Excerpted from the Germany Career Guide
The job application process in Germany is very formal compared to most other countries. Employers expect the applicant to send in a Bewerbungsmappe (application folder) consisting of a cover letter, a CV with photograph, and copies of written references, certificates and proof of work experience. This Bewerbungsmappe is very characteristic for German-speaking areas. Most recruiters prefer a simple, traditional folder that opens up into two parts, with all the documents neatly bound, except the letter of application, which should be added separately.
The application documents should be placed in the folder in the following order:
Letter of application
Cover sheet with photograph and contact details (optional)
CV (with photograph, if no cover sheet is added)
Optional: Die dritte Seite (the third page, after the letter and CV. See below.)
Copies of all qualifications from secondary school onward
Letters of recommendation from universities and previous employers
Table of contents (optional)
Cover Letter Guidelines and Samples
The cover letter is the first component of the application, and in some ways, the most important. Cover letters are commonly used when applying for jobs in Germany and are a traditional form of introduction. They highlight key points of an applicant’s qualifications for the position, making the employer want to learn more about the applicant by reading the résumé and, ideally, conducting an interview. Generally, repeating information verbatim from the résumé/CV on the cover letter lessens its value. It is better to restate and highlight information in the résumé or add information not in the résumé that is pertinent to the position sought.
Résumé / CV Guidelines and Samples
The résumé/CV (Lebenslauf in German) is the jobseeker’s introduction to a new employer. The CV usually consists of no more than two pages (unless a long list of publications or reference data is included). Most experienced jobseekers’ CVs are structured in reverse chronological order. Recent graduates can stick to a one-page, chronologically structured CV.
Because a German CV is part of a Bewerbungsmappe, which consists of copies of all qualifications from secondary school onward and letters of recommendation from universities and previous employers, the information in the CV should be kept short and concise
You'll find more advice and cover letter and resume samples in the complete Germany Guide.