Work in France: Finding a job in France
Find jobs in France with these tips: where to look for jobs in France, jobs in demand in France, France's current job market, and French work permits.
If you want to find a job in France, speaking French is important. If you don’t speak French, it is hard to find anything but the most menial employment, so think about taking a language course if your French is rusty or non-existent. Use this guide to find out more on the French employment market, what sort of jobs are available in France, as well as where you can search to find jobs in France.
Be prepared to be flexible when searching for a job in France. If you can’t find your ideal job at first, look at what other jobs in France are on offer and consider taking something else to get your foot in the door. Lots of jobs in France are filled through contacts, so make – and then use – as many personal and professional contacts as you can in order to maximise your job opportunities.
This guide to jobs in France includes:
- Jobs in France: job websites, recruitment agencies and organisations
- The French job market: unemployment, minimum wage, restrictions
- Available jobs and shortage occupations in France
- French business culture and working environment
- French work visas and permits
- Language and qualifications required
- How to apply for a job in France
Work in France
The job market in France
In Q3 2015, the French unemployment rate hit an 18-year high at 10.6 percent (INSEE) – some 3.5 million people – of which around 25.7 percent are under 25, among the highest rates in Europe. As such, the majority of contracts are flexible, and permanent contracts are few. Employment levels are not predicted to rise significantly, however, there are jobs to be had especially in certain sectors (see below), although you stand a much better chance of employment if you speak French.
The minimum wage (salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance or SMIC) in 2106 was set at EUR 9.67 per hour or EUR 1,466.62 monthly for full-time employment (35 hours per week). The SMIC is reviewed on 1 January and again in the year if the consumer price index increases by more than 2 percent of the SMIC.
Nationals from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland have the same rights to employment as French citizens, with the exception of some public administration positions which require French citizenship; however, most other nationalities will usually only be able to get a job in France if no suitable French/EU candidate is available to do it.
Available jobs in France
The major industries in France are aerospace, motor industry, pharmaceutical, industrial machinery, metallurgy, electronics, textiles, food and drink, and tourism. According to a report by Hays, in 2015 engineering, research and development (R&D), IT and banking were the sectors exhibiting the most employment growth. Around three quarters of the population are employed in services.
Mangement skills are in particular demand in sales management-level occupations, construction, and science and engineering – especially in areas outside major French cities – as well as in business marketing, distribution, industry (agribusiness, mechanical, electrical, metallurgy), health and social work, banking and insurance, and IT industries. The public sector, accounting for around one in five jobs in France, also reported shortages; many civil jobs are open to EU nationals in state and regional administration and healthcare.
Jobs can also be found in tourism (including hotels, restaurants, catering), care giving (home, medical, psychiatric, childcare), retail and agriculture. English-language teaching is also an option.
You can also check the French government's list of shortage occupations in France.
If you’re a graduate, you’re most likely to find work with a multinational or large national employer that has many companies, for example AXA, BNP Paribas, Carrefour, Crédit Agricole, EDF, L’Oréal, Michelin, Orange, PSA Peugeöt Citroen, Renault, Saint-Gobin, Sanofi, Total and Vivendi. You can also try looking for work with a company in your home country that has offices in France.
Some major hirers in 2015 included Alten, Capgemini, Castorama, Elior, Engie, Eurodisney, GSF,ISS France, Keolis, La Poste, McDonald's France, Onet Propreté et Services, SNCF, Société Générale, Sopra, Quick, and Vinci.
Work experience is considered vital so if you’re a graduate consider an internship or stage. Be flexible and be prepared to take on a job that you might not consider back home to get started working in France, give you a chance to brush up your French, and allow you to make as many contacts as possible. By gaining more local experience and networks, your job opportunities in France will improve with time.
French business culture and working environment
In France businesses have a strong hierarchy with clearly defined positions and power. Secretaries work hard to protect their bosses from disturbances so you will hardly speak directly to people in top positions. Even the seating arrangements around a meeting table will be organised according to rank.
When you’re in a meeting expect to discuss the subject rather than make a decision on it. When decisions are made every aspect will be analysed extensively beforehand. Strategies tend to be long term and planned only by senior staff. Punctuality is important, appointments are necessary, and negotiations are calm and formal. Read more about business culture in France.
Working conditions are good in France with a statutory working week of 35 hours (after which you get paid overtime), around one to two hours for lunch and a minimum of five weeks’ holiday a year. In 2014 the French government even introduced a new law banning workers in the digital and consultancy sectors from answering work-related emails or phone calls outside of work hours. If you’re working for a company of more than 50 employees you’ll automatically enjoy the protection of a French employment union, even if you don’t join it.
French work visas and residence permits
If you’re a citizen of an EU/EEA country or Switzerland you can work in France freely. Almost everyone else who wants to work in France will have to first find a job and then the prospective employer will apply for authorisation in order for you to work. More information is provided in our guide to French work permits and visas.
