"Qualifications" and "Proficiencies" on a German job application

While playing the “What other job could I be doing?” game, I ran across some interesting positions in Germany. While browsing the online application, I came across a section that stumped me. It asks:

and directs the applicant to pick out skills and proficiencies from a list. For foreign languages, the applicant can choose “Not rated” through “Expert”.

There is also a tab labeled “Qualifications Pupils” (some of the English is a little off here and there). There are five qualifications: Chemistry, English, German, Mathematics, and Physics. Each of these can be rated with a “Proficiency” ranging from “Note 6 / 0 Pkt.” to “Note 1 / 15-13 Pkt.”

Does anyone know what all this means? I’m assuming it relates to some sort of formal assessment. Ranging a bit outside of GQ territory, but is this the sort of thing an overseas applicant would ignore or try to translate from another grading system?

Rather than start guessing, I paged constanze.

Based on the word “pupils” (it’s what we are taught student means) and the grading system I’m going to say they’re asking for your school grades in these subjects. Our grades go from 1 to 6, and in the last years of high school get refined to range from 0 points (6, absolute failure) to 15 points (1+, as it’s called).

It would be hard to apply your US high school grades to that system, especially since I would say that a “1” is a bit harder to achieve than an American “A”, but if there’s absolutely no way around it, put in your high school grades and explain somewhere that you’re from the US.

Do you maybe have a link to the original German page?

Good luck. I’m regularly called upon to translate job postings to and from German, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that German educational qualification terminology is vast, intricate, and has no appropriate or agreed-upon mapping to English terminology. Part of the reason for this is that the educational systems in German-speaking countries are very different from those found in English-speaking countries; another reason is that governments and translators haven’t sat down with each other and agreed upon a consistent translation for the various terms. Ask four translators to translate a job application from German into English and you’ll get five different mutually (and often also internally) inconsistent translations. I would say you could always contact the company to ask what is meant by a particular qualification question, but whoever you get in touch with probably isn’t going to be able to explain it any better than it is on the form.

A couple weeks ago I got a German census form in the mail which asked all sorts of detailed questions about my education. Many of them were multiple choice questions about the type of secondary and post-secondary institutions I attended and the qualifications I received there; there were literally dozens of answers to choose from. Since I was not educated here, it was extremely difficult to decide on the most appropriate answer. For instance, I graduated from a North American high school, but on the form, you had to choose between choices like Sonderschule, Hauptschule, Realschule, Oberschule, Gymnasium, Gesamtschule, Berufsfachschule, Berufsaufbauschule, Fachoberschule, berufliches Gymnasium, and so on. There was an annotation on the question which rather unhelpfully explained that people who were educated abroad should simply chose the “most appropriate” German equivalent, as if we foreigners are supposed to be familiar with the subtleties of not only the current German system but also those previously in use here and in the former German Democratic Republic. :rolleyes:

As pitchmeister already explained, Grades go from 1 (Excellent) to 6 (failing) in High School. (Note: There is no grading on a curve, and percentages are not explicitily spelled out, either. Depending on how much you get right, you get grade of excellent, good, satisfying, just barely enough (last passing =4), unsatisfactory, failing, but there is no rule that x% of the class must have an A or an F. The only rule is that if the mean of the whole class is below a certain grade - meaning that too many got bad grades - then the test must be re-taken because obviously most students didn’t understand it.)

References to points mean that you finished with the Abitur. The German High School system is three-pronged. Lowest level is Hauptschule, which you finish in 9th year with the Qualifizierender Hauptschulabschluss (Quali). It allows you to apply for an apprenticeship. The level of subjects is the lowest.

Next level is the Realschule, which you finish in 10th grade with the Mittlere Reife. It also allows you to start an apprenticeship, but aims to strike a mid-level between the theoretical approach of the Gymnasium and the practical demands of the working world. Typically students at the Realschule learn typing, book-keeping and (used to) stenography: practical skills.

Highest level is the Gymnasium, which you (used to finish in 13th grade: now it’s been reduced to 12 years) with the Abitur. This is the only one to allow you to study at a university. The whole approach of the Gymnasium is therefore theoretical and aimed at laying the groundwork for studying at university.
All of these theoretical distinctions have become blurred in the past decades because employeers and everybody else perceives People with Abitur as “smart and decently educated”, People with Mittlere Reife as “didn’t manage to finish the Gymnasium, so a bit dumber, but useful for lesser jobs” and people from the Hauptschule as “dumb loosers not useful for anything”. So after 4th grade, most pupils go to the Gymnasium unless from poor or disadvantaged families, some drop out, and many more finish with Abitur than go on to University because the Abitur is the best thing to have around.

