Be successful in finding employment in Portugal with this guide that talks you through the nuances of writing a Portuguese CV and cover letter, with the aim of preparing for an interview in Portuguese.
You’ve taken the decision to look for employment in Portugal, hats off to you. This is a choice many expats make when choosing to relocate abroad. This guide will offer you support on your search for job vacancies in Portugal and help you prepare for the experience of undergoing an interview in Portuguese.
How strong is your CV?
Get a free, confidential review from a CV expert.
Portuguese CV guide
The Portuguese job market has been struggling since the global financial crisis in 2008. Although some reform has taken place, it can still be a challenging place to find employment in Portugal as jobs are scarce with unemployment rates currently recorded at 10.2% overall, and over 25% for under 25s.
This tough economic climate can make the challenge even harder for foreigners wanting to find jobs in Portugal with fierce competition from local job seekers, whether it’s for Lisbon jobs or elsewhere in the country. That being said, there are opportunities for foreign workers, but having a good understanding of spoken and written Portuguese and English, as well as other European languages, is a distinct advantage. Furthermore, ensuring you have a good grasp of the Portuguese job application process and presenting your application and yourself in a way that Portuguese employers expect will help ensure you come across in the right way to potential employers.
Writing a Portuguese CV
For most Portugal jobs, you should submit either a Portuguese CV or English CV, along with a covering letter as part of your job application in Portugal. Although, if you’re applying to work for a multi-national company they may accept job applications in other foreign languages. Alongside the Portuguese CV, business culture in Portugal is likely to differ to that of your home country, be prepared by reading this guide. You can also get your CV checked by TopCV who will help you on your way to finding that perfect job.
Also, adhering to the typical Portuguese structure of a CV, as well as language will ensure you have all the important and relevant information contained in your Portuguese CV, to give it a greater chance of being considered for an interview.
As a rule, a CV in Portugal will run in reverse chronological order and can be two to three pages long.
Portuguese CV structure:
- Include your informação pessoal (personal information): first name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, marital status, address, telephone number and email address (you can also include
- Detail your formal education, including courses, subjects and dates starting with the most recent first
- Detail additional professional seminars or training you attended through your work – this is a separate section to your studies and show’s potential employers you were valued and trusted for further development
- Include your work experience – listing all your previous employers with the most recent first. This should include dates, name of the company, job title, along with brief descriptions of the tasks and responsibilities in the role
- Include a separate section for language skills, including your level of ability
- Include another section with details of your computer literacy skills
- You can also add any additional information such as relevant extracurricular activities
- Attach a passport-sized photo to your CV
- Emphasise your education and professional training – Portuguese employers put a strong emphasis on professional training and development, as it shows a company’s commitment to further develop and invest in employees’ potential
- Include a photo – although this isn’t essential, it is becoming common practice and will help make your Portuguese CV more memorable.
- Be truthful – While you may want to sell yourself in the best possible light to heighten your chances in a highly competitive market, always stick to the facts
- Always type up your CV and print on quality paper
- Keep your CV short and concise. Portuguese CVs tend to be longer than some countries like the US or Britain, but try to stick to two A4 pages and don’t exceed three.
- Always double check your spelling and grammar
Portuguese cover letters
To accompany your Portuguese CV, you should always write a cover letter for a Portuguese job application that will express:
- Where you found out about the position and why you’re applying for the job
- What skills and experience you have to be a quality candidate
- Point them to read your CV and invite you for an interview
As in most countries, a cover letter is a formal document that should be typed up and follow a clear structure.
- Keep it clear, concise and succinct – a good Portuguese covering letter shouldn’t exceed one side of A4
- Use a business letter format that includes your name, address and contact details, the name, address of the recipient and the date
- The letter should open with a formal greeting, followed by an introductory paragraph stating why you are applying for the job, a main body detailing the relevant skills and experience – try not to duplicate details that are in your CV – and a closing paragraph expressing your desire for an interview.
- Close the letter with a formal signature.
- Use a simple font in black and print on plain white paper
- There’s no need to send copies of diplomas or qualifications with your application, unless it specifically requests them
Portuguese CV and cover letter language
Here’s some useful phrases for writing your Portuguese CV:
- Curriculum Vitae (CV): curriculum
- Cover letter: Carta de apresentação
- First name/ surname: primeiro nome / sobrenome
- Date of Birth: data de nascimento
- Place of birth: local de nascimento
- Nationality: nacionalidade
- Marital status: estado civil
- Address: endereço
- Dear Sir/ Dear Madam: Prezado Senhor / Prezada Senhora
- Yours Sincerely: Atenciosamente
- Kind Regards: Lembranças
You can also find more full sentences here.