If you want to get a job you’ll typically need to speak French to a good standard – even if a job requires you to speak your mother tongue they will probably still require some French language proficiency. If your French isn’t up to scratch you might consider a job teaching English while you brush up your French.
Qualifications and references
Countries signed up to the Bologna Process will have their educational qualifications recognised in France. If you’re from anywhere else, then you can find out whether the qualifications you’ve obtained in your home country will be recognised in France through the Centre ENIC-NARIC France.
You can find out whether your profession is regulated (needs specific qualifications for you to be able to practice it) in France, by checking on the European Commission’s database.
On the Expatica jobs pages, there are ads for jobs at all levels in many different sectors around the country.
If you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can look for a job in France through EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal, which is maintained by the European Commission and designed to aid free movement within the zone. As well as looking for work, you can upload your CV and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in France. EURES holds job fairs in various locations.
Jobs are posted by the French national employment agency Pôle Emploi (the new name for the ANPE). You’ll find all kinds of jobs including manual, unskilled and casual work, and they have offices all over France. APEC is the national employment agency for professional and managerial jobs.
Job websites in France
- ABG L’intelli’agence – scientific/medical jobs
- ANEFA – agricultural and viticultural (wine growing) jobs
- Craigslist – mostly Paris
- Emploi Annonces
- Emplois Verts – 'green' jobs
- IAPA (International Au Pair Organisation) – a list of French agencies for au pair jobs
- Indeed France
- Les Jeudis
- L'Etudiant – students and young graduates
- L’Hôtellerie Restauration – restaurants and hotel jobs
- Stratégies Emploi – marketing, communications and PR jobs
- The Local
English speaking jobs
You can sign on with as many recruitment agencies as possible. Look for names and contact details of recruitment agencies in the Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages) under cabinet de recrutement. Reputable companies will be members of the recruitment agencies’ professional body Prism Emploi.
Foreign language teaching
English, German and Spanish are all in demand but getting a job in the French education system will usually require French qualifications. The British Council and CIEP have information about becoming a foreign language assistant in French state schools. A teaching qualification (eg. TEFL) or even an university degree and some experience may be sufficient for a position within a private language school or training agency. There are lots of private language schools – some 300 in Paris alone – and you can chose between primary and secondary, as well as adult learners. Also check out opportunities at international schools in France, French universities and local town halls because many run English-language classes. For TEFL courses and jobs across France, see i-to-i.
Embassies and foreign organisations
Check out opportunities at the embassies and consulates in Paris and beyond. Most will expect a high standard of both spoken and written French. The American Library in Paris has a community message board with job advertisements.
Both national and regional newspapers carry adverts for job vacancies, with links to job websites or their own pages; some main newspapers include Le Monde, Libération and Le Point. FUSAC is a Paris-focused, English-language, web-based magazine with lots of job ads and can also put you in touch with others in the English-speaking community of Paris – good for work and social networking.
Jobs in France should be widely advertised but in reality many positions are filled through personal contacts; networking is thus important because even a casual acquaintance could lead you to a potential job. Ask around: friends of friends, and though social networking sites for professionals, such as LinkedIn and Viadeo, the French social networking site. Get in touch with like-minded people through Expatica’s French community forums or, specifically in Paris, through FUSAC (English-language, web-based magazine). Join a meet-up group to make contacts with like-minded individuals working in similar fields all over France.
You can also join a professional networking group such as the European Professional Women’s Network (PWN), which has city networks in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Nice, or the Lunch Club of Paris which is aimed at those working in marketing and communications. Contact the French equivalent of professional organisations in your home country if appropriate.
Make the first move – speculative applications
Speculative applications (candidatures spontanées) are considered a sign that you have the ambition to achieve and are looked upon favourably in France. Use the Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages) to look for companies in your sector and check out the websites of international companies.
Traineeships, internships and volunteering in France
The EU offers traineeships for university graduates via the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages), otherwise internships or summer placements can be arranged by AIESEC (for students and recent graduates) or IAESTE (for students in science, engineering and applied arts). Internships can also be found at Europlacement and Intern Abroad.
For those aged between 17 and 30, volunteer programs are arranged by the European Voluntary Service (EVS), where you work abroad for up to 12 months in exchange for board, food, insurance and a small allowance. Concordia is another organisastion for volunteer opportunities.
Start your own business
Foreigners can also consider setting up a business in France or become a self-employed or freelance worker in France.
Once you’ve found a job in France, give yourself the best chance of getting an interview by sending in your job application in a format that French employers expect to see. Read Expatica's guide on how to apply for a job in France for advice on putting together a French-style CV and cover letter, as well what to expect – and how to behave – in a French job interview.
- Work in France: Applying for a job
- Guide to French work permits and visas
- Business culture in France
Find a job in France using Expatica's jobs search.
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