I want to relocate to Germany applying for an IT job. I know there are formal recommendation letters that German companies extend to former employees. However, I only worked for companies outside Germany, should I ask previous employers for letter of recommendations? Is there a format or guidelines on its content? Any advise on this topic?

  • 1
    Why do you think that a letter from your current or past employer won't work in Germany?
    – DarkCygnus
    Oct 9, 2020 at 14:45

1 Answer 1


Should I ask previous employers for letter of recommendations?

Yes. We don't do references. We will not call people. Written letters are good.

Is there a format or guidelines on its content?

Not for other countries. Stick with their letters of recommendation whatever they feel comfortable giving you.

Any advise on this topic?

The German format of those letters is highly codified and contains lots of hidden meanings transported through innocent looking sentences. The current court ruling is that this has to be positive and constructive and not hinder the employee to get a new job... but how do you write positive recommendation for someone who was drunk and attacked their boss with an axe? Well, you write something like "He was an avid socializer and great with rescue equipment". So... there is code for everything. For example if the last line is "We wish him success in their next job", the meaning is "they had none here, total failure that person". You really have to have the secret decoder ring to read and write those things. They are not super secret, you can buy the decoder ring on Amazon as books, but normally, only the HR bothers to read that.

So my advice is: stay clear of that. Just attach your original letters, so it's obvious those are not German and should not be read with that German secret language in mind.

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    Not all german bosses who write such letters are HR trained. Good HR people spot letters written by people not in the know. Still, it is better to stick to your original letters, so its superclear these are not in german code. btw, My favourite code is: "He had good behaviour with coworkers, superiors and customers". Sounds good? It's very bad. Best mark would be: "He always had exemplary behaviour with customers, superiors and coworkers".
    – Benjamin
    Oct 9, 2020 at 16:44
  • Wow... secret squirrel stuff... nice
    – Kilisi
    Oct 10, 2020 at 12:18
  • Thanks a lot, this is very helpful!
    – Javier
    Oct 10, 2020 at 15:43
  • Hi @nvoigt, I have a follow up question: I got a couple of recommendations as emails, quite informally. Should I print them out as is, or is it acceptable to transcribe the text into a clean document to unify formatting? Thanks in advance!
    – Javier
    Oct 21, 2020 at 17:47

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