A human looking through a magnifying glass

Lessons from job search in Germany

The entire journey started in the beginning of February. It is end of April now that I finally landed a job. I was applying for a UX designer position, until I also started looking for frontend developer jobs.

What this article is about …

I am writing this article with the hope that it will make the process easier for someone else in this situation. First, I describe the stage preparation for my CV, cover letter, UX portfolio and how I got feedback to improving them on the way. Then I talk about the tools I used for the job search. Next, I share a FigJam board with all the questions I was asked during the interviews. And last, a summary of all the lessons.

Disclaimer: If you are a developer, just search for Honeypot, and you are all settled.

Indiana Jones saying TRUST ME.

The Stage Preparation

CV and Cover Letter

My first CV I created in Figma in a different fashion than the standard CV, and my cover letters I wrote in a Google Slides template. I adjusted my cover letter each time according to the company I was applying. I didn’t fully customise it for the majority of the companies, except for the ones that I really liked.

Final version of my CV in Figma (excluding personal information)

After a lot of rejections (spoiler: computers may read your CV before humans), I changed my approach and used resume.io to revert to the good old style of standard plain CVs. The service is really expensive actually. It does have a good interface, it offers some suggestions when writing descriptions, and has some neat templates (for both CV and cover letter), but the templates are limited and not fully customisable. I think the trial should be enough there to get an idea.

After I switched to resume.io, I removed the irrelevant experience and I transformed the descriptions into more detailed bullet points. My final CV was 2 pages long. I had to post edit the CV in Adobe Acrobat to make the dates text legible and to arrange the job title text better. That was the most frustrating part about the service: the lack of in-app customisation.

resume.io generated CV page 1 (excluding personal information)
resume.io generated CV page 1 (excluding personal information)
resume.io generated CV page 2 (excluding personal information)
resume.io generated CV page 2 (excluding personal information)

As for the cover letter, I always included the following sections:

  1. What I am applying for, what motivates me and what I want to contribute
  2. Where I am coming from in terms of work experience
  3. What my strengths are
  4. Conclusion
Fight Club: Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.

UX Portfolio

An important part of applying for a UX designer position is to have a kick-ass portfolio. I read so many articles with plenty of tips how to do that.

Friends: Chandler getting ready to work.

A good starting point could be this article in CareerFoundry. In the end, it was through personalised feedback and a lot of iterations to get it in a good shape. You can access my portfolio here.

I used Webflow to build my portfolio, and I love it. It is so easy to change stuff and to organise things nicely in a dynamic way. And the best thing about it is the Webflow University. Crazy creative people.

Feedback

I was really desperate from February to March as I was only getting rejections one after the other. I didn’t quite understand what was wrong with my applications.

Human crying on the sofa out of desperation.

So, how did I get some feedback?

My first attempt was Reddit. There I got only my portfolio reviewed from two redditors. ’Twas on your face feedback, so if you are ready to accept that, go for it.

After that, I asked an experienced friend of mine to check my CV and tell me whyyy??? Apparently, a lot of companies use computer screening through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) before the CV reaches human eyes, so my creative Figma CV was penalising me. Dun dun duuun.

Shocked human.

At that point I switched to resume.io and looked for online tools to review my CV through computer screenings. Top Resume and Resume Worded can help you there. Take the feedback with a grain of salt tho, because to me it felt like such feedback is often directed to job positions that can quantify their results.

Another incredible tool I found to get some really good feedback is ADPlist. It is insanely good and FREE. I got my portfolio reviewed and made big improvements.

The Job Search

To find UX designer positions I used Stepstone, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Linkedin. I found Linkedin the best to use in terms of experience. Sometimes I also had a company in mind and I directly went to their website to see their openings. Other times I just googled design agencies in Germany that offered UX design services.

After two months of attempts in searching for UX designer positions, since I have a computer science background, I finally decided to use Honeypot. Honeypot offers reverse hiring process to developers. Instead of you finding the companies, the companies find you there.

You want me? Come and get me.

I recommend Honeypot 10/10 to any developer looking for a job, or to a mixed background like me (UX design & frontend development). They also help you with mock interviews and very valuable tips and feedback. You can use the link here to signup, if you would be so kind, it gives me bonus if you get hired there. :D

Robin Hood Fox disguised as a beggar.

The Interviews

I had 6 interviews in total, 5 for a UX designer position and 1 for a frontend engineer position. In the FigJam board embedded below you will find all the questions I was asked grouped by the role of the interviewer. My interviewers were UX designers, project managers, developers and the HR.

FigJam board with interview questions for UX designer position

The greatest tip I got from the Honeypot mock interview is how to turn a one sided interview into a conversation. After answering their question always remember that you can ask back the same question to them. So, if they ask you: “How did you handle conflicts before?” — after you answer, you ask: “What about in your team, how do you resolve them?”. I never got to use this tip as I got an offer for a UX designer position right afterwards, which I accepted, and I didn’t do any other interviews. But, I find it golden.

Astronaut pointing finger to the head.

The Lessons

So, what did I learn throughout all this storm?

  1. Use a standard CV template so that the ATS can parse it, but maintain your style and creativity. Make sure not to exceed 2 pages.
  2. Customise the beginning of your cover letter to strongly indicate your motivation about the company you are applying. The rest can be the same with slight adjustments according to the job description.
  3. Get as much feedback as you can on your CV, cover letter and UX portfolio. Use ADPlist to get professional feedback. And do this as early as you can.
  4. If you are a developer (or frontend dev + UX designer) and you don’t have a company you really want to work at, just spare your time and use Honeypot.
  5. Turn the interviews into conversations by asking the same question back. So, if they ask you: “How did you handle conflicts before?” — after you answer, you ask: “What about in your team, how do you resolve them?”.
  6. Try to keep a record of every interview with questions asked and reflective thoughts, so you can do better on the next one.
  7. Remember that companies need to impress you too. They will be lucky to have you.
  8. You are allowed to have your breakdowns. Just remember that you are not alone in the struggle.

Aaand that’s it. Thank you for reading and best of luck!

I am rooting for you.

P.S. Oh, almost forgot! Mayhaps use a KANBAN board to track all your applications (in Toggl, Asana, or Notion).

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N. Kipi

N. Kipi

Hello you. I am a UX designer who codes.