An essential guide to finding work in Spain, including information on the current job market, Spanish work permits, and where to find a job in Spain.
If you are an expat looking for jobs in Spain, it may seem that there are only a handful of suitable jobs and an awful lot of job-seekers, especially if you’re limited to jobs in Spain for English-speakers. But it is possible to find a job in Spain if you know where to look for work and, in particular, there are numerous jobs in Spain for foreigners with specialist skills.
In Spain, lots of people find work through informal routes such as word-of-mouth, networking and speculative applications, especially in small to medium-sized companies. As such, you shouldn’t restrict your job search to agencies and adverts: it’s important to be proactive, seek out opportunities and network.
Work in Spain: The Spanish job market
Spain’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in Europe – with around one in five people without work – although Spain is also one of the European Union’s (EU) fastest recovering economies and the fourth largest. Unemployment is decreasing as the country slowly recovers from economic downturn, falling from a height of 26% in 2013 to around 16% in February 2018. Some sectors have even reported increased recruitment in past years, for example, in Spain’s largest region, Castilla y León, there were more opportunities than before the crisis for personal care workers, construction workers and chefs.
Youth unemployment, however, continues to be an issue and graduates report difficulties finding quality and permanent work. With youth unemployment rate at around 35% in March 2018, many of the country’s educated workforce has looked abroad for better opportunities. The highest levels of unemployment, however, have been among unskilled workers, so those with education and experience will fare better when looking for jobs in Spain for foreigners.
If you’re looking for graduate work, you’ll still be competing against large numbers of Spanish graduates but you stand the best chance in the consulting, industry and IT sectors, which have all grown in past years. Many multinational companies are also headquartered in Spain, including Abengoa, Abertis, Acciona, ACS Group, Almirall, Grupo Antolin, Ebro Foods, Ferrovial, Ficosa, Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, Iberdrola, Inditex, Logista, Natraceutical, Pescanova, PRISA, Técnicas Reunidas and Viscofan.
Spain’s protected labour laws have also allegedly contributed to the employment crisis by influencing an environment where almost half of new contracts are temporary, as companies are reluctant to hire new or young staff because of the potentially high costs. There has also been a rise in freelancing and self-employment in Spain since the crisis.
There are certain sectors in Spain where vacancies exist as the positions are difficult to fill, particularly in highly skilled positions. The Spanish government maintains a list of shortage occupations in each Spanish region, and allows for an expedited and a less restricted hiring processes for such job vacancies in Spain for foreigners. The EURES job mobility portal also supplies job vacancies and labour market information for Spain.
Shortage occupations generally include medium to highly qualified positions in teaching (including language teachers and in universities), mechanical, industrial and production engineers, computing and business experts, commercial relations, medical practitioners, web and multi-media development, real estate, hotels, restaurants and tourism.
In 2015, the top growing job sectors included services, accounting and finance, agribusiness, business management and marketing, renewable energy, the creative sector, engineering and information technology (IT).
For English-speaking jobs in Spain, seasonal work in the tourist trade and teaching English in Spain are both popular sources of employment for foreigners, as are services catering to the large expat populations along Spain’s coastal regions and in major cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Otherwise, Spanish is typically a job requirement. Large companies with a strong international presence tend to be in sectors related to tourism, infrastructure development, renewable energy, banking, insurance, textiles, healthcare technology, aeronautics, agriculture and the automotive industry.
In the current job market, it’s important not to rule out getting a temporary job or taking on a lower salary at first until you can find something more permanent. In the current environment,
The average full-time working week is just over 40 hours, from 9am until as late as 8pm, with long lunch breaks between 2pm and 4–5pm still practised in some companies. Work talk starts after morning coffee, and lunch is considered a time to relax and mix with colleagues, rather than the working lunch you may be used to back home. However, in larger companies and multinationals, particularly in major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, you will likely find the usual working hours and standard one-hour lunch break.
Companies still tend to be hierarchically structured, with strategic and other decisions being taken at the top. Meetings are held to exchange information or give instructions, not to come to a consensus.
Expect business colleagues to spend time getting to know you at a first meeting – it’s all about establishing trust between you with personal qualities being highly valued – and negotiations can be lengthy. Individualism is preferred over teamwork although modesty is more appreciated than assertiveness in employees.
Salaries in Spain contracted across almost all sectors following the economic crisis, with the public sector particularly affected. However, as the economy strengthens salaries are showing signs of growth, particuarly in the private sector and in e-commerce, tourism, engineering, procurement and construction. In 2017, the Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social (Employment and Social Security Ministry) raised the minimum salary (salario mínimo interprofesional (SMI) to €707.60 per month or €23.59 per day.
Requirements to work in Spain as a foreigner
Citizens of EU and European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) member states and Switzerland can come to Spain and work freely, without the need for a work permit. Everyone outside the EU/EEA states and Switzerland will need a residence visa, as well as a valid Spanish work permit. Read more about work visa requirements in our guide to Spanish work permits.
