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 >  Home   >   What does the job reference certificate in its secret code?
German Business Etiquette in English

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What does the job reference certificate in its secret code?

When changing jobs, the "certificate" (Arbeitszeugnis) you get or should ask for is still very important in Germany. This is particularly true if you do not have a lot of working experience yet. It still has the same rigid structure and usage of terms and phrases. The rule for the employer is not to make any negative statements in the certificate of employment. Still, the phrases and terms used in Germany, work like a secret code and are equivalent to a ranking.

Hier bitte, Ihr Arbeitszeugnis

Here is an example of how these phrases can be translated into German school grades (1 = very good to 6 = fail).

Example: “Herr Fuchs erfüllte seine Aufgaben...”     
“... stets zur vollsten Zufriedenheit.” this means: Note 1 (very good)
“... stets zur vollen Zufriedenheit.” this means: Note 2 (good)
“... zur vollen Zufriedenheit.” this means: Note 3 (satisfactory)
“... zur Zufriedenheit.” this means: Note 4 (sufficient)
“... im Großen und Ganzen zu unserer Zufriedenheit.” this means: Note 5 (inadequate)
“... und er hat sich bemüht.” this means: Note 6 (unsatisfactory)

If an employee has received a comment like the two last ones, he should confront his employer and ask for an explanation.

References about your job performance don’t have to be, but can be tricky. Another aspect to look at is the ending.  We will look at that in the June issue of this newsletter. For further tips please consult the book “Business Etiquette in Germany”.
We wish you success in finding a new job. Be happy and pleased with the change you made!

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