Member News

What should you know about hiring a recruiting firm for/in Germany

A short supplement by Dr. Philip Wenger, Managing Partner of expertalis GmbH, FMA Member of the Board:

A lot of US-facts mentioned by my dear FMA Partner Len Adams, also correspondent to the German market. To summarize:

The labor market: extremely tight. Almost full employment nationwide, especially in the south and in the disciplines of Engineering (machinery, electronics), IT, Tax and Sales as well as specialists from all disciplines. As a result of this all of the best candidates are already working, do not have to search job boards and, for the most part, have little interest when approached by a headhunter in the workplace. The current labor market situation also makes it expensive for the employer, because, in order to attract the right specialist/executive a substantial pay rise is acquired – in many cases the raise of 20% is the norm.

The recruiting firms market: extremely varied. There are thousands of recruiters in Germany, varying from one man shows to middle sized headhunting boutiques to the universally known multinational big players. Working on contingency or retainer, starting from 20% up to 33%.

Tip: As in the US, with so many recruiters to choose from, I is important to find the right fit. Perhaps invite the consultant for an appointment to find out his philosophy, work ethic, references and conditions. If the chemistry doesn’t fit, choose another one!

There are however pitfalls for international employers looking for personnel in Germany:

Salaries in Germany are high, at least compared to most other European countries. Only Swiss wages are known to be higher! But the salaries can also depend on the number of suitable candidates for a specialized position, on the industry and the region.

Notice periods are long. German workers tend to have much longer notice periods than their international counterparts. However, within the first 6 months of employment (probation) notice periods are quite moderate with just two weeks on either side. After probation a notice period of 3 months (to the end of the month or to the end of a quarter) is normal.

Tip: Have this in mind, when you think about filling a position. If you estimate that a search takes 3 to 6 months, depending on the difficulty, it could take another 3+ months, until the chosen candidate starts to work at your company.

Job references are important and a world of its own. When receiving applications from candidates, they will send you not just the CV (a photo included) and a cover letter (often with the indication of notice period and salary expectation) but also a file of a complete selection of job references from former employers plus all acquired certificates from schools and universities and from further training e.g. language or IT qualifications.

Tip: While certificates with a degree as Bachelor, Master, MBA, SAP-Consultant etc. look quite the same to the international standard, job references from former employments are often several pages long and contain a detailed description of the job contents but also of the personal competencies and behavior as an employee. What makes it tricky to read and to interpret job references properly is the fact, that there has developed some „jargon” over the years. This means, that statements which at first site look positive, can turn out to indeed be negative. Sometimes it is even difficult for German HR professionals to interpret the references. You have to know the keywords.

Traditionally labor law plays a big role in German employment contracts. As a result of this one finds that many HR Managers and Directors come from a legal background.

Tip: Although all this may sound a little complicated and daunting, there are also a positives to hiring personnel in Germany. Once employed and attached to a company, German employees tend to be very loyal, have a reputation of being highly motivated, disciplined and effective.

Compliments of Len Adams of ACG Resources