Finding a job is a challenging task in most countries! However, as a foreigner, it gets a bit more difficult to find a job in France, and even more, if you are looking for an English speaking job in France! Language proficiency is also an important element that will impact your job search in France. International professionals often do not know the cultural codes and the local job market. I will explain to you why and how to find an English speaking job in France with little French proficiency! Read until the end as the last tip is the most important in France!
Can you find a job in France without speaking good French?
There is no straight answer to this question. It depends…
It depends on the job you are looking for, on your expertise, on where you live in France. If you do not live in Paris and have the experience or background to work for an international company that may have positions in English, then yes, mastering the French language can be required.
Then, speaking French may not be needed to do the work, but if you want to socialise with your colleagues, it will! It will help you understand what is happening in your company. Having an intermediate or upper-intermediate level will help you get around and be informed of some internal opportunities. You will be able to participate a bit more during the coffee break chat with your colleagues.
If your expertise allows you to work in an international environment in English, you will have some options. But, in any case, and sorry to repeat this, do not give up on learning French. I know French is a difficult language to learn, I know how frustrating it is to learn a new language. I know how French people may sometimes be inconsiderate toward non-French speakers. I know all of this because I have experienced it abroad too. But do not give up! Having an intermediate and upper-intermediate level will give you access to more: more social interaction with French people, better interactions; more social and professional opportunities. And the great satisfaction of overcoming difficulty and learning more about yourself!
How to find an English speaking job in France?
Target the French global companies
English speaking positions in French multinationals
If you live in Paris or another big city in France, you will have more options to find positions with English required. Finding an English speaking position and not the local language implies that you work in an international sector or that you sell your English proficiency as a teacher, lecturer, international babysitter and so on.
If you can work in an international area, you can find some great opportunities in French global companies. The French global companies will have their international headquarters in France, and mainly in Paris, France is a very centralised country.
You may still be able to find some great global companies with international headquarters in other French cities, such as Airbus in Toulouse, Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand or bioMérieux near Lyon.
CAC 40: The 40 major French companies
You can start by focusing on the 40 major French companies. They are listed on the stock exchange, called the CAC 40 (equivalent to the Dow Jones in the USA). You can then check their available positions and apply directly to the ones with English required. If the job description is in English, it is recommended to apply in French. Do it even when English is the main language for this position. You do not need to prove your proficiency in English if you are a native or lived in an English-speaking country.
In some big companies’ recruitment teams, the job description redaction, broadcast and first selection can be given to junior executives. And it is more likely that they will do this sourcing job in French… It would be a pity not to apply to avoid preparing your CV and cover letter in French.
Other big French companies
Beside the CAC 40 companies, there are many other international French companies. They may not be all internationally famous. The best way to get information about such companies in your region is to contact your local Chamber of Commerce (Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie in French).
They will be able to give you valuable information about the local economic market, the companies established locally, and they may even be in charge of the recruitment for some companies.
NGOs and governmental or international organisations
French international NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) may need English speaking professionals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put together an unofficial list of the main ones.
Governmental organisations can be great options depending on where you live. The Consulates and Embassies are sometimes recruiting fellow citizens already settled in France and not necessarily civil servants.
There are about a dozen international organisations with their head office in France, mainly in Strasbourg, Lyon and Paris. Famous international organisations such as WHO, Interpol, OCDE or the UE have their head offices or institutions in one of these 3 French cities. And they may need an international professional such as you! It’s always worth trying!
French universities or private schools may also recruit international professionals. Not only for teaching positions by also to administrate international relations and welcome foreign students and researchers.
Agencies of the EURAXESS network, dedicated to welcoming international scientists may find an international profile especially interesting.
Start the business of your dreams
The options listed above may not suit everyone’s profile, experience or interests. Looking for an English speaking job in France is difficult and may require some creativity. You may not be able to work in the area you have been working in before relocating to France.
In every difficulty, there is an opportunity! Maybe it is a chance to change your career and to start your own business, there is a specific visa for Entrepreneur in France! This business you’ve been dreaming of but never took the risk to start it. The self-employed status (micro-entreprise among others), maybe a good way to start! If the company set up scares you off, some companies can help you do it such as Start Business in France.
Does your employer allow you to work remotely? This might be the safest way to start working in France! Your employer may agree to keep you on his payroll or may want to work with you as a contractor?
There are also many websites to find remote work, that I’m listing some platforms for you below for your reference.
Other useful websites
Jobs in Paris and other cities: Click links to the left for other French cities.
The locals: The job section of a news online journal for expats in France
Coordination Sud: Centralises many job opportunities in the NGO sector. You can write ‘English’ or ‘Anglais’ as a keyword to see the relevant positions for you.
OECD: This international organisation has its headquarters in Paris
IARC: The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organisation based in Lyon
Network, network, network!!!
Networking is THE way to find a job faster and a better job in France! The online job ads only represent 30% of the actual job market in France! The other 70% are jobs that are being filled via networking and speculative application.
It is therefore essential not to underestimate the importance of networking. You may think that as an expat you do not have a network. You have a smaller one, but you can work on it. Building a network is making contacts with acquaintances, people you meet at the bakery every day, LinkedIn contacts, friends of friends… The most important is to know what job you are looking for and be prepared to present yourself efficiently.
How to find a job in France by networking? Try to get a coffee meeting or lunch with people working in your field or people working for companies of interest. Never ask for a job from a contact, they already know you are looking for a job! Only ask for advice and other contacts! Then organise networking interviews with as many contacts as possible. It will take some time and a lot of courage, but this way, people will remember you when an opportunity comes around.
And if you have any tips regarding jobs in France for foreigners, bilingual jobs in France or jobs in France for non-French speakers, please do leave them in the comments below!