France - why work abroad?

Country: France
Official languages: French
Government: Presidential republic
Population: 65 million
Capital: Paris
Currency: euro (EUR)
Member EU or EEA: EU
Phone code: +33
Internet code: .fr

Why this country?

France is a major tourist centre, attracting 80 million visitors every year. Tourism accounted for more than 7 % of GDP in 2010 and is a significant source of jobs.

The French economy is a social market economy based on private property. It is principally a service economy - three quarters of French people work in the services sector - although industrial firms continue to represent a relatively large share of gross domestic product (GDP) and exports, and employ 14 % of the workforce. In 2011, France had more foreign investment in industry than any other country in Europe, principally in the chemicals, metals and metalworking, and food industries. Foreign investment in research and development rose 12 % a year on average from 2007-11.

Looking for work?

The most common way to find work in France is to send a motivation letter and a CV to an employer. Many job vacancies are available via the French public employment service, Pole emploi (, or via temp agencies, which also recruit for medium- and long-term employment contracts. Each day, on average, the Pole emploi website displays ads for some 150 000 jobs. You can send your application by e-mail or post.

Most recruitment processes involve at least one interview with the employer.

Tips for job applications?

The CV should consist of one page for young graduates, or two pages maximum for more experienced profiles. A two-page CV is gener­ally organised in six sections.

Personal details: name, address, phone number (with international code), e-mail. Marital status, age and nationality (if you are a citizen of the European Economic Area) are optional.

Title: state the general job position sought, possibly with your strengths, for example 'Commercial assistant trilingual: English, French and Spanish'.

Professional experience: employment history, including dates, position, company name, industry and location, and detailing your responsibilities, tasks and results.

Training: provide graduation dates and their equivalent in the French educational system.

Language and IT knowledge: indicate your native language and specify your level of French - reading, written and spoken.

Other information, often called 'Interests'. Mention if you have lived in France.

Your application letter should be no longer than one page and typed (most frequently you send it by e-mail). Demonstrate your interest in the company and highlight how you meet the needs of the position.

Is it standard to include a photo on the CV?

It is common to include a photo on the CV, especially for jobs that involve client contact.

Is there a preference for handwritten applications?

If not specified, send a typewritten covering letter. If the employer uses graphology in the selection process, the job ad will ask for a hand¬written covering letter. However, it is no longer legal to shortlist applicants solely on the basis of graphology

Is the Europass format CV widely used and accepted?

Although not widely used, use of the Euro- pass format CV is increasing, especially in large companies. Employers value the section on language skills in particular.

Making contact by phone

It is not common to contact an employer by phone before an interview. If you wish to, how¬ever, you are advised to do so in French. If you do not know the name of the person in charge of the recruitment, ask for this before you send your application. If you apply for a job through a recruitment agency, it is worth asking at least about the company’s area of activity and size.

Do I need to send diplomas with my application?

There is no need to send diplomas with your application, but do take everything to the inter-view. A copy of your diplomas with a certified translation might be useful, especially if your education was very different from the French education system.

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

Letters of recommendation are not essential. However, do detail your professional experi¬ence in order to show your competences. Some employers may wish to contact by phone or e-mail one or more of the employers men¬tioned on your CV. For certain jobs in security or public administration you may need to prove that you do not have a criminal record.

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

This is 3 weeks on average, but it may be any-thing from 24 hours to several months.

Preparing for the interview

The employer will pay particular attention to your punctuality and your general attitude, including dress. The interview may last half a day, including practical tests. Research the company so that you can highlight your moti¬vation for the role.

Dress-code tips

The dress code should be appropriate to the job you are applying for.

Who will be there?

The first interview is usually with a representative from the HR department. In small companies or with craftsmen, you will generally meet the director.

Do we shake hands?

Yes, shake hands with your interviewer before and after your meeting. French people set great store by etiquette, and courtesy and good manners are appreciated.

Is there a typical interview structure?

In general, the employer will introduce the company. He or she will then expect you, the candidate, to show why you should be hired in preference to the other candidates. You are advised to highlight your competences and demonstrate how these correspond with what the employer is looking for to help meet the needs of the company

When is a question out of bounds?

French anti-discrimination legislation is very clear. You can refuse to answer any question that seems inappropriate and/or is not relevant to your candidature for the job in question.

Negotiating your pay and benefits

As a general rule, salary details are published in the job advertisement. They are given as a monthly or annual gross figure, before deductions. However, there may be room to negotiate pay at the end of the recruitment process. It may also be indicated that the salary is negotiable. In this case, you will need to demonstrate that you are worth more than the basic salary proposed. You must sign your employment contract before taking up the position or at the latest on the day you start work.

Is a trial period likely?

Tests are common as part of the recruitment process. Work trials, however, are not widely used. If you are asked to complete one before signing a contract, it must be very short and should not be used to perform work for the employer.

How long is the standard probationary period?

The probationary period varies from 1 day to several months depending on your qualifications and the type of employment contract. For 1-month contracts, it is generally one week. The period can be renewed once.

Will the employer cover my costs for attending an interview?

Travel costs for getting to interviews may be met by the public employment service if the candidate is registered as a jobseeker and asks for this support before going to the interview.

When will I hear the result?

It takes 2 to 4 weeks to get the results: the higher the qualification level, the longer the recruitment process. After 4 weeks, we suggest you call the recruiters.

Getting feedback and further follow-up

It is not common to ask why you were not selected for a job, but it is possible, as long as you do so tactfully. The feedback should be useful for your subsequent interviews.

How early should I arrive for the interview?

Even though the French are not very punctual, especially in big cities like Paris, we suggest you arrive 15 minutes in advance

last modification: 2014-09-03
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