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Ten tips for finding work in France
An advert at a Pôle Emploi (job centre) in Paris. Photo: The Local

Ten tips for finding work in France

Published on: 29 Jan 2013 13:00 CET

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It might be to fulfil a lifelong dream or it might even be for love. It might be to fulfil a longstanding desire to learn French or there may no real explanation at all. Whatever the motive is thousands of foreigners continue to come to France each year in the hope of starting a new life.

Unless you are retired or rich beyond belief then finding work will be top of the list when it comes to priorities when you first get here.

As part of its Job Talk series The Local has compiled a list of tips that hopefully can help you find that elusive job. It has been put together with the help of Megan Ascione, a Paris based senior consultant from recruitment agency Euro London Appointments.

This list is obviously not exhaustive so feel free to add your own tips in the comment section below.

1.       The language – learn it!

Sorry. It has to be number one in the list. Not speaking French might not stop you from working in a pub but it will close many other doors for you.

We get clients contacting us who don’t speak a word of French and it will be really hard for them to find work,” Ascione tells The Local. “Occasionally companies will request 'English mother tongue' employees, which means the level of French might not be that important. But I think last year I recruited for about two jobs out of 50 that did not require French.”

So get on it. There are plenty of language courses that can help you get a start, such as those on offer at the Académie Française. You can also find private language tutors on websites like Leboncoin or various expat websites. Arrange to meet French people socially, watch French TV, listen to French radio, lock yourself in a room with a French grammar book or do your best to meet a French lover, whatever it just do whatever it takes to learn the language. It will help.  

2.       Be flexible

If the language is an issue – and it almost always is – then you'll have to be prepared to be flexible in your approach to finding work. Don’t expect to walk into the same high-powered job you had back home. This is where working in a pub or teaching English gives you a great advantage. Both jobs will give you the chance to earn some money while improving your French, after which you might be able to get that career back on track. On the other hand, if you do have a set of impressive qualifications and an impressive career behind you then it’s probably not the best idea to deviate from that, as the French like consistency, i.e. they like your qualifications to match up with your work experience on your CV. Speaking of which...

3.       Do your CV the French way.

“CV’s in France tend to be a lot more concise. If you've had a senior position, then two pages, maximum. For junior roles, just the one page will be enough,”says Ascione.

There’s also the question of whether to put a photo on your CV, as a lot of French companies still expect applicants to do this.

“If you are going to put a photo on then make sure it's a normal one. We've seen pictures of people doing cheesy business-like handshakes or even ones of them holding a drink in one hand. Brush your hair and don’t go over the top with the make-up. No bright orange lipstick!”says Ascione.

4.       Know where to look for openings

The American University of Paris has been a good place for people to find jobs, Ascione says. There is also FUSAC magazine, which features plenty of job adverts. Obviously, all the recruitment agencies – many of which can be found with the help of a quick Google search – are worth checking out, depending on what type of work you are looking for. “In terms of websites, Monster is the one that most companies will use. LinkedIn and Facebook are also good ways of getting in contact with people and companies,” says Ascione.

Here are a few of the main ones to get you going: www.monster.fr, www.keljob.com, www.recrut.com, www.cadreemploi.fr

And there is of course The Local's own jam-packed job section, which you can visit by clicking here.

 5.       Vous not Tu!

When meeting potential employers, whether it’s in an interview or simply for a coffee, be careful not to get too ‘matey’ with them. French bosses like to be shown respect, especially if they're older than you. It’s probably not a good idea to dive in and try to kiss them on the cheek on the first meeting. A firm handshake will suffice. Interviews will be a bit more formal here so don’t expect to be put at ease by a calming joke or two at the beginning. And remember your French grammar: “Always use the 'vous' form of the verb. If you use 'tu' you will come across as rude,” says Ascione.

6.       Do your homework

The French employment and tax system can be fairly complicated, so it's a decent idea to try and do some homework, particularly on the difference between CDIs (permanent contracts) and CDDs (temporary contracts), and cadres (management) and non-cadres (non-management) positions.

7.       Make contacts

Signing on at agencies and sending off as many CVs as you can is all well and good, but don’t forget to do the basics. Go out and meet people. Many jobs for foreigners in France will be handed out by foreigners themselves, and often not after an interview, but over a pint in a pub. Make a list of all ex-pat pubs and organise your own pub crawl. Keep an eye out for any ex-pat events too, whether a pub quiz to an organised meet-up. These are an easy way in to get to know people.

“Making contacts is all part of it, so join social networks and go for a drink in places where ex-pats hang out,”says Ascione.

8.       Check out your rivals

If you are following a partner to France or have designs on coming here and cannot get a transfer from your current employers to a French branch then look to your rivals, says Euro London’s Ascione. “There will be people who have a skill set relevant for that sector so those people should contact direct competitors,” she said.

9.       Get your paperwork in order

It might not sound like the most important thing in a job hunt, but in France, where red tape can be thicker than anywhere else on earth, getting your paperwork in order early will help reduce stress levels when searching for jobs. Make sure you carry around a file containing photocopies of passports, old payslips, your carte vitale (health card), working papers, visas, household bills – in fact, any piece of paper you can think of including, of course, your CV. 

10.   Be patient

Finding a job in France, like in any foreign country, is not particularly easy. Thankfully, though, it's not impossible, despite what some would have you believe. Patience may just be the key to landing that dream job.

Ben McPartland(ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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