If you are going to be an employee, the employer will apply for the work permit through the Dirección Provincial de Trabajo, Seguridad Social y Asuntos Sociales. Once the work permit has been granted then you can apply for a residence Spanish visa to come to Spain for work.
If you are going to be self-employed, then you must apply for a work permit yourself at the Spanish consulate in your home country. Read more about starting a business or self-employment and freelancing in Spain.
If you don’t speak Spanish, besides working for a multinational company, jobs in Spain for English speakers include tourism, real estate, teaching English and services aimed at expats. For other types of employment, you will usually need to speak Spanish. There are numerous language schools in Spain where you can brush up your skills.
You can find out whether your profession is regulated in Spain (ie. needs specific qualifications for you to be able to practise it), by checking on the European Commission’s database.
You’ll also need to get any professional references translated into Spanish – don’t forget to bring them with you when you move. Consider getting a Europass, which puts your personal details, qualifications and skills into a standard format.
First check out Expatica jobs. You’ll find a constantly changing selection of jobs in Spain for foreigners in a range of different sectors, both English-speaking and multi-language.
If you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can search for jobs in Spain on the EURES (European Employment Services) website. EURES is a job portal network maintained by the European Commission which is designed to facilitate free movement within the European Economic Area. As well as searching for work, you can post CV’s and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in Spain, or any other country in the EU/EEA or Switzerland.
Public Employment Services
The Public State Employment Service (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal) or SEPE has information on vacancies, training courses and advice on job seeking. You can also search jobs at Empleate, a government job portal.
The Autonomous Communities (different regions in Spain) also have employment offices nationwide – look in the phone directory or on SEPE website for local addresses. You can also check Sistema Nacional de Empleo for local employment offices and job vacancies.
There are many job websites for finding work in Spain, including specialised sites for certain professions.
Jobs in Spain for graduates:
- Eurograduate – the European Graduate Career Guide: search multinational companies for graduate opportunities.
- Primer Empleo
- Expansión y Empleo: employment news as well as jobs
- Oficina Empleo
- Busco Jobs
Jobs in Spain for English speakers:
- Ambient recruitment: multilingual professionals
- Approach People Recruitment: multi-lingual professionals
- Talent Search People: finance, sales, IT, e-commerce and native speakers
- Tecnoempleo: IT and telecommunications jobs
- Xpatjobs: multilingual
Teaching jobs in Spain
There are lots of opportunities for teaching English in Spain but just being a native speaker probably won’t be enough to secure a job – you stand a much better chance if you hold a TEFL qualification. Consider taking a course in your home country or one based in Spain. TtMadrid and TEFL Iberia are schools that can help you find TEFL jobs in Spain, otherwise you can also look for teaching jobs at Spainwise and Lingobongo.
Part-time English-language assistant positions, via the British Council, for undergraduates with two years’ higher education only require a minimum of AS level Spanish.
You might also be able to give private lessons and seek out your own English-speaking jobs in Spain – place an ad in a newspaper or expat publication, or use your networks and word-of-mouth.
Recruitment agencies tend to deal with temporary jobs in Spain; click to view our listings of recruitment agencies in Spain. Empresas de Trabajo Temporal (ETT) hire workers directly and then assign them to other companies who will oversee the work itself, otherwise you can check which agencies are registered. Besides some agencies listed above for specialist professions, another private employment agency offering temporary and permanent work includes Adecco.
Spanish jobs in newspapers
Although Spanish national, regional and provincial newspapers will advertise job vacancies daily, most jobs are advertised in the Sunday editions. To see the latest online vacancies, see El Pais, El Mundo and ABC. La Vangaurdia also has a job website. You can also check out the jobs pages in the printed newspapers International New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Overseas Jobs Express.
Radio and TV
Networking in Spain
Lots of jobs aren’t advertised openly in Spain and many positions are filled through word-of-mouth or personal contacts. So spread the word that you’re looking for work in Spain (tell friends and family already living in Spain if you’re not), network with others in similar fields, and join work-related groups, forums and networking sites, such as LinkedIn.
Some business networks include:
- Spanish Chamber of Commerce (Camara de Comercio): Spain’s largest business network with local chambers across the country, networking events and business support.
- Guiri Business
- Professional Women’s Network Spain
- Aseme (women, mainly Madrid)
- Costa Women
Make contact with Spaniards and other expats with similar work or personal interests through a meet up group near you – if there isn’t one, you can start your own.
Make the first move
Submitting a speculative application (cover letter and CV) can be very effective in Spain. Make sure your letter is addressed to the right person. Follow up with a phone call (if your Spanish is up to it) or email. You can search the company’s website for contact details, or check Kompass Spain’s large database of company details.
You can look at company websites for vacancies. You’ll usually find the vacancies under the heading ecursos humanos (human resources), empleo (employment) or trabaja para nosotros (work for us).
Traineeships, interships and volunteering in Spain
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). Interships 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.
Once you’ve found a suitable job, you will then need to prepare your application. You should adapt your CV and cover letter to the Spanish job market, and learn how to conduct yourself in a job interview to avoid any cultural blunders. For more information, read our article on applying for a job in Spain.