Therefore, having the equivalent of an Abitur - probably a High School graduation with AP subjects plus some college entrance tests would be closest, though it’s difficult to compared two different systems - gives you much better standing with the potential employee than “just a normal” High School graduation and lumping yourself as Realschule/Mittlere Reife equivalent.

I would not ignore it, but always copy the highest qualifcations from your own system - in that case, not only the High School graduation, but also SAT and similar tests - and always enclose a note explaining what it means, e.g. that A is the best note and that a 4.0 GPA is the highest one can get, and that SAT is 800 out of 810 possible etc.

German employers in general, esp. for starting positions, place a high value and emphasis on good qualifications, so leaving them out could get your application disregarded as “too dumb to finish school”. (If you have 20 years experince in the field, the letters from the former employers will count more than your school grades of course, but then they wouldn’t ask for them in the first place).

Another point: if you are applying to anything officially, and not a private company, there may be rules in place that people need a certain minimum grade to get the position; that between two applicants, the one with the better grade must be taken; that advancement depends on the grade of your finishing exam etc. This means that getting a certified or approved equivalent of your graduation is even more important.

Though, as already said, sadly there is no standard guideline on how to accept, far less convert, grades and certificates from other countries. A lot of foreigners have to re-take tests to be qualified for higher positions.

Wow, so these refer to assessments at the end of high school? Amazing that they’re asking about that for a position that requires a Ph.D. I don’t even know how I would find out my high school grades and test scores…those are long gone after four moves and a closed high school. I can scan and upload college and grad school transcripts.

I can’t link directly to the page, as you have to register first. Any curious parties can start here to create a dummy account. You’ll then be able to start their profile builder, which has the menu I’m asking about.

I graduated high school 25 years ago, and I still send a copy of my Abiturzeugnis (it lists all my grades from the last three years of Gymnasium) everytime I apply for a job.

In addition, German employers are obligated to give you an “Arbeitszeugnis” at the end of your employment with them. It’s basically a reference letter writte in code only HR people understand (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_reference_letter). Every time you apply to a job you should send all your “Arbeitszeugnisse”, even if it was for a janitorial posiition you held 20 years ago.

  1. You didn’t say that it’s a higher position.

  2. If the PhD is for one subject, like theater, and they want to know what other skills you have, showing your High School grades in chemistry and math is the best way for the employer to assess your knowledge of other areas.

The Abiturzeugnis is kept very carefully by Germans. Not only because it’s an official document, but because it keeps being required.

I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say about this, but it has to do with the basic difference between the two cultures. In German education system, despite differences between each state, there’s a basic curriculum for the Gymnasium that applies to all public schools. (Private schools who want to give the Abitur must meet the same requirements, so some private ones opt to not offer the Abitur, instead their pupils switch over to a public Gymnasium for the last year and take the Abitur test there).

So anybody with an Abitur grade of 2 (good) means that the employer can expect a basic knowledge of the basic subjects (Natural science, math, history, social sciences, languages are all required), along with basic skills. So getting an B or A in German means that you can write a story, a dialectic essay, take a dictation, have decent spelling, can express yourself in oral discussion and convey what happened in writing. Similar for math, natural science etc. It’s knowledge plus skill plus a certain way of thinking and doing things that are trained and taught that way in the Gymnasium.

So the test is only the final for 8 (7) years of education in a specific way.

The other name for the Abitur certificate is “Reifezeugnis” - certificate of maturity. It means you are considered mature enough, not only because of your knowledge and thinking but also personality, to go alone to university and start studying.

There are no entrance exams* and no SAT tests in the German system. There are no first- and second rate Universities. All unis, like all public schools are expected to perform to the same curriculum and meet the same requirements so that everybody with a grade/ degree/ certificate has the same basic skills at least.

  • There used to be a central authority distributing places at the unis so that all slots were filled. Now this has been done away with because bureaucracy is bad, leading to many students applying to 5 or 10 unis at once and not cancelling once they get a place. It also leads to many students switching subjects because they choose badly. So some departments have started to require essays “Why do you want to study philosophy/ history? What do you expect to learn? What job do you have in mind?” or interviews to weed out people with unrealistic expectations and stop wasting everybodys time.

