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Working in France - Advice & Tips

France

Expatriate Affairs Consultant Nannette Ripmeester tells you below what it takes to get a job in one of Europe’s major economies. France has a balanced and highly diversified economy, but to get a job as foreign job seeker you need to understand the French, both their language and their culture.

Job hunting in France

A very successful way of finding work in France is through speculative applications. French companies often place general advertisements to which job seekers could reply speculatively. To reply to such advertisements you need to send a CV with photo and a handwritten application letter (preferably not written in ballpoint pen), both in French. In your letter you need to explain clearly your motivation for the particular company (company information to motivate your choice can be found in various French directories such as 'Guide des Opportunités de Carrières' (GO), 'Guide des Enterprises qui Recrutent' or 'Kompass'). Almost 30% of the vacancies are filled through this method, followed shortly by personal contacts as an effective way of finding work. Making such personal contacts with French people might seem difficult at first, but French employers already see networking in itself as a recommendation.

When you apply for a job it is important that you send your letter to the right person, if not, it might never reach the right one.

The Application Letter

A letter of application should create enough interest to make the potential employer want to look at your application more detailed by reading your CV and hopefully invite you for an interview. Your application letter, however, should not provide too much information about personal experiences and qualifications; this will be provided in your CV.

A French application consists of a CV, often with a photo attached to it, and a hand-written application letter. The application letter is short, about 15 to 20 lines. The emphasis should be on your most recent activities and you should be able to illustrate with examples why you are the right candidate for the job. Start with your name and address in the top left-hand corner. In the right corner you mention - preferably in figures - the reference to the vacancy, if applicable. Mention, in a succinct way, several reasons why you consider yourself the appropriate candidate, fitting the job description. References and copies of diplomas are not included, but should be brought to the interview. Make sure you bring certified copies, with original stamp and signature of your university. French employers welcome references, including those from apprenticeships. They often check the reference by telephone.

The Curriculum Vitae

The French CV is either reversed chronological (most recent activity first) or functional (activities grouped thematically). Whatever style you chose, the CV should be brief, succinct and direct, one to two pages at the most. Your personal details should include, besides name, address and telephone number (do not forget the international access code), also your nationality and your civil status. Usually you give your age, instead of your date of birth and you also omit your place of birth. With regard to education, you only mention the highest diplomas you have obtained. Language skills should be given in detail. Under work experience you have to mention the exact job description and the responsibilities you have had. Be prepared to answer questions in the interview on your hobbies if you put them on your CV (e.g. "Hobby: Literature; Question: What was the most recent book you read?").

Often a French CV includes a 'Projet Professionel'. This is a rather precise description in a few lines of what you hope to achieve, in line with your education and skills, in your career in a period of several years.

The Application Procedure

The application procedure usually starts with some psychological tests, followed by the interview after passing the tests. Usually two to four interviews are held, in which most attention is paid to the personality of the candidate. Although tests are popular, especially for administrative jobs, assessment centres and panel interviews are rather unknown.

On-line applications are nowadays common. In fact, a lot of job agencies, but also employers who publish their vacancies on-line provide the opportunity to complete the job application form on-line.

If we got you started on France – think about ordering the guide 'Looking for work in France'.

About the author

Looking for work in FranceNannette Ripmeester is the expatriate affairs consultant to several multinational companies, which she advises regarding the strategy of international assignments and the practical implementation around expat issues.  Ripmeester started her international career at the European Commission, has worked on a project basis in 17 countries and is founder and Managing Director of Expertise in Labour Mobility (www.labourmobility.com).
She is co-author of a series of country-specific guides, the guide "Looking for work in France", (ISBN-13: 978-90-5896-056-6) is part of that series of guides. To order this guide or other guides that will help you to secure the international job you want, visit our website: www.labourmobility.com.  As a reader of Eurograduate we offer you a 10% discount if you are your copy here.