Diversify your application strategy

With the job search it is like with many other things in life: When success fails to materialize, a new strategy is needed. Do you wonder why your applications are not successful? Then maybe you use the same application strategy all the time, using the same job search engines and the same keywords. If that’s the case, you need to revamp your application strategy – and use TASCALLAT.

TASCALLAT is an acronym for a system I use with students and young professionals looking for work in Germany. It combines the variety of ways in which an application strategy can be diversified. Consider adding a new approach (or two!) to your application strategy to achieve better, faster results. The underlying philosophy of TASCALLAT is flexibility. Finding work in a foreign country is not easy, and especially if you are a seeking your first full-time job.

Type: Choose different types of roles. This could mean different entry avenues (e.g. trainee program, part-time work, etc.) and/or different roles that are related by not exactly what you have been aiming for. This could mean horizontally adjacent roles, or vertically differing roles (e.g. roles as a junior project manager instead of as a senior project manager).  

Approach & Amount: With approach, most applicants go cold, meaning they apply directly to open positions. A warm approach requires an introduction. Are there companies where you have contacts? Think widely: if it is a global company, you may not have contacts at the Germany-based location, but perhaps you do at the location based in your home country.  With amount, consider reducing the number of applications you are sending. Most applicants make the mistake of “spraying and praying” – sending their application anywhere and everywhere (spraying) and then hoping something sticks and they get a call back (praying). Instead, I recommend focusing your efforts on 3-5 quality applications a week.

Style: Many jobs are never advertised. This hidden job market requires good use of what Germans call “Vitamin B” – vitamin relationships (Beziehungen). Although that may not be in your power at the moment, for example if you do not have a lot of connections in Germany, but there is one other hidden aspect that you can take advantage of: self-initiative applications. Sometimes called unsolicited applications, self-initiative applications are applications sent to a company although there is no published job description. Writing such an application requires a bit of a different approach since you have to find your unique value proposition and make the case for your hire without knowing any specific position information. But, especially for international students with little German skills, this approach can work really well if done in a high-quality manner (again: do not spray and pray!). So go beyond advertised positions, and include one or two self-initiative applications.

Company Size: Most internationals target large multinational corporations such as the ones found on the DAX because they think they will have a better chance at finding an English-only position there. Competition to work at such companies is fierce, and internationals are competing against some of Germany’s top talent–who speak German, English, and in many cases, a third language fluently. Include an application for a job at a large corporation if it makes sense, but otherwise I recommend focusing more on Germany’s small and medium-sized enterprises.

Location: This leads to the next point: big cities vs. small towns. Living in Frankfurt, Munich, or Berlin is attractive for a variety of reasons. And not just to you! Many Germans, Europeans, and internationals want to live and work in Germany’s metropolitan areas, which results in a lot of competition, especially for entry-level English-only roles. In some cases, even if offered the job, companies use their competition advantage to offer a smaller compensation package than they otherwise would.

Language: This refers to applying to both German and English job postings. If you do not speak German, please think three times before submitting an application to a German advertisement, though. Make sure you have fully understood the position description, the company and its needs, and done your research as to if this company may be open to English-only applicants (try checking out the employees listed on their LinkedIn and Xing pages). In relation to the aforementioned location and compensation packages discussion, it is also important to keep in mind that if you speak German fluently enough to work in it, not only are your job prospects more plentiful-but so is your earning potential. Put simply: it pays to know German.

Anchor: Most job seekers look for open positions online. Their focus is on the job, not the organization. However, it is important to also research and reflect deeply on the type of organization you want to work for. I recommend having 5-15 target organizations whose company employment webpages you have bookmarked and visit on a regular basis.

Timing: This is important, even more so now in corona times than before. I know both German and international students (now graduates) who graduated during the onset of the pandemic and still have not secured a full-time job. My golden rule on timing: for the first 6 months to 1 year after you graduate, go for the gold. Go for your target position, organization, location. After 1 year at the latest, go for what you can get by diversifying your application strategy as much as possible. More than 12 months is a dangerous gap that somehow needs filling – but even more than that, it is a lot of loss time, energy and frustration.

By incorporating a few TASCALLAT aspects, you are setting yourself up for success. As the old adage by German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein goes, The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Don’t do that. This time, use TASCALLAT instead.

Author: Jessica Schüller

About the Author

  • Jessica Schüller Jessica Schüller

Jessica Schüller is a graduate student and Erasmus Mundus fellow in the Research and Innovation in Higher Education (MaRIHE) program at Tampere University in Finland and Danube University Krems in Austria. She helpsinternational students, young professionals, and expats launch and grow their careers in Germany. Prior to launching Germany Career Coach, she worked as an international career advisor at a German university, managed an internship program in Germany and taught German cultural studies to international students. You can learn more about her work and connect with her here:


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