9 steps to find your dream job in Europe

Our collection of advice learned the hard way

“Finding a job was really tough. It took me nearly a year.” — Youssef “I changed my CV & Linkedin, now I have 2 job offers!” — Mahmoud

Berlin/Germany at night

We spoke to more than 30 software engineers from all over the world who now live and work in Germany. All have one thing in common: They ‘made it’ in Germany. Yet all had very different job-hunting experiences. Some got a good offer within a few weeks, others took many months, even up to a year.

All of them learned super valuable lessons along the way. Here is what these folks would do if they had to do it all over again. We added to this our experience from working with 250+ engineers seeking jobs in Europe. We distilled the lessons learned into 9 easily replicable steps.

If these other people can do it, so can you. Ready? Here you go.

Step 1. Put yourself in the position to win.

To win, you need a great application. We call it the ‘rock star package’. To get there, read our series of targeted advice for engineers seeking to relocate to Europe, and in particular to Germany.

We know, it’s a lot. Still, it’s already focused on the essentials…

PRO TIP: Invest at least 10 hours of your time in crafting your application package. Think about it: It could be the best investment you ever made…

Step 2. Go to one of the big job sites in Germany.

Most people we know have found their jobs via these four sites:

  • Stackoverflow.com (great for developers, lists visa & relocation sponsors. Create a job alert here to stay up to date on new jobs)
  • Angel.co/jobs (any startup aspiring for US funding will advertise here)

There are also job matching sites you can sign up for:

  • Relocate.me (mainly focused on Russian/Ukrainian developers)
  • Talent.io (experience is hit or miss — some easily find a job, some never)

In parallel, we at Imagine will recommend Imagine Fellows to our recruiting network. Are you not a Fellow yet? Apply now.

Step 3. Apply only for jobs you qualify for.

Do not only look at the job title. Instead, scan the job descriptions for keywords and apply only if you meet most of the criteria. Read this piece for details.

Step 4. Mass-customize your pitch to each job.

You should have slightly different versions of your CV and cover letter/email ready, customized to the specific keywords the company is hunting for. Our advice on cover letters gives an example of such mass-customization.

Example: You are a full-stack engineer who knows Java and PHP. You now decide to apply for a Senior Java engineering position. In that case, highlight your specific Java experience and play down your other skills. This helps your recruiter categorize you as Java expert, rather than as a ‘middle-of-the-road generalist software developer without any specific depth’.

Step 5. Send out max. 5 applications per batch.

If you take steps 2, 3, and 4 seriously, applying to 5 jobs will take you at least one hour, if not longer. This is a sign of quality. Put care and attention to detail in each of your applications. Do not spray and pray.

Step 6. Repeat at least 2x per week.

Want to know a little well-kept secret of the HR profession? Your chances of getting the job are much higher if you are among the first to apply. Use it to your advantage.

PRO TIP: Set a job alert on the websites. Make sure you always apply within the first 3 days a job posting is online. If you apply late, chances are the company has already set its sights on other dream candidates.

Step 7. Use interviews as a way to learn.

Each interaction with a recruiter is an opportunity to learn. We hope by now you are scoring some interview invites.

The job search has a lot in common with dating. Understand how HR managers think, how they tick, and they will hire you. -> Read more.

Read our detailed advice on first screening interviews with HR and then also on preparing for technical interviews.

Want the inside scoop? Get some real-life advice for tech interviews from 5 software engineers in Berlin.

PRO TIP: After each interview, write down the questions you heard and the answers you gave. How did the interviewers react? Did you succeed in building a personal relationship? Write down 3 things (or more) that you learned.

Step 8. Think ahead: Visa & relocation.

When you talk to recruiters, you need to show that you are in charge of yourself. Only if you can handle your life people will trust you with handling their systems, right?

A great way to signal this is to know the basics of the visa and the relocation process. We have put together all there is to know for you at this stage.

We know recruiters who actually test you on basic knowledge of this process. They want to see that you know what you’re getting into by moving to Germany. So, be prepared.

Do not obsess about visa issues now. Get a job first. But know what’s ahead by reading our -> visa advice

Step 9. Do this for up to 12 months.

This is a super long time, we know. It can be very very frustrating, especially when you start scoring 2nd and 3rd places out of a field of 50 or more applicants. You need to be incredibly persistent.

It takes some people more than 6 months, and some even longer than a year until they strike gold. There is no shortcut. It took Youssef 12 months of persistent effort to find his dream job.

But, we hope you are among the lucky ones. Luck comes to those who are prepared. Mahmoud (Imagine Fellow #2) and Ahmed (#3) found jobs within 6 weeks after completing the Imagine boot camp. If they can do it, so can you.

That’s it. We hope you enjoyed the read. Now it’s time for action. As always, we are rooting for you. Keep us posted.

— Your friends at Imagine

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