Last update on July 24, 2019
Keith J Fernandez/Photo by Madhuri Sen Written by Keith Fernandez

Working abroad is easier than ever – or so it seems. But how do you go about getting the perfect expat job? These top ten tips will help you on your way.

Globalization may have its dissenters, but it has certainly opened up a job market which was once restricted to bankers, oil company executives, and English teachers. From Singapore to Seattle, the world is facing a severe shortage of skilled professionals – indeed, consulting firm Korn Ferry forecasts a global labor gap of 85.2 million skilled workers by 2030. This is likely to result in lost revenue opportunities amounting to US$8.452 trillion; that figure equals the combined gross domestic product of Germany and Japan. Consequently, opportunities for expat workers have increased and it is now far easier for anyone with wanderlust and a sense of adventure to find an expat job abroad.

But the world is a big place, so where do you begin? Well, thanks to the Internet, there are plenty of ways to get started on your job hunt, whether you want to work at a startup or in a more conventional workplace. With a little planning and some strategic action, you could be living the dream before you know it. Here are some tactics to try.

1. Ask for an overseas transfer

Your first step, assuming you’re already working with your dream company, is to sniff around for an international transfer. This rather old-school approach works when companies are expanding into new markets or have a workplace leadership program. You’ll need to do more than just let your hopes be known, though. Besides thoroughly researching your target market, you must be able to show that you’re the right fit for the job – whether by way of transferrable skills, language fluency, or relevant educational background. Consider the move from your employer’s perspective, too. If you can compellingly position yourself as the only suitable candidate, you may hit the bullseye quicker than you think.

2. Spreadsheet the expat job market

If you’re hoping to jump companies as you change countries, then you’re going to need to do a little more work. A wise approach is to Google everything you can about companies in the country you want to work in and collate your data into a spreadsheet. Then systematically apply to every single company on your list. In short, pretend you’re on a military campaign. As the saying goes: failing to plan is planning to fail.

3. Network, network, network

Are you the sort of person who has low friends in high places and know just the person to call when you need something done instead of merely relying on an e-mail? If that sounds like you, then you might be on to a good thing. Up to 85% of open opportunities are filled through networking, so it’s important to try to find backdoor routes into new companies. You can also go one step further and, rather than wait for a job to be advertised, reach out to friends and former colleagues in your chosen country and ask about job opportunities. The world really is a small place – and help could come from unexpected quarters.

business networking

Read Expatica’s list of common networking mistakes to avoid.

4. Reach out to local recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies exist to bridge the talent gap and they usually know the local job market better than you do; use that to your advantage. Look for overseas employment firms that are specialized in your profession – and preferably with experience placing expats. They’re likely to already have established relationships with top-tier companies in your line of work; as such, a recommendation from them may carry more weight. Signing up usually costs nothing and can be an effective way to help you find your ideal match.

5. Check your paperwork

Moving to a new country and finding work often comes down to specific visa requirements. The UK, for example, needs you to have an employer-sponsored work visa, but those joining family members have an advantage. You may be the best candidate in the world, but if a company doesn’t have the budget to sponsor you, or the law doesn’t allow it, your nationality could limit your prospects. However, if you’ve got the right to live and work in the country of your choice, it makes sense to highlight that information in your CV and cover letter. It’s a small but often overlooked step.

6. Learn the language

Just because English is the world’s lingua franca doesn’t mean you’re going to beat out local talent if you aren’t fluent in a local language. Unless there’s a severe skills shortage, such as software engineers, HR officers will always favor candidates who they think will integrate into existing teams easily. If you want a job in the Netherlands, for example, it’s a good idea to learn Dutch and to display any qualifications on your CV. Depending on the role you’re applying for, you may want to go one step further and translate your CV into Dutch. Just make sure you hire a translator or proofreader to check it before you send it out.

Learn the language

Consult Expatica’s guide on the best languages to improve your overseas job prospects.

7. Localize your CV

A likely reason you’re looking for a job in another country is to experience a different culture; the sooner you embrace it and run with it, the better. When it comes to job hunting, this means reworking your CV to reflect the local market. If you want to work in France, for example, you might want to consider including a photograph at the top of your résumé, while making sure to confine your experience to a maximum of two pages. A little research into what local recruiters look for can help you stand out for all the right reasons.

8. Go social with the job hunt

Job searches have involved social media checks for some time now. Public accounts on the most commonly used networks can help build your personal brand and show off your corporate skills. Posts on Instagram and Twitter can help you build credibility, while a series of blogs on LinkedIn demonstrates your understanding of your industry.

Posting on social media

It’s a good idea to find, follow, and interact with professionals based in the country you want to live in to help build your network. And if you’re multilingual, then show that off in your public social media feeds.

9. Write a cold e-mail

Thanks to social media, it’s easy to find and reach anyone. Once you’ve identified a company you want to work with, reach out to executives or hiring managers who work there via LinkedIn. Write a cold message introducing yourself and preferably referencing a common interest at the start. Treat your expat job search as you would a new marketing strategy and you might be surprised by the results.

10. Book a job-seeking trip

If time and resources permit, take a reconnaissance trip to the city or country you want to settle in. Countries such as Germany offer six-month job seeker’s visas, but a couple of weeks is often enough. Look up old friends and let them know you’re coming and on the lookout for work. You can also ask them to introduce you to specific people in their network; it’s easy enough to find them via a quick prowl around LinkedIn. Check out local job fairs, and if possible, go one step further and set up a meeting with a recruiter or manager at your target company. This sort of initiative shows that you’re both serious and confident. Even if there is nothing available immediately, you’ll certainly remain in mind.