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I have now been contacted several times by recruiters in Germany and their behavior irritates me.

First I need to explain that there are two different modes of addressing someone in Germany (and I suppose some other countries have them, too).

The first one is formal and neutral: You call him/her "Herr/Frau surname" which can be translated as "Mr./Mrs. surname". "You" is in German Sie. This is used if you do not know the person personally, if you are making negotiations and it is also a sign of respect. It helps to maintain professional distance if a deal busts, if a conflict arises etc.

The second one is more intimate: You call him/her by their first name and "you" becomes Du. It is reserved for people having a close relationship with you (parents, siblings, your SO) and people who are in frequent contact with you (colleagues, acquaintances and leisure contacts).

The recruiters in question now used the second form to contact me. The first one even continued to address me in the second form after I answered politely in the first form (hint, hint). The whole form of the letter was also in a form like we were long-time chaps and I admit that it felt borderline manipulative (You know those guys which get chummy very fast and, surprise, want a small, little favor from you). All were from recruitment agencies.

I am now a little older (40s), but from the viewpoint of someone working in Germany:

Is it now acceptable to be addressed in the intimate form? I know that the tech industry is more informal, but would you accept to be addressed in this way in a first contact mail? If not, do you know why the recruiters are doing this?

ADDITION: If there is a misunderstanding: I am not talking about the interview process inside a firm or recruiters from the firm which are searching candidates, I am talking about recruitment firms like Hayes etc.

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    It's become commonplace in some circles. For example, business emails, job descriptions, etc. from startups mostly use the informal form. Also, younger people typically use “Du” for their peers, I have heard it in shops, etc. it's clearly not limited to close friends and relatives. But it seems you have noticed this yourself and this question is halfway between a rant and an opinion polls (“would you accept?”), neither of which are a good fit for this platform. – Relaxed May 14 '17 at 21:28
  • @Relaxed: What would have been the correct question? – Thorsten S. May 14 '17 at 21:31
  • Nothing, don't post a message if you don't have a good question, I just don't see anything in there that would be worth reformulating. – Relaxed May 14 '17 at 21:32
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    @Relaxed Many questions are asking if x is inapprioate or unprofessional behavior. I simply do not see why it is not a good question, especially after looking up the answer of Traubenfuchs (who is by the way Austrian, not German) and seeing that in fact not all people are embracing the new behavior. – Thorsten S. May 14 '17 at 21:44
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    @Relaxed Another thing: I was not aware of this behavior change despite being German, so it is not obvious. Googling is also often misleading, if you read the articles a decade ago it was evident that Rails is the future and PHP will die immediately. And as you also see, the "Du" is not always shared as acceptable. As answer for your slating: I have currently two times more upvotes than downvotes for 390 views and there are 0 (!) close requests, so your opinion that the question is completely unsalvageable is at least currently not shared. – Thorsten S. May 16 '17 at 18:53
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Whether it's acceptable is up for debate, but it's been widely adopted by companies that want to show a more youthful image. It's not a lack of respect.

There are lots of content about this already: https://www.google.at/search?q=recruiter+duzen

  • +1 this. Also many companies only use "du" internally, maybe they are so used to it that they didn't thought someone could take offense of it. – Swizzler May 14 '17 at 21:14
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    Uh, we are not talking about companies. I am talking about the recruiter, so what exactly has his/her behavior to do with the company you are working? I can negotiate with a recruiter in formal tone and being "Duzed" in the company, so what has the one thing to do with the other? – Thorsten S. May 14 '17 at 21:23
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    @ThorstenS. Companies adopt a trend, recruiters notice and follow suit – rath May 15 '17 at 8:26
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    @ThorstenS. Job postings by companies and recruiters wasting your time are pretty much the same to me. The same reasons apply as well: They want to look hip, informal and young. – Traubenfuchs May 15 '17 at 12:57
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    Perhaps it's not intended as a lack of respect, but that doesn't mean it isn't a lack of respect. – user1602 Jun 23 '17 at 20:37
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I, myself, prefer when they contact me using "du". If they start writing using the formal variant, I ignore the message because it means that this is the culture of the company and I do not want to work in such a culture. I suggest you do the same: accept that the company is looking for someone who uses "du" for work colleagues and that you won't feel comfortable with it. So just do not reply.

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    Again: what has the recruiters behavior to do with the company? – Thorsten S. May 14 '17 at 21:25
  • @ThorstenS. it reflects on the culture of teh company – Neuromancer May 14 '17 at 21:38
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    @Neuromancer Why? What has the recruiter from e.g. Hayes to do with the company where they are searching? I seriously doubt that they change their contact behavior to fit the company profile every time, especially if you have the feel that there are mass contact attempts. – Thorsten S. May 14 '17 at 21:53
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    The recruiter is supposed to find a good fit for the company. So imagine they find someone who insists on the formal address and send them to a startup where they would be invited to join a nerf gun fight after the interview. It's not going to fit. If the company is "low" on formalities, then it is better to attract candidates who are fine (preferably happy) with that. Also, even recruiters have a style and if they are good enough probably prefer to work with companies that match their style (and expertise). – skymningen May 15 '17 at 12:19
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    I've had recruiters of both the "Du" and the "Sie" kind contact me on Xing, but I find the "Du" irritating even though I am a young German native speaker in the tech industry, and I address all my colleagues with "Du". Colleagues, who you see face to face almost every day, are just a whole other level of familiarity than some random recruiter shooting out unsolicited emails. – Sumyrda May 15 '17 at 15:54
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As others have done already, and replying to your questions:

  • Is it now acceptable to be addressed in the intimate form?

Yes, this is considered acceptable in most places nowadays. Both in firms that recruit and in recruiter firms (Hayes, TalentSearchPeople, etc)

  • I know that the tech industry is more informal, but would you accept to be addressed in this way in a first contact mail? If not, do you know why the recruiters are doing this?

Yes, I would. This is just a matter of perception on the way of addressing you. In any case, and from discussions in other sites, I believe it is getting more and more common now to understand the formal way as a disrespectful and/or cold and/or classy manner. So some HHRRs have changed that.


If you are unsure about the culture of the company they search a candidate for, my recommendation would be to investigate the firm first on sites like Glassdoor (if you've been given the name or can infer it, that's it). Otherwise ask them -- and if you consider that necessary, state your request on addressing you in the formal manner.

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