March 27, 2013

Finding a Job in France

Lunch at la Table Saint Crescent

A question that frequently pops up from fellow expats in France is related to working. More specifically, how to find a job and how to get hired.* And right now, with unemployment figures what they are, things are tougher than ever.

I've heard from many frustrated people who don't understand why they're not being asked to go for an interview after submitting their CV to a company or why they're not getting hired after having an interview.

Here's what I think.

Over the last several years I've been hired by a half a dozen French companies (two of those jobs I turned down) and from my experience, the one thing that I think gave me an advantage was my ability to speak both French and English. And when I say, "speak French," I don't mean simply knowing how to order a meal in a restaurant or ask where the toilets are located. I mean being able to converse in French, talk on the phone in French and do business in French. Now I'm sure it may be possible to get by speaking only minimal French in a big city like Paris, out here in the provinces, local language skills play a pretty important role in daily life. And in finding work.

So if you don't have a good level of conversational French, you're probably going to have a tough time competing in the job market.**
Luckily, there is hope!



Fromage at the Marché

Gutting Fish in Cassis

First, get your language skills up to speed. You're going to need them to navigate the employment websites and to approach potential employers. Go take a French class, join a conversation group, whatever it takes. Second, put together a professional looking, concise CV and Lettre de Motivation and ask a native French speaker to look them over and suggest any changes or corrections that you should make.

Then, start searching!
These are some of the resources that I've used over the years and that have been recommended to me:
Pôle Emploi - the national French employment website
Emploi Annonces - job board
Les Jeudis - job board
Monster France - job board
Indeed France - job board
L'Hôtellerie-Restauration - for restaurants and hotels
Stratégies - for marketing, PR, communications
Craigslist - most offers are in Paris
FUSAC - most offers are in Paris
The American Library in Paris has a community message board at the library in Paris offering employment opportunities - no ads listed online
French national and local newspapers
Networking! Ask people you know and friends of friends

Paris Bistro

At the Café

Once you've landed an interview, don't panic like I did the first time I went for a job interview in French. I tried my best, but I stumbled over phrases and misunderstood questions. Yes, it was a great learning experience, but it was embarrassing and no, I didn't get the job. The second time I went for an interview I had a lot more confidence and I was offered the job.

You should arrive at least ten minutes early and bring some extra copies of both your CV and Lettre de Motivation. Even though they may already have a copy of each on the desk in front of them, they could ask to see another one. Dress conservatively and make sure your hair is well groomed. You will most likely be asked to describe both your best and worst qualities, so study your adjectives. Also, I think it's a good idea to research the company and have a question or two ready to pose about their business when they ask you if you have any questions. It shows that you have done your homework.
Finally, stay calm!

Job hunting is never easy, and doing it in a foreign language adds another dimension of difficulty. Try to remain positive and good luck!


As always, I enjoy and appreciate hearing from other expats who have experience job hunting and finding work in France.


More Helpful Links:
Finding a Job in Paris or the Ile-de-France Region (France.fr)
Finding a Job in France (Americans in France)
{Un}Glamorous Paris: Working in France (Prêt à Voyager)
French Work Culture (Lost in Cheeseland)
Finding a Job in France (The Local)
A Checklist: Getting a Job in France (Expatica)


*Not to be confused with people who want to move to France to find work, which is an entirely different subject. Please check your local French Consulate's website for current information about obtaining a Work Visa. 

**Of course, having excellent French skills aren't the only thing you need to get hired!


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