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There’s no shortage of jobs in Berlin for English speakers, but what if you need German speakers?

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 5 years ago
  • Author:by Thomas Lennon

Roughly 75% of Tech and Digital jobs in Berlin are advertised in English, and it’s evident that the city has built a fantastic reputation for attracting English speaking talent. But how does this affect hiring strategies?

And is it really that easy to enjoy a successful career in Berlin ohne die Sprache zu erlernen?

Deutschsprachige Studienprogramm… Or would you rather study in English?

Contributing to Berlin’s vast English-speaking workforce is its higher education offering. With first-hand experience as a student at one of Berlin’s 27 technical colleges and universities, I can personally vouch that there’s a serious attraction to the city for any international.

With hundreds of courses and programmes available in English, German nationals have fantastic resources for mastering a foreign language following their chosen study path. This is also attractive to international students who speak English, but want to experience the lifestyle and culture of a new city.

The surprisingly difficult search for German-speaking talent

It seems strange to suggest hiring German speakers in Germany can be difficult, but given the above is it surprising? Whether it’s to lead a digital transformation across the DACH region or to manage your marketing content for German audiences, you can expect fewer candidates to choose from if you are looking for someone who is genuinely fluent. Those candidates that you do find, may also command a higher salary than you expected.

What can employers do when hiring for jobs in Berlin?

1. Carefully assess how important the German language requirement is. If you need someone to write content targeting German customers, you likely have a justified case.

2. You’re dealing with a much smaller talent pool. When it comes to engaging candidates, it’s crucial that your recruitment team/partner can confidently communicate the best elements of the role, company, culture and benefits. It’s also important to highlight challenges of the role – people want to know how their work will make an impact.

3. Once you have candidates in your pipeline, ensure the process moves quickly and maintain regular contact. It’s likely that the candidates you’re interviewing are interviewing elsewhere too. Encourage candidates to be open about any concerns and address them during the interview process, not at the end.

4. If ‘because the rest of the office speak German’ is behind your search for a fluent speaker, then you may need to be more open. Consider candidates who have some basic German language skills and prioritise those who are interested in developing their language skills further.

5. If you are only presented with English-speaking candidates, look at which additional languages they might have, and whether that could bring value to the team or business.

6. If a German speaker leaves, think about your wider team before you look externally for a replacement. Perhaps there are others who might be interested in moving into the role or maybe it’s time to switch around some responsibilities – this applies to many skillsets, not just languages

Does this mean that as a fluent English speaker, my career in Berlin is sorted?

English is the most common language for European business communication, particularly within the Technology and Digital sectors. Berlin has a thriving tech and digital economy and remains attractive for startups in this sector, so English language skills will naturally be in demand for the foreseeable future.

But whilst there are loads of jobs in Berlin offering enormous career opportunities for English speakers, those who don’t learn any German can still find themselves limited when it comes to securing the best roles. Even basic German language skills can make a difference in your job search. Many people in senior roles looking for that ‘Head of’ or ‘Director’ opportunity, will find themselves at a disadvantage if they can’t introduce their board or investor presentation with a few snippets of German.

You may not be expected to have German language skills in Berlin, but learning about languages and cultures different to your own enables you to see things from different perspectives, and enhances your ability to build successful professional relationships.

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