Unless you are retired or have already made millions you will need to find a way to earn an income in France. Find out how to find job vacancies in France, how to write a French CV and how to apply for a job in France
1. Learn French
For most jobs in France you will need to be able to speak French. In some industries, like the tourism trade, basic conversational French will suffice but for most jobs and professions you will need to speak a good level of French. So the first thing to do in your job search is to learn the language, try French classes, talking to your neighbours, studying online or from books – anything to get your French to a good enough level to be able to hold your own in a business environment. See our advice and tips on learning French
2. Go to the job centre
The first thing to do when looking for a job in France is to go to the local job centre – the pôle emploi. The majority of jobs are advertised at the job centre, they can offer you practical help with applying for a job in France and signing on at the job centre means you may be entitled to receive UK unemployment benefit while job hunting in France. You will be asked to attend an initial interview at the job centre so staff can understand your skills and experience. Make sure to ask what training and workshops they offer – for example learning computer skills, how to network and job hunt in France, how to write a CV and application letter in French. Also ask about organising an assessment of your skills (bilan de compétences) as this can help in the French employment market. The pôle emploi also has a comprehensive website www.pole-emploi.fr where you can sign on, upload your CV; view all the job posts in your area and do all the administration you need to for your job search and unemployment benefits.
3. Network and make contacts
According to the French job centre, half of the job openings in France are filled by word of mouth, so networking is really important if you are searching for a job in France. Ask people you know to put in a good word for you and exploit every opportunity you get to build contacts. Join the local chamber of commerce (chambre de commerce et industrie or the chambre des métiers depending on your profession) to meet people in the same area of work as you and get active in your local community. Make friends with your local mairie as they could give you a character reference if you need one. There are also many online social and professional networks in France, you could try joining Viadeo – the largest business networking site in France – and Linkedin, which is rapidly growing in France.
4. Search for jobs online
As well as searching for job adverts at the job centre it is a good idea to use online job search agencies in France. Identify which job vacancy websites best suit the type of job and location you are looking for and sign up to receive job vacancy alerts. Some will let you upload your CV while other websites will ask you to fill in a detailed work history. Some of the most used job search websites are:
Indeed which works in the same way as the UK version, enter the job sector and area you are looking for and you can search thousands of job vacancies and request an email alert for any job that fit your requirements.
Apec is the most popular site for management positions or more highly qualified jobs, as well as for recent graduates. It has a reputation for advising its job seekers on continued career development and has excellent working relationships with thousands of France’s leading companies. Jobs that include a certain level of management responsibility or skilled professional knowledge are defined under the term cadre.
Regionsjob is a good website to register with if you are looking for a job in a particular area. You can narrow your search down to within a radius of where you live and there several offshoots focused on particular regions – www.nordjob.com and www.rhonealpesjob.com for example.
5. Join temping agencies
Permanent employment contracts in France tend to favour the employee and make it difficult for the employer to end the contract so employers often prefer to hire new staff on a temporary contract to test them before offering them a permanent contract – in fact around 80% of new employment is a fixed term contract. So be open to temporary jobs and jump at any opportunity. Find out which temporary employment agencies are most active in your local area and check their websites for vacancies and actively chase them if you find an opportunity for you.
6. Write a French CV
A good CV (résumé) is less strictly defined in France than in the UK: it can be up to 2 pages long, but is usually just 1 page, and doesn’t have to be a gap-free account of your education and professional career. It is fine to only list the experience which qualifies you for a particular job or you can write a skills-based CV showing that you have the skills needed for the job you want. Remember that UK company names and job descriptions may not be known in France so put an emphasis on your skills (compétences) and personal qualities (aptitudes), putting them before your list of work experience (expérience professionnelle) on your CV. Look at sample French CVs online to make sure you use the correct words and terms. French employers focus on qualifications so list these and any professional training and awards high up on your CV and translate them into the French equivalent where possible. If you work in a regulated profession, for example nursing, try and get your qualifications certified for recognition in France to make it easier to get a similar job. Some professions, for example law, healthcare and building, will require additional training and qualifications if you want to practice them in France. A job centre can help you write your CV and always get a native French speaker to read and correct your French CV.
7. Write a French cover letter
As with a UK job application you will need to include a covering letter (lettre de motivation) to explain why you are interested in the job and why you think they should be interested in you. Ask at the job centre or look online for examples of lettres de motivation to make sure you get the style and formality correct and ask a native French speaker to check your grammar and spelling. It is common to include a photo of yourself looking professional yet approachable with your application. Character references can be useful, but if you’ve only just moved to France then you can ask the mairie for a reference, even if it just says you are who you say you are and that you seem reputable.
8. Other employment options for non-French speakers
If your French isn’t good enough to get a French-speaking job then there are several other options you can try. Many expats go into the tourism trade and offer accommodation through B&B (chambres d’hôtes) or gîtes where speaking French is less necessary or looking after second homes in your local area. Another popular option is becoming a property agent and working with English-speaking clients or teaching English in France (you will need a qualification to do this professionally). Read our guide on how to set up a B&B or gîte in France and guide to running a business in France
Ever thought about commuting from France to the UK? Read about an expat who lives in Charente and works in London