Nevertheless, anybody with a passing Abitur grade can be admitted to any German university. Practical restrictions are based on lack of spaces.

I got the German version of the profile builder, and the German language form (step 5 of the profile builder, tab 3) says Noten Azubibewerbung i.e. “grades, application for apprenticeship”. So it seems simply a case of information (that the school grades are only relevant for apprentice applications) lost in translation.

Thanks all. I’ve also sent a query to a friend who used to work there. I suppose it is not so odd to ask for low-level performance assessments because it is the same form for all jobs, not just experienced research positions.

Actually, it is there in the English version, as the OP quote shows

Apprenticeship is done after you finish school, before other work experience (usually) and is not related in any way to PhD programs.

So if the OP is applying for the PhD position, he’s on the wrong tab/ page and needs to look at the qualifications for PhD positions - those usually ask for certificates from the University, practica and work experience he has had and the already mentioned “Arbeitszeugnisse” - letters from former employers.

There is no tab/page for “qualifications for PhD positions.” There is nothing in the English version to indicate that this section should be ignored, although Mops suggests that it says this in German. As there is no way I could possibly fill this in, I suppose I’ll just estimate my language skills and leave the rest of it blank and hope that their HR department is not so moronic as to think that high school record has the least bit of relevance toward an advanced research position. Given my experiences on the hiring end, that may not be a realistic hope.

Is a “certificate” similar to a transcript? This indicates the courses, grades, degree, and graduation date.

Are letters of reference typically not confidential in Europe? I notice constanze mentioned uploading them. I have uploaded contact information for my previous supervisors so that they can be contacted directly. Is this atypical?

I’ve also gone back and added my old GPAs (apparently people care about this) and indicated that they are out of a maximum of 4.0. Of course, neither of these schools calculate GPA, and in grad school I didn’t receive traditional A/B/C grades. I am becoming skilled at making things up.

Is there no paper way to contact HR in writing? Web site for application may be popular but are more problematic for special cases.

The German word is “Zeugnis” which dict.leo translates as certificate. The German Abiturzeugnis looks like this: Subjects taken with grades and the total grade.

I don’t have experience with web portal applications in general or this specific one - all my applications have been by paper mail. If by email, you send the documents scanned as PDF or word. How you act with this web portal - uploading or sending by email - should be detailed on the web page. But if the original page is in German (and aimed mainly at native speakers), the translated version often leaves out details.

Can you access the German page and copy the relevant parts for translation? (I don’t want to register and click through everything).

It can also be badly programmed - a test several years back showed not only low answer rates to email contacts in general, but also badly designed web application processes and lots of stuff getting lost interim.

As for contact info of former employers: that’s atypical and not helpful. As was already alluded to, what German employers want is a “Arbeitszeugnis” written in a certain formulaic way. It starts out describing how long you worked and what you did, and then how well you did it. Because courts decided that the certificate can’t be negative, the formula has developed into overblown praise. So saying you did mostly your best means E. If you want an A, it says You always far exceeded expectations. Lots of difficult tasks done well, being creative and carrying responsibility is good too. Socializing with colleagues, on the other hand, is code for drinking too much. Saying that you were on time and punctual is a death blow - it means you did nothing else to praise you for.

Giving contact info instead will likely not help you much because the HR usually will not go to the trouble of contacting previous employers to ask about you. Esp. if other people are also applying to this job.

If you have no written letter of recommendation from your previous employers in the proper code language because it’s not the norm in your culture, try to get at least a basic letter that you worked for them and what you did, and that they were extremely satisfied with your work from the last one, and try to explain that you have no others, but oral recommendations can be given.

Um, calculating it yourself if you have nothing official from school to show later at the interview is not a good idea. Can you contact your grad school for an official transcript? Something looking a bit more official than those computer print-outs? Maybe a letter from the official spelling out the subjects you took and grades? Because otherwise the HR might not accept them, given how very different they look compared to German certificates.

A lot depends on the position itself and the dept. you are appyling into - is it international in structure, and you are the 11th American to apply for that? Then HR will be used to different papers. Or is it staffed entirely with Germans and you are the first non-German to even apply? Then HR might be puzzled over how to interpret your papers compared to what they usually see.

Is there a phone number or email to directly contact a person and talk to them? That’s always a better solution than relying on software programmed for the standard.

I appreciate all the assistance. However, I am getting enough attention from domestic recruiters that I think I’m going to pass on overseas opportunities for now, unless something falls in my lap.