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Please help me apply for a job in France!

(15 Posts)
QueenofWhatever Tue 06-Sep-11 16:41:05

I currently live in England and work as a project manager. For a whole host of reasons, I want to move to France and am applying for jobs with Airbus in Toulouse.

I know they're a big international company but would really welcome some advice on what French employers are looking for. The application is all online via their website, but what do I need to do (or not do) to make my application sit on a French recruiter's desk and them to think, we have to get her in for an interview, she sounds perfect.

When you apply for a job, it asks for a covering letter which I know is a big deal in France. What should it say? Also, I understand lots of French mothers work four days a week and would like to do this, where should I say this?

My other question is about salary. The online application asks you for your salary expectations but I understand salaries in France are lower than in the UK. I currently earn £37k (46K if I worked full time instead of four days a week). What should I put?

MmeLindor. Tue 06-Sep-11 16:43:47

Are you sure about the salary? That would be low for a project manager in Germany, not sure about France - hopefully someone will be along with local knowledge soon.

Do you have costs back home in UK? You have to think about the exchange rate, which is great fro you right now but may change and you need to cover your costs.

sommewhereelse Wed 07-Sep-11 11:39:57

I just googled 'Chef de Projet Toulouse salaire' and came up with a couple of job ads at 45k Euros. Perhaps you could read some ads and work out whether your experience is similar to what is requested to give you an idea of salary.

I haven't applied for a job in France for over 10 years but DH did it last year. In our experience, apart from stating salary expectations, the covering letter is the same as in the UK. You need to say why the company interests you and what you have to offer. We were also advised to phone up in advance to get the name of the person rather than sending it to 'The Human Resources Manager'. Also you should follow up the letter with a phone call about a week after it should have arrived to check it got to the right person and to ask whether they would like to meet you.
Your CV needs a photo and it seems obvious but make sure you get the photo done wearing business attire. I work in an office and we have received CVs where the applicant looked like they were going to a nightclub in the photo and I could tell the boss was prejudiced before even reading the letter and CV.

fraktious Wed 07-Sep-11 11:50:21

Being bilingual, or near as, puts you to the top of the pile so really emphasise language skills. If you have an official bit of paper (DELF/TCF) which proves you can speak French then put it down rather than just relying on lu, écrit, parlé to describe your ability.

A lot of weight is given to the appearance and format of your CV as well as spelling, punctuation, grammar etc

If you attended a particularly prestigious university then bang on about it. IME the grandes écoles system in France means the branding attached to your degree is very important.

I wouldn't say at the application stage that you want to work 4 days a week, that's something you could enquire about at interview. If you get a CDI it's much easier to then request changes to your working arrangements.

Personal contacts count for a lot, do you know anyone at airbus? I definitely agree with the advice to get a name rather than the HR manager and calling up will reinforce your spoken French abilities.

QueenofWhatever Wed 07-Sep-11 18:16:35

Thanks for that. As Airbus are a multinational with their HQ in Toulouse it seems hard to find a way to get through to an individual. They're recruiting for over 800 jobs in France alone at the moment.

I'm not fluent in French although speak some but have other languages so that is in my application letter. They do everything in English there as the work is international but obviously I would want to learn French if I'm living in France.

The salary thing has foxed me a bit because when I enter my salary in £ into their application form it converts it to € plus about 20%. I don't want to make it look like I'm looking for a stupidly high salary especially as I'll be changing sector. However I've become used to the lower rates of pay in the public sector here.

MmeLindor, I would rent out my house in England so am not sure what costs I would have back here once in France. It's been a few years now since I lived overseas, so are there things I need to think about?

AuldAlliance Wed 07-Sep-11 20:18:32

There is an MNer who works for Airbus in Toulouse. I'll try and get hold of her...

QueenofWhatever Thu 08-Sep-11 13:06:02

Thanks AuldAlliance that would be fantastic.

auntierozzi Thu 08-Sep-11 13:27:13

Make sure you definitely hand write your application letter. I worked for a company here in France where letters that were not handwritten in black ink on white paper were put in the bin without being read!! I have found that there is still a lot of sexism in the work place here. The very best picture of yourself will go a long way. It's a shame but c'est la vie ;-)

MmeLindor. Thu 08-Sep-11 15:07:18

Things to think about:

Costs back home - this includes mortgage, insurances, any savings account you want to continue to pay into, any work needed done on the property, any other costs associated with the house such as rental agent fees.

At the moment the £ is weak against the € so these costs will be low. If the £ strengthens at so point in the next couple of years you could find yourself paying more of your € salary for these costs.

This obviously depends a bit on how the mortgage/rent ratio is. If you are not covering the mortgage with the rent earned from the property then you will have to top up out of your salary.

Bartimaeus Thu 08-Sep-11 15:19:47

"Make sure you hand write your application letter"

Not at all the advice I would give! DH and I have done many applications in our time and none of them have handwritten letters. Apart from anything else the French have a distinctive handwriting style so you might be at disadvantage for that.

My advice for the application letter would be to really focus on why you want to work for them, not just coming to France. You have to know about the company and why you like them.

So my first paragraph is a quick introduction what I do now and the fact I want to join them.
Second paragraph talks about my language skills and a brief outline of my career up until then and (because I changed fields) why I chose to change fields. I explain my strong points and what I've learnt over the last few years.
New paragraph - why I want to join that company. How they can help me evolve and what I can offer them.

Also don't hesitate to say that you would like to meet them in order to discuss your candidature. The French seem to like that forward thinking!

Agreed to mention your qualifications, and where possible the equivalent of what that is in French (eg. A levels = Bac, degree = Bac+3 etc.).

With the salary its tricky, but don't ask too low. They tend to do things very strictly with a grid of who gets what for what reasons so there is little leeway. I once asked for X in the interview and got X+4 which was a pleasant surprise.

MmeLindor. Thu 08-Sep-11 15:31:19

One thing to remember is that international companies are used to international applications. So don't get too het up on details of whether to handwrite, or include a photo.

A friend of ours is HR boss of company in Geneva and jokes that he can tell the nationality of applicant from look of first page of CV.

Germans always include a photo. Americans rarely (and they cannot ask or it could be seen to be discriminatory)

auntierozzi Fri 09-Sep-11 13:02:05

blush My experience is from a long time ago!! At that time I do remember French companies wanting to analyse handwriting..Maybe it was just a fad 20 years ago...I'm making myself feel old here!! All the best with your application.

eslteacher Sat 10-Sep-11 00:52:17

I definitely agree that you should big up your higher education (presuming you have it!) - it counts for a lot in France, often for more than experience itself. If you've got a Masters definitely promote that. Same if you went to a top-ranking university.

I wouldn't sell yourself short re: salary expectations. It's hard to get pay-rises once you're actually in a job here, so you really need to make sure that you're getting the right salary from the off, with no assumptions that it will automatically be rising over the next few years. Even for inflation. It might be different in a reallly huge company like Airbus, but I work with a lot of project managers in big companies in Paris, and hear over and over that if you want a payrise you either need something to hold over your boss's head, or you need to change jobs...

Good luck

QueenofWhatever Mon 12-Sep-11 20:38:32

Thanks very much for all your advice and auldalliance thank you so much for putting me in touch with your friend at Airbus. I've just had a really useful chat with her on the phone and she is going to help me get my CV to the person who runs the project management function.

I'm also clearer on salaries and at what level to pitch myself, as well as having got my letter of motivation done. I'll keep you posted!

AuldAlliance Mon 12-Sep-11 21:05:47

Glad you got some inside advice.
Good luck.
I'm quite envious, I do love Toulouse...

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