Job vacancies in Portugal: The application process
As you might imagine, the pace of life in Portugal is very relaxed and this also spills over into the business culture too. While acting fast on applying for a job is vital to ensure you don’t miss an opportunity, you shouldn’t expect a speedy response in return. The typical length of recruitment ca take 2-3 months, if not longer, even for jobs that specify an immediate start date. You may also not hear back from an application, but it is acceptable to follow up an application with a phone call after a few weeks later to ensure they received it can show some eagerness and initiative.
Also worth noting that most Portuguese employers retain CVs for future reference, so even if you might not be considered first time round, you could still be in with a chance.
If your job application is successful, you will then be invited for an interview. These follow similar structures and etiquettes to most European countries whereby punctuality, professionalism and good preparation are essential. The interview may be conducted in Portuguese or English, depending on the position/company you applied for.
Face to face interviews
The most common interview type is likely to take place in the form of a face-to-face meeting usually at the company offices. To ensure your success in an interview scenario it’s incredibly important to be prepared and make a good first impression.
- Do thorough research on the company beforehand to show an interest beyond the position
- Familiarise yourself with some Portuguese culture and history and if you don’t speak Portuguese, even learning a few key phrases will still be appreciated.
- Dress smartly in business attire
- Be punctual – lateness is a big offense in most business situation, ensure a prompt, ideally 10 minute early arrival
- Know the interview customs. Portuguese interviews begin formally, with a brief handshake for introduction, you should give your surname without using your title at this point
- Always address the interviewers by their title and surname, unless they advise you to call them by anything else
- Take a printed copy of your CV and copies of diplomas, qualification certificates just in case they ask for them
- Have answers readily prepared that use examples of your skills and experience
- Prepare questions to ask the interviewers at the end of the meeting – asking questions about professional training and development will show your eagerness to learn new skills
- Avoid asking about salary, benefits or holiday allowance in the first interview
Online Portuguese interviews
For candidates who may be applying from outside of Portugal, it may be possible to arrange an online interview. Online interviews aren’t currently common practice, but they are increasing in popularity with foreign applicants
An online interview should be considered the same as a face-to-face interview with the same level of preparation and attention to detail, with a few additional conditions.
- Choose an environment that’s well-lit, quiet and business-like to give a professional impression
- Spend some time rehearsing your interview technique on camera to ensure you’re completely comfortable, relaxed and used to looking at the camera
- Make sure you have any documentation, pen and paper to hand during the interview
Interview tips for employment in Portugal
There isn’t necessarily a specific structure with job interviews in Portugal, but these tips should help you to prepare and know what to expect.
- Reference and letters of recommendation aren’t commonly requested in Portugal, check with the company before the interview if these are needed and take them with you to the interview
- Proof of qualifications and certificates – it’s a good idea to take these with you to an interview or at least check if they will be needed on the day. However, it might be an idea to provide clarification on the Portuguese equivalent to your qualifications
- Expect to be asked a series of questions on your personal background, CV, motivation for the job/company, your personal and social skills – these will tend to be open questions that require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer
- After an interview, it’s common practice for interviewees to write a letter to the company to thank them for their time
- The first interview is very much an introduction to you and the interviewer. It’s likely that in the second interview you will be provided with more detailed information about the role responsibilities, salary and expectations.
Some interview questions can seem a little open and bizarre, but these are deliberate ploys to encourage the interviewee to expand and provide as more information about themselves. Some typical questions for a Portuguese job interview may include:
- Why have you applied to work in Portugal? What interests you about this role?
- Tell me about yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Can you recall a time you faced a challenge in a previous role and how did you overcome it?
- Why did you leave your previous role? What did you dislike about your previous job? – This is to gauge your motivation, rather than to draw up negativity, so focus on positive aspects and what you want from a new position
- Do you work well under pressure?
- What do you know about the company?
Qualifications for your job application in Portugal
As mentioned above, it isn’t common to send copies of qualification certificates with your job application, but some employers may request it for the interview stage. However, there may be instances where employers are not be familiar with international qualifications and diplomas.
Therefore information provided by UCAS (p.55) can help you to decipher the Portuguese equivalent to your qualifications and certificates. Alternatively contacting the General Department of Higher Education will help you determine what you need to do regarding your qualifications.