What do you need in London to succeed in the London job market?
Even in the current economic climate, the London job market continues to attract foreigners, and among them a lot of French people. What are they looking for? Companies that hire them because of their personal profile, more financial opportunities and less discrimination.
“Here, people start looking for a better job the minute they’re hired somewhere”. This is what Perrine Reynier, a French recruitment consultant living in the UK told me. And she’s right! In France, where the job market is much tighter, when you’ve got a job, you’re mostly trying to keep it.
“In the UK, people are used to managing their careers through recruitment agencies”, explained Damien Bernard, a head hunter at Elliott Bauer...they send their CV to different head hunters and wait to see what they have to offer”. “Why not just send your CV to the enterprise you would like to work for, just as people do in France”, I asked. “Because, if you go with recruitment agencies, you have a better chance of increasing your salary”, he explained to me. According to him, the average salary increase someone can hope for by changing jobs with the help of an agency is between 10 and 15%. “Lots of people here change every two years; that way they go to the top much faster than in France”, he told me.
French enterprises often think hiring a head hunter is going to cost too much money, and they would rather take care of their recruitment themselves. For Perrine Reynier, this is a bad bet, which often turns out to be more expensive for the company.
Another major difference in the hiring process is about what the companies are looking for. In France, diplomas are everything. The experience often comes second. Your personality? Not all that important. Plus, it’s considered almost rude to be too confident in France.
There is one point, however, on which our two professionals agree: the personal profile of an applicant is their most important asset. Companies want good communication skills, entrepreneurship, creativity, confidence… an English manager who was supposed to hire an assistant once told me: “ Ultimately, if the guy doesn’t want to steal my job, I’m not interested!”
"london city workers"
“The French are considered hard-working”
But you can’t imagine how puzzling these expectations can be for French people. As soon as we start school, we are taught that it is good to be number one, but you're better off not telling anyone. Hence our lack of confidence and our inability to “market ourselves”. But the French, as well as other foreigners are appreciated for other aspects of their personality. “In a city like London, multiculturalism is everything”, Damien Bernard reminds me. “Companies hire foreigners because they are looking for fresh ideas, new work techniques and, let’s face it: an English person only speaks English, whereas a foreigner speaks English and their mother tongue...at least.”
Other qualities are also appreciated. Julia, a French friend of mine who worked in a pub whilst at university in London, once explained to me that she never had any problem finding a job here because, similarly to the Polish, the French have the reputation of being hard-working. “What? But every time I say that I’m French in London, people start talking to me about how French people never work, because of the 35 hour week and our extended holidays?” I answered. –Yes, that’s what lots of people think, but they also know that, when they come here, the French are willing to work and make as much money as possible” she added.
Making money? That reminds me of something both Perrine Reynier and Damien Bernard told me. What companies are REALLY looking for here, are people who want and know how to make money.
There are a few noticeable differences when comparing a French and an English CV. Here, it is common to put figures in a CV. A candidate wants to show the recruiters their managing skills. In France, CVs tends to be less specific… especially when it comes to your personal identity and your origins. Discrimination is a reality on the other side of the Channel and lots of people carrying a foreign surname, especially from North Africa, use a more “Christian” name on their CVs. They also don’t include any pictures on it, in order to have a better chance of getting a face to face interview. Such prejudices don’t exist in England according to Damien Bernard, at least they aren’t so strong. This might be a reason why so many young French graduates with foreign origin, choose to come to England to start their professional life… most of the time, they don’t come back.