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Ask the expert: How to write the perfect French CV

If you want to work in France you will probably need a French CV - and the format might be different to what you're used to. We spoke to a recruitment expert to find out how to write one properly.

We have put together a guide to writing the perfect French CV.
We have put together a guide to writing the perfect French CV. (Photo by SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

If you are applying for a job with a French business, chances are you will have to submit a CV. 

Obviously this should be written in French, and there are some thing things required to make it attractive to a French employer. 

“It sounds obvious but for most jobs, you will need to write your CV in perfect French, without errors,” said Antoine Lecoq, managing director of Page Group, a recruitment agency with dozens of branches in France. 

If you can do that, then as a foreigner in France, you might even have certain advantages on the job market. 

What information do I need?

A lot of the information you should include on a CV is obvious, and the same in more or less every country around the world: contact details, education and training, work experience, skills, languages, contact details etc. 

But there are some key differences too. For example, you are expected to list your address on the CV. 

  • Appear ready to work in France

Lecoq explained that if you don’t currently live in France but are applying for a job here, you should list a French postal address (of a friend or family member for example) and French telephone number.  

“Employers need to understand if they have someone ready to work quickly or not. If the CV is written in French, has a French address, or explains that you can come to France easily, that will make it easier,” he said. 

He said that foreigners in France should specify on their CV whether they have the right to work here (through an existing visa or carte de séjour) or will need their future employer to sponsor a work permit or visa. There is no need to specify your nationality unless it is relevant to the job

Outside of the CV writing progress, those applying for high level jobs should switch their LinkedIn page into French and connect with other French people. 

“You should really push the social networks,” said Lecoq. 

  • Photo

Until recently, it was commonplace to include a photo on CVs in France, but this is beginning to change. 

“By tradition, there have often been photos. I think if there isn’t a photo, it won’t stop you from getting a job, but if you do choose to have one, make sure it is professional – not a snapshot of you in the garden or on holiday,” said Lecoq. 

Other pieces of information traditionally included in French CVs but now increasingly left out are marital status and date of birth. You are not obliged to include these details. 

What should the CV look like? 

Once completed your CV should look something like this;

A French CV

An example of the French CV format. (Source: The Local)

From top to bottom, the sections should appear as following: name, education and training, key skills, professional experience. Within each of these sections, relevant qualifications should be listed newest to oldest. 

“If your experiences don’t follow any kind of chronology, your CV will not be readable to a French employer,” said Lecoq, who also insisted that the order of the sections is not too important – as long as the information is clear. 

“When you are junior, you emphasise your education closer to the top, but once you have 15-20 years of experience, you can put education at the end,” he said. 

You can make use of a sidebar to include other relevant information like contact details (which can also be listed clearly at the top if you prefer), languages, IT skills, volunteering experience and hobbies. 

Ideally, your CV should be no longer than one page but for some executive management positions, two or three pages would be considered appropriate. In either case, keep your language clear, ordered and succinct. 

There are plenty of websites online where you can get find French CV templates for free. Just search for ‘cv français à télécharger’. 

Lettre de motivation 

Many jobs will require you to send a lettre de motivation, explaining why you are applying for the job. 

The Page Group, of which Page Personnel is a part, have listed a number of tips for acing this. 

It is important to write a snappy introduction – your future employer will judge you based on the first few lines. Mention the name of the job position you are applying for and what grabbed your attention in the job advertisement. 

Explain why you are well qualified for the job, giving examples of when you have proved you have the required skills. 

Avoid repeating yourself or simply re-write your CV in paragraph format. 

Avoid waffling – keep your letter clear, concise and to the point. 

Job interviews 

Should you be asked to interview for the position, it is best to practice answering standard job interview questions in French beforehand. 

You will likely be asked about your motivation for applying to the position, past experience and any gaps in your CV. 

In France, unlike in many anglophone countries, many employers are suspicious of candidates who have changed sector repeatedly through their career. 

“French employers will try to understand the coherence of someone’s professional journeys. In the interview, you must be prepared to explain that orally,” said Lecoq. 

Other tips 

It may be worth submitting your CV to a recruitment agency such as the Page Group

“In some anglophone countries, 80-90 percent of recruitment is outsourced, meaning that you have to go through recruitment agencies. It is not the case in France. Here you can send applications directly to businesses themselves, but it helps if you also go through recruitment agencies,” he said. 

“The particular interest for foreigners in applying via a recruitment agency is that you can be accompanied in your job search. You will have feedback on how to frame your previous experience and how to re-do your CV.” 

Besides getting the professionals involved, there are some other simple steps you can take to increase your odds of getting your dream job. 

  • Ask a native French speaker to check your spelling and grammar before submitting your CV
  • Don’t lie – you will likely be rumbled and humiliated during your job interview;
  • Don’t list references – instead, put a note indicating that these are available on request: des références peuvent être fournies sur demande
  • Learn French. 

Key vocabulary 

Postuler à un emploi – to apply for a job

Faire acte de candidature à un emploi – to apply for a job

Un CV – a CV (pronounced say-vay) 

Une lettre de motivation – a cover letter

Une candidature – an application 

Une candidature à un stage – an application for an internship 

État civil et coordonnées – personal and contact details

Expérience professionnelle – professional experience

Éducation – education

Formation – training 

Centres d’intérêt – hobbies

Baccalauréat – the high-school leavers qualification, roughly equivalent to A-levels or SATs

Licence de/d’ – Bachelor’s degree in

Master de/d’ – Master degree in 

Doctorat de/d’ – Doctorate/PHD in 

Langue maternelle – native language

Courant – fluent

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For members

WORKING IN FRANCE

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

Age

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

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. 

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