Reference Letter

To whom it may concern…

You are a manager in Germany whose native language is English? Or perhaps you are a skilled employee with German references which you would like to use on an international level?

Different Rules

These are just two of a number of scenarios where a translation of job-related references from German into English (or vice versa) is required. Since the German reference (Arbeitszeugnis) follows different rules than the English or American reference letter and is also strictly regulated by German law, however, caution is warranted.

Reference Letter vs. Arbeitszeugnis (Employment Reference)

The reference letter or letter of recommendation is typically a document addressed to a specific addressee, stating the writer’s (usually, but not necessarily, this would be a former employer or superior) personal assessment of the work-related skills, performance and personality of the person being recommended. Even though there are certain conventions with regard to its form, the content of a reference letter is largely at the writer’s own discretion. Furthermore, there is no legal requirement for the employer to issue a full-fledged reference letter, at all.



Strict legal provisions and certain form specifications


In Germany, on the other hand, the employer is not only legally required to issue a job reference (Arbeitszeugnis) at the termination of the employment, but has to conform to a strict set of legal provisions regarding content and grading, as well.

These provisions include, but are not limited to, the precise categories in which the employee is to be appraised as well as the employee’s right to an accurate, unequivocal and benevolent evaluation.

Accordingly, German Arbeitszeugnisse have to adhere to certain form specifications and the language in which they are written has developed peculiar characteristics that need to be skillfully balanced to ensure that all legal requirements are met.

As a consequence, the translation of a reference letter into an Arbeitszeugnis will always necessitate professional knowledge not only of both languages, but of German legal requirements, as well.

Our experts in both of those areas will be happy to help you with any translation services you may require.

Our Philosophy

We believe that a reference is more than a simple overview of an individual’s skills and conduct.

In addition to reflecting these bare bones of work-related information our aim is to give a rounded picture of the individual and their position in the work environment – both in German and in English.


Being aware of the difficulties inherent in any cross-cultural translation, we strive to meet the expectations of an international reader while maintaining compliance with German labor law regulations.

Our Services For You

We offer you a range of services tailored to your specific needs:

  • preparing an English language reference letter (plus a German translation thereof)
    Please be aware that this does not meet German labor law requirements!
  • preparing an Arbeitszeugnis in English (Employment Reference)
    Please note that while this alternative is covered by German labor law under certain circumstances, we would still advise to include a German language version for job applications in Germany
  • preparing an Arbeitszeugnis in German (plus an English translation [Employment Reference] thereof)
    Please note that this alternative provides the best legal security under German law
  • translating an existing Arbeitszeugnis from German into English

  • translating an existing reference letter from English into German
    Please be aware that this does not meet German labor law requirements!