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Vital tips for a successful a job interview in France

You've dazzled them with your CV, and all that stands between you and The Job is an interview, but there are a few quirks and pitfalls of French culture that could make all the difference.

Vital tips for a successful a job interview in France
One step away from your dream job in France? Check out the job interview dos and don'ts that could make all the difference. File photo: Bpsusf/Flickr

Not everyone who applies for a job will get called to an interview, so already you're in a good position.

Meeting face to face with your would-be employers, though, can be make-or-break.

All the usual advice applies in France, of course: be punctual, research the job, know your CV, indeed bring a French version with you if possible, and know how to relates it to the position, smile, be positive, and be ready to ask questions.

However,  the French workplace has some unique features, and some particular do's and don'ts that are crucial for you to remember. Since they could make all the difference between landing your dream job, and going back to the drawing board, The Local has enlisted some expert advice to help you through the interview process.

With help from Samia Zeriahene, Senior Consultant at the recruitment agency Euro London Appointments in Paris, here are six top tips for a Job Interview in France.

1.     Keep your lips to yourself

French kissing: Where does the custom of 'la bise' come from?

If you’re new to France, you might have been told that the locals are big fans of kissing on the cheek when meeting for the first time.

And you’d be right, but never in the setting of a job interview. A warm, firm handshake with eye contact and a smile is as appropriate in Lyon as it is in Leeds or Los Angeles.

And don't forget the most important word you'll utter in the interview is “Bonjour”. It sounds obvious but many forget. 

2.     Don't invent fake jobs just because you are foreign

Even if you’ve just arrived in France, and no-one knows you yet, the same moral rules apply.

“Don’t lie!” says Zeriahene. “If you put a job on your resume, French employers can easily do a background check on it, even if it wasn’t in France.”

3.     Stick to the subject

A typical job interview in the UK or Ireland can often start with some simple small-talk and ice-breakers. “How was your weekend?” “Any plans for the summer?” and so on…

Not in France. You’ll be expected to talk about how well-suited you are to the job at hand, and why. And that’s it.

Launch into your best inter-railing anecdote, or get started on how it’s the humidity, not the heat that bothers you, and you will be perceived as unprofessional, and not a serious candidate, rather than as a friendly individual.

By contrast, if you get hired, expect your colleagues and your bosses to invite you for a glass of wine on a regular basis. That’s the perfect time to get personal.

4.     Formally speaking

You always want to build rapport with your interviewers, but remember – the French grammar rule of using “vous” and “votre” applies strictly in an interview. Even if the interviewer is around the same age as you, or they seem besotted by you, wait for them to invite you to “tutoyer” them.

Furthermore, until you’re invited to call an interviewer by their first name, they are ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’ to you.

You shouldn’t be stiff and overly-formal in an interview, but no-one has ever lost their chance of a job by remembering and respecting these little quirks of French culture.

5.     Appearances count

(Photo: Robert Sheie/Flickr)

Whereas in the English-speaking world, it is generally mandatory for men to be completely clean-shaven and wear a full suit and tie, even for an interview at a fast-food restaurant, this is one area where France differs, according to Zeriahene.

“It really depends on the company and the job you’re applying for. Something in IT, marketing or communications, for example, probably wouldn’t require a suit and tie for men, and you could be ok with a beard,” she says.

“However, for anything in banking and finance, it’s essential to be clean-shaven, and to wear a suit and tie.”

“Both men and women should have well-groomed hair, and women should wear make-up that is professional, but not over the top. Jeans and trainers are never appropriate in any setting.”

 “Being well-groomed and neat shows respect for an interviewer, and it strongly suggests that you have good attention to detail, which will help with any job,” she adds.

6.     Cut out the cigarettes

France might be famous for its cigarette-friendly public spaces, and constantly-smoking workers, but watch out, warns Zeriahene.

“I always tell our candidates, if you smoke, do not smoke right before an interview,” she says.

What other tips would you add for surviving a job interview in France?

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For members


How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.