Spain - why work abroad?

Country: Spain
Official languages: Spanish
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Population: 47 million
Capital: Madrid
Currency: euro (EUR)
Member EU or EEA: EU
Phone code: +34
Internet code: .es

Why this country?

Although famous for its sunshine and beach culture, Spain does not want for variety, with snow-capped mountains, rugged back-country, lush nature reserves and rocky coastal paths. It also has one of the highest numbers of Unesco world heritage sites.

The economic crisis has hit Spain hard. As unemployment has risen, the large number of foreign workers in Spain has decreased. But tourism and related sectors have held up well, and there has been growth in the number of jobs in IT; artistic, recreational and entertainment activities; and administration. Trends suggest that further labour market growth is likely to come from the services sector, industry and technological development, and a revival of the agricultural sector by applying new technologies.

Looking for work?

Finding work in Spain is challenging. Use all the resources available (acquaintances, family members, media, information centres, profes­sional associations, etc.), as well as the EURES network and a large amount of imagination and creativity.

Be prepared for a waiting game if you come to Spain looking for work. Even when an employer advertises a vacancy with the employment service, they may not respond quickly to applications.

'Working abroad widens your horizons and gives you a taste of independent life. It also helps to build your self-con­fidence and enlarge your personal net­work. If you do move, be open to the new culture, as well as ready and will­ing to learn new things.'

Jobseeker from Lithuania, living and working in Denmark

Tips for job applications?

The most common application method is to send a CV with a covering letter. The letter should be no longer than four short paragraphs on one page. It should be written in a simple, clear, cordial and formal way. Also make sure that it’s signed and that it includes your phone number and full address. Use the same font, margins and paper type as for the CV.

Do not send large or untested files by e-mail. It is better to send just a CV and covering letter and offer to send more information if necessary. If your application is handwritten, make it legible, and avoid using very small lettering or coloured ink.

Is it standard to include a photo on the CV?

A photo is standard but not obligatory. The photo should be a head/shoulder shot (unless a full-body photo is requested), appropriate to the position. Save it in a format that doesn’t take up too much space in the CV.

Is there a preference for handwritten applications?

No, a covering letter should be typed unless otherwise requested.

Is the Europass format CV widely used and accepted?

The national CV format is generally preferred.

Making contact by phone

For telephone contacts, find out who the person on the phone is and say who you want to talk to before stating who you are.

Do I need to send diplomas with my application?

No, however it is advisable to get the authenticity of your documents confirmed by the Spanish authorities, if possible.

Should I supply references, letters of recommendation or proof of good conduct?

Yes, bring these documents to the interview. It is better to have them to hand should you need them. The use of recommendation letters or references has increased in recent years. Take copies of diplomas, letters of recommendation from previous employers, colleagues or teach¬ers, and any other documents related to the information in your CV.

Usual length of time between publication of the vacancy and start of the job

It is variable.

Preparing for the interview

Prepare sufficiently so that you can attend the interview knowing clearly the virtues that make you the perfect candidate for the post.

It is common to be required to complete an aptitude test to demonstrate your practical skills and knowledge and to have an interview with a person from the HR department. You normally have to attend the company’s premises, although it may be possible to use a new media resource (e.g. video-conferencing, Skype, etc.).

Dress-code tips

Going to an interview is not like going to a party. You should attend the interview thinking that you are going to work there. It is usually suf­ficient to be clean and tidy. Graduates or exec­utives usually wear ties if they are men and heels if they are women. Avoid eye-catching jewellery and bright colours.

Who will be there?

Usually the employer, another executive-level person or the HR department conducts the interview.

Do we shake hands?

Yes, people usually shake hands at the beginning and the end of the meeting. It is usual to touch the other person (shoulder, arm) and, where there are women in the group, it is not uncommon to kiss each other (twice). If the Spanish person opposite you tries to give you a kiss, do not refuse it, but you should not be the one to initiate the kiss.

A tip about personal space: Spanish people like to be close and usually leave less space than northern Europeans when meeting someone.

Is there a typical interview structure?

No, it may be structured or unstructured, formal or informal, by a panel or with a group.

The interviewer will discuss your CV, focusing on training and academic work as much as on work experience. They may ask about your atti­tudes and personality. They will want to identify what you are like, how you behave in certain situations and how you fit in to a team.

Besides a representative from the HR depart­ment, there may also be a technical profes­sional to ask questions related to the

tasks of the role. The HR representative will focus on personal and general skills and working conditions.

The candidate can then ask additional ques­tions before the interview concludes with prac­tical arrangements for the decision period and feedback. Make the most of the farewell to show that you are optimistic and expect good news.

Be aware that your non-verbal communica­tion gives information about you throughout the interview to confirm or belie what you are saying. Answer questions about errors or criti­cism sincerely. We all make mistakes. What is important is how you learnt from the situation. Always tell the story from a positive point of view and draw positive conclusions.

If faced with uncomfortable or provocative questions, try to remain calm. Difficult ques­tions are commonly used in the selection of senior executives, sales personnel or customer liaison staff

Practice your interview technique at or with an interview trainer (simula­tor) at

When is a question out of bounds?

The employer should not ask for strictly private information, but in some cases, especially if you are a woman, you may be asked about your personal and family situation and plans. Although it is desirable to answer all the questions, you can always ask politely: 'How does this relate to the job I am applying for?

Negotiating your pay and benefits

Salaries are normally expressed in terms of monthly salaries or as an annual total. If the salary is not given in the job notice, ask a trade union (it does not matter if you are registered or not) about the legal and the normal salary for that role. In Spain there is a national minimum wage, and collective agreements vary a lot, depending on the region.

If the employer asks what you want to earn, try to give two figures or keep open the possibility of negotiating: for example, EUR X to start with and an agreed increase once you have demonstrated your competence.

Is a trial period likely?

Trial periods for workers are those that are established in the different types of employment contracts.

How long is the standard probationary period?

Six months maximum for qualified technicians and 2 months for other workers. In the case of the contrato indefinido de apoyo a los emprendedores (indefinite contract to support entrepreneurs), the probationary period is 1 year. During the probationary period, the con¬tract may be terminated by either party for any reason.

Will the employer cover my costs for attending an interview?

No, the applicant usually pays these costs. This matter could be negotiated with the employer before the interview.

When will I hear the result?

The length varies between employers. Usually the employer informs the applicant about the result of the interview shortly after, but they may not do so.

Getting feedback and further follow-up

If you do not receive any feedback shortly after the interview, you can assume that you have not been selected. It is unusual to be informed if you are unsuccessful.

How early should I arrive for the interview?

Spanish people are often not very punctual, but candidates should not be late. Arriving 5-10 minutes beforehand is enough time to look for the person you will meet.

last modification: 2014-09-02
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