be measured in exact terms. They want details - and they are not afraid to ask for them either. The exact revenue they are expected to generate in the first 6 months of their employment? They want to know. You have a case study of a what they will be working on? Yes, they will want to talk about that in great detail and meticulously walk through it step by step. The project they will be heading in their new job with you? Give them everything: number of team members, duration, KPIs connected to the project, really anything that can be measured. Don't be put off by the amount of questions they ask - it usually means they're interested in the job.
Passion for precision
German candidates will also expect precision and detail when it comes to the interview process as such. If you say, you will get back to them by mid-August, they will expect a call from you on the 15th of August - at the latest! If you have communicated that there will be three rounds of interviews and end up inviting them for a fourth round, they will get suspicious and most likely ask you - directly - why they had to come back one more time. The upside on this quirk: German candidates are generally very reliable and stand by their word. They will do what they say and say what they do. Which is not the worst trait to have in a professional environment.
Where is the love?
When it comes to expressing passion or enthusiasm for a job or a certain topic or - basically - anything, Germans can come across as fairly neutral or even sober. Germans are not the ones for inspirational, enthusiastic outbursts and may seem reserved, but that doesn't mean that they are not fully in love with your product or super excited about your business model. They just don't show it like others would do. Give them some time to get to know you and they will feel more comfortable in displaying emotions.
That being said, all in all German candidates make for highly resourceful, extremely efficient (yes, that stereotype is true), very professional and reliable employees. Hiring in and for the German market might have it's peculiarities but if you understand where these are coming from and what they mean it's much easier to see behind the cultural differences and spot true talent.
These blatant generalisations are only meant to give you some pointers for recruiting in Germany - all information provided is, as always, subject to change and your own good judgement. Happy hiring!