6 years ago, while arranging my moving to Portugal and studying materials and websites on the network, in one of the Facebook groups, I got a tough answer to my question concerning work: "What kind of work can an economist and marketer who knows several languages find in Portugal?". The answer was "notрing or some kind of work in the fields and harvesting".
Today, after 5 years of living in Portugal, I have the experience of working as an international trade manager in the most significant industrial companies in Portugal. During my last job, I was operating a portfolio of clients from different countries with 2 million euros of annual sales, I participated in the opening of probably the first and unique branch factory of a Portuguese plumbing company in another country. I have never worked in the field and stopped reading Facebook group recommendations. Over the past 6 years, I have probably sent about 1000 CVs, had about 50 interviews, and managed to work in almost all regions of Portugal. This article is a summary of my practical experience, a guide that will help you find a job in an office in Portugal, successfully pass interviews and avoid all the pitfalls and mistakes that many immigrants make when looking for a job as an employee.
Where to begin?
Sure, you need to start with a CV. However, I advise you to make 2 CVs, one in Portuguese, and the other one in English, because when you search for vacancies, you will see that approximately 30-40% of all vacancies in Portugal are published in English, so the CV is also expected in the corresponding language.
Most employers in Portugal stick to extremely traditional views, which is probably why the country has a single European CV format - Europass.
You can see the way this CV looks here.
It is pretty simple to make it - for this, there is an official website, where, following simple instructions, you will need to fill in the fields, and as a result, the website will generate for you a ready-made CV, which you can save and then send to employers.
In addition, on this website, you can create Carta de apresentação (cover letter-presentation), which you will also need to apply for vacancies.
Sure, if you have a creative or non-standard profession, then the Europass CV format should be avoided because the employer will expect an innovative approach and CV from you.
In my case (I am an international trade specialist), I decided not to use the Europass format but used a relatively concise version of the CV on a white background. Whether it was good for me or not - I don’t know for sure because I heard that there are companies that throw out all resumes that differ from the Europass format. But, on the other hand, if you have a creative profession, then using Europass can only harm, so the general recommendation here is to be guided by your field of activity and the profile of employing companies and, based on this, decide on the resume format.
How and where to send a CV?
In Portugal, there are 2 main options for submitting a CV:
- Sending a physical letter to the company's name, with an attached CV and a cover letter, Carta de apresentação. It may seem strange, but they still do it in Portugal, and it works. So if you already live in Portugal, you can send paper letters or even personally come to the company and leave your CV at reception.
- Submit your CV online by applying to vacancies.
A familiar option for us, you can start doing it even if you have not yet moved to the country. There are 3 main areas here.
- Submission of a CV through recruiting agencies.
Many companies do not want to look for their employees, and they delegate this task to recruiting agencies, which must find a candidate and introduce him to the company. Then the company conducts interviews and hires a person on its staff, for which the recruiting agency receives a commission. This is a very profitable option for foreigners in Portugal, and here's why.
Firstly, on the websites of recruiting agencies, most often, next to the vacancy, you can find the name, phone number, and e-mail of the agency employee who is responsible for this vacancy. So, you can take the initiative, and after the response, contact this employee, introduce yourself and ask for a personal meeting, explaining that you are the perfect candidate for this vacancy.
Secondly, if an agency employee selects you, he will start fighting for you and have you in mind when new vacancