And you thought you were being praised. German certificate of employment Arbeitszeugnis

Last Updated on September 26, 2023

German certificate of employment Arbeitszeugnis is a carefully coded document to be studied with a list of words and expressions.

Knowing the German language fully is not only knowing the words and grammar. Because hints play a huge role in German. They never speak their mind directly. A direct statement is often perceived as aggression, or a threat, or arrogance. This is not surprising, because if, as you will see later, a negative characteristic is hidden under the indication of punctuality, then the mind, looking for subtext everywhere, will see an insult in simple direct criticism.

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At my husband’s previous job (and it was a well-known German scientific organization), it was forbidden to ask critical questions and express a critical opinion so as not to offend the speaker.

Only if you master the German official language and the art of blurred language will you really master the level of a native language of a educated person (and in order to stop being a stranger in the countryside, you have to learn the dialect, and this is also great task).

A special language of euphemisms begins already at school. In the first two classes, no marks are given, but a lengthy description is written, and all these expressions can be decoded into marks. So auch in the certificate of employment (Arbeitszeugnis) every, even a small word or form of a word has a meaning and changes the overall assessment.

Formally, the employer fulfills the requirements of the law: according to the legislator, old feuds and problems should not interfere the employee from getting a normal job. In reality, the employer can take hidden revenge on you in Arbeitszeugnis or verbally ruin your reputation. Therefore, never leave Germany with a scandal if you have little choice of jobs or if you cannot move to another region. To a new employer, the words of your previous employer are more important than all your knowledge.

Kinds of Arbeitszeugnis

The employee must request a certificate by termination of employment, preferably in a resignation letter.

The certificate of employment can be simple – einfaches Arbeitszeugnis and with an estimate – qualifiziertes Arbeitszeugnis.

A simple Arbeitszeugnis contains only a description of the activities, but not its evaluation. The employee can decide for himself which Arbeitszeugnis to request. Simple recommendation are given if a person worked for a short time or in simple jobs with little pay. It can also be asked if you are expecting a badly qualifiziertes Arbeitszeugnis. Of course, your next employer will understand this too.

As in school, in the certificate of employment there are marks for work and for behavior. A Arbeitszeugnis should have the following parts:

  • header
  • introduction
  • job description
  • work level assessment
  • behavior assessment
  • end of work
  • final formula (wishing success)
  • date, place, signature

Even a change in order or the absence of one of the parts can indirectly convey the opinion of the employer. For example, if behavior is before knowledge, then this reduces them. If there is no wish for success, this can be perceived as they were happy to get rid of the employee.

The use of passive constructions in descriptions also makes Arbeitszeugnis more negative:

Er hatte zu erledigen
Er wurde … beschäftigt

Estimates for work

Marks in the German system: 1 – the best, 6 – the worst.

Emphasizing the details that are taken for granted or the omission of characteristics important for this job will reduce the positivity of the certificate of employment. For example, emphasizing punctuality is a negative characteristic, since punctuality in the workplace goes without saying.

In the working qualities section, in addition to professional knowledge, should (may – depending on the job) be reflected:

  • thoroughness of work (Sorgfalt)
  • the ability to rely on the employee (Zuverlässigkeit, Vertrauenswürdigkeit)
  • loyalty to the organization
  • discreet behavior, keeping company secrets (Diskretion)
  • resilience (Belastbarkeit)
  • creativity
  • problem solving skills (Problemlösungsfähigkeit)
  • independence (Selbstständigkeit)
  • work speed
  • group management ability
  • ability to negotiate (Verhandlungsgeschick)

In Arbeitszeugnis they are not allowed to write about:

  • negative for the employee reasons for dismissal
  • alcohol addiction
  • reprimands (Abmahnung)
  • suspected criminal activities
  • litigation

1 (sehr gut)

1 means for the Germans not only “he knows good”, but “knows more than expected”.

Two components must be

– indication of permanence

– delight in superlative

immer (stets, in jeder Hinsicht, voll und ganz)

zu unserer vollsten Zufriedenheit
außerordentlich (äußerste, absolut, in höchstem Maße, größten) zufrieden

immer optimale Leistung gezeigt

Er hat unseren Anforderungen/Erwartungen in allerbester Weise und jeder Hinsicht entsprochen.

​Seine Leistungen haben jederzeit und in jeder Hinsicht unsere vollste Anerkennung gefunden.

Mit seinen/ihren Leistungen waren wir stets außerordentlich zufrieden.

in seinem Verantwortungsbereich äußerst wertvolle Dienste erwiesen.

2 (gut)

2 – this is still a very good mark. Delight at this level is reduced, but the characteristic of constancy remains.

jeder Hinsicht, stets, immer, voll und ganz
volle Zufriedenheit
auf beste Weise
volle Anerkennung

Ingesamt hat er/sie den Erwartungen in jeder Hinsicht und bester Weise entsprochen.

Seine Leistungen haben jederzeit und in jeder Hinsicht unsere volle Anerkennung gefunden.

Wir waren mit ihm stets in hohem Maße zufrieden.

Wir waren mit ihren/seinen Leistungen stets sehr zufrieden.

Seine Leistung übertraf die an ihn gestellten Anforderungen.

stets gute Dienste erwiesen.

3 (befriedigend)

3 – is a solid middle. In a German school, there is always a chance to get a 3 in any subject, if you do at least somehow.

Disappear: or delight (best, full), or temporal constancy (always).

immer zu unserer Zufriedenheit (no completeness (voll) and excellent qualities)

zu unserer vollen Zufriedenheit (no permanence)

genügte unseren Ansprüchen in jeder Hinsicht.

Wir waren mit seinen Leistungen voll / jederzeit zufrieden.

übertragenen Aufgaben stets zu unserer Zufriedenheit erledigt.

Ihre Leistung entsprach den Erwartungen in vollem Umfang.

4 (ausreichend)

Below the norm. Does the job more or less, but periodically fails the task.

There is no permanence, no delight, but contentment still remains.

die Aufgaben zu unserer Zufriedenheit bewältigt
Mit seinen Leistungen waren wir zufrieden

übertragenen Aufgaben zu unserer Zufriedenheit erledigt.

hat unseren Erwartungen entsprochen

hat zufriedenstellend gearbeitet.

Ihre Leistung entsprach den Anforderungen.

Er ist ein zuverlässiger, gewissenhafter Mitarbeiter.

5, 6 (mangelhaft, ungenügend)

In a German school, you can get a 6 minus and it even means something. But for the transfer to the next class 5 is already starting to create problems. For an employer, grades 5 and 6 are bad.

The last of the characteristics disappears the expression of contentment. For a rating of 5, only the wording remains that the employee periodically did something well or tried to do it well.

  • größtenteils
  • im Großen und Ganzen
  • im Rahmen seiner Möglichkeiten
  • insgesamt

übertragenen Aufgaben im Großen und Ganzen zu unserer Zufriedenheit erledigt.

führte die Arbeiten, die wir ihr übertrugen, mit Interesse durch.

war stets bemüht, die ihm übertragenen Aufgaben zu unserer vollen Zufriedenheit zu erledigen.

zeigte für seine Arbeit großes Verständnis und Interesse.

Neue Aufgaben betrachtete er stets als Herausforderung, der er sich mutig stellte.

Zusammenfassend sind wir mit seinen Leistungen in jeder Hinsicht grundsätzlich zufrieden.

Er hat sich im Rahmen seiner Fähigkeiten eingesetzt.

Er machte sich mit großem Eifer an die ihm übertragenen Aufgaben.

A score of 6 would mean “knows nothing”.

hatte Gelegenheit, … zu bearbeiten

A negative characteristic will also be an emphasis on insignificant activities: dresses well, talks interestingly about leisure time.

Behavior scores

Behavior scores are relationships with:

  • superiors
  • colleagues
  • customers and other employees of the company or contact persons

A change in the sequence or the absence of one of the items is a negative characteristic.

The absence of a estimates for behavior is also regarded as a bad mark.

Marks 1-2

gab niemals Anlass zur Beanstandung

jederzeit einwandfrei

sehr geschätzt

immer freundlich, aufgeschlossen und kritikfähig

Marks 3-4

Verhalten war tadellos

als umgänglichen Kollegen

wird von den Kollegen geschätzt

Marks 5-6

war größtenteils gut.

gab selten Anlass zur Beanstandung.

Icing on the cake – final wording

With the final wording, HR aces can completely cross out all the positive characteristics given before. If a working relationship ended in a court case, the court often determines what wording should be in the Arbeitszeugnis. Therefore, there are not many opportunities for the employer to take revenge on parting. It should be here:

  • indicated at whose wish the contract ended
  • thanks for the work
  • expressed regret over the departure of an employee
  • wishes for successful work

The absence of one of the items is a negative characteristic, indicating that the employer is happy that you left him.

The following expressions evaluate your activities in the company negatively in the absence of regrets and gratitude

Wir wünschen ihm für den weiteren Weg in einem anderen Unternehmen viel Erfolg.
Wir wünschen ihm für die Zukunft auf seinem Lebensweg viel Erfolg.
Unsere besten Wünsche begleiten ihn.

However, when seeking a good Arbeitszeugnis from an employer, do not forget that the main thing in Germany is not to have a Arbeitszeugnis in superlatives, but good friends who have the opportunity to find you a job and put in a good word for you.

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