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EURES (EURopean Employment Services)
News article12 July 2019European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion6 min read

6 steps to starting a professional career abroad: Part 2

The second part of our three-part series explores what to look out for when applying for a job abroad, and offers some guidance on interview preparation.

6 steps to starting a professional career abroad: Part 2

Step #3: Applying for a job abroad

Once you’ve made the decision to work abroad, it’s time to find some opportunities to apply for!

How and where do I apply?

  • Set up a search: The EURES ‘Find a job’ search engine allows you to search for opportunities by keywords and set criteria. You can then compare your profile with the results to see how well you match what the employer is looking for.
  • Target jobs: Once you’ve found a job you like, you can apply directly through the EURES portal. Other websites, job portals and newspapers also have online job application systems and will have information about how to apply and who to contact.
  • Create your CV on EURES: After registering on the EURES website, you can create your CV online or upload an existing CV to the EURES platform. Your CV will then be accessible by potential employers and EURES Staff who are helping employers to find job candidates.
  • Be spontaneous: Perhaps there’s a particular company you’d like to work for. Spontaneous applications can sometimes open doors that you didn’t even know existed (not all vacancies are published by employers). It’s generally recommended to send a targeted CV and a cover letter.

How do I write my CV?

  • Use Europass: It’s a good idea to use the Europass CV format, as it allows your qualifications and experience to be easily compared across countries. The format’s available in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and is suitable for both vocational and academic graduates.
  • Tailor your CV: Adapting your CV to the position you’re applying for is essential. Emphasise specific experience and skills that meet the needs of the employer, and you’ll give them a clear picture of why you’re the right person for the job.
  • Keep it simple: Recruiters are not going to have a lot of time to review your CV. Restricting it to two pages, using short sentences and only including relevant information will help to convey what you can offer in a clear and brief way.
  • Check your work: Always re-read what you’ve included in your CV to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. Use a dictionary if you write in another language or ask for support.
  • References: It’s standard practice in many countries to provide references as part of your CV (i.e. the name and contact details of someone who can confirm the details you’ve included in your CV). If you do include references, make sure you’ve asked permission first.

 How do I write my application letter?

  • Introduce yourself: An application normally consists of a CV and a cover letter (unless a specific application form is provided). The cover letter is a chance to introduce yourself and demonstrate your interest in the position.
  • Keep it short: As with your CV, keep the cover letter to a maximum of one page and focus on the essential information.
  • Plan your content: Your text should have about four paragraphs, each focusing on a different key topic. A good approach can be as follows:
    1. Express your interest in the job and explain where you found out about it.
    2. Explain why you’re interested and how you fit the criteria.
    3. Highlight a couple of professional or personal competences that add value to your application.
    4. Explain that you’re available for interview and can provide additional information or supporting documents upon request.

What language should I use?

  • Write in the employers’ national language or the language of the job advert: Unless otherwise specified in the job advert, this is always the best option. English will often be the accepted language of communication for transnational jobs.
  • Explain your qualifications: If you are writing in another language, make sure you explain your achievements in a way that the reader will understand (with comparable examples from the employer’s country, if possible).

Part #4: The interview process

If your job application is successful, you’ll probably be invited for an interview. There’s a lot to think about when preparing for an interview, so we’ve broken it down into the key points.

How do I prepare for an interview?

  • Do your research: Showing knowledge of the company and being able to answer or ask questions about it is a great way of demonstrating your interest. Equally, make sure you’ve researched the job role thoroughly, and can match up your skills and experience with the skills the job requires.
  • Share your language skills: The interviewer is probably going to want to evaluate how well you can communicate in their country’s language. Use your vocabulary as well as you can and if you’re struggling, show that you’re willing to make improvements (i.e. attend a language course).
  • Prepare some examples: Whatever questions the interviewer asks, you’re likely to need to refer back to situations when you’ve demonstrated a particular skill, such as the ability to handle challenges or take the initiative. Preparing these examples in advance can help you to mention them easily in an interview.
  • Remain confident: No matter how hard you prepare for the interview, you’ll probably be asked at least one tricky or unexpected question. Try to remain calm, give yourself a moment to think and, most importantly, be honest. If you don’t know then say so, while explaining how you would try to find out the answer or solution.
  • Show you’re a team player: Teamwork is at the heart of any business and a highly valued skill by employers, so make sure you highlight your contribution to previous team accomplishments.
  • Consider the salary: It’s a good idea to find out about the average salary rates for a similar occupation in the country you intend to move to, so that you know what to expect. The same is true of contractual arrangements and labour law. The living and working conditions section of the EURES portal can help here, together with EURES Staff members.

What documents should I take with me to the interview?

  • CV: If possible, take copies in your employer’s language and copies in English.
  • Certificates: This includes certificates for degrees, language courses and any other relevant qualifications.
  • Translated diploma: Some jobs, such as those in the public sector, may require you to have a certified translation of your qualification. This is usually available from your educational institute or the relevant industry.
  • Identity documents: Bring your passport or ID card and, if possible, your birth certificate.
  • Health insurance: It can be useful to have your European Health Insurance Card (or another health insurance document if you’re a non EU-citizen) so that you can cover any unexpected health costs.
  • Passport photos: Having a passport photo or two with you is a great idea as they help with identification.
  • Recommendations: While not always required, recommendations from previous employers or your educational institution can help you to stand out from the crowd.

You can find out more about steps three and four on the EURES portal and if you want to start at the beginning, part one (including steps one and two) can be found here. Keep an eye out for the final part of this series, which will be published in the coming weeks. Topics under discussion will be moving abroad and settling in a new country.


Related links:

‘Find a job’

registering on the EURES website

Europass CV format

living and working conditions

on the EURES portal


Read more:

European Job Days


Find EURES Staff

Living and working conditions in EURES countries

EURES Jobs Database

EURES services for employers

EURES Events Calendar

Upcoming Online Events

EURES on Facebook

EURES on Twitter

EURES on LinkedIn

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Articles are intended to provide users of the EURES portal with information on current topics and trends and to stimulate discussion and debate. Their content does not necessarily reflect the view of the European Labour Authority (ELA) or the European Commission. Furthermore, EURES and ELA do not endorse third party websites mentioned above.