I'm about to finish my postdoc employment and looking for a job in the industry (both in Germany). I know that a typical thing to add to the job applications for the industry is the "employment reference letter" (it is Arbeitszeugnis in Germany). However, I'm not sure if they expect such a thing from people who come from academic positions? Also, if I ask my group's head for such a letter, would it sound uncommon?

  • I had to ask for such a letter when I went to industry (phd position employment). It was uncommon, the group leaders did not know how to write such a letter for industry - but they managed with my help;) anyway, why wouldn't this help your next boss? It does (should) tell about your soft skills - those are probably the same in industry and academia.
    – guest
    Nov 25, 2020 at 13:55
  • @guest was it in Germany?
    – Bob
    Nov 25, 2020 at 13:56
  • Have you seen the country I wrote? Then I'll delete it.
    – guest
    Nov 25, 2020 at 14:01
  • @guest Is there a good template that I can give my boss. I expect he is not familiar with that type of reference letters.
    – Bob
    Nov 25, 2020 at 14:24
  • 1
    In my experience, it helped to tell him what should be contained there, then let them write and then make comments/ideas what they should add. I don't know about a goos template, sorry.
    – guest
    Nov 25, 2020 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Yes, you should ask for one and your professor should know what it is and how to write one. That said, some professors haven't been in Germany long enough to have experience with this, and others are just too busy for formalities. So what often happens is they will tell you to write your own and they'll sign it, or they'll tell you to ask the HR department to write one.

  • Yes, and it doesn't matter what your job was (cleaning or postdoc), you were employed, you get a Arbeitszeugnis. You should insist on getting one and do so early. German companies expect you to provide these documents.
    – user29390
    Nov 26, 2020 at 8:20
  • Also, do I need to attach this letter to my job application? In that case, I need to ask for it 3-4 months before the end of my current employment!
    – Bob
    Nov 26, 2020 at 9:33
  • 2
    @Bob No, companies know that you usually won't have it yet. You can always ask for a preliminary document once you are serving your notice period but that shouldn't be necessary. HR at the next company might ask you to provide it once you have it (or they might forget). Just keep in mind that the Arbeitszeugnis is our way of providing a reference system. We just avoid the need to contact previous companies or colleagues (with all issues attached) by having this standard document.
    – user29390
    Nov 26, 2020 at 10:06
  • 2
    @Bob But you are expected to have (and submit upon request) one for each job (in Germany) you ever had. Not having it is suspicious and can thus be problematic. Fortunately, you have a right to get this document. (But you lose this right if you don't insist in a timely manner. You can't just ask an employer a long time after you left.)
    – user29390
    Nov 26, 2020 at 10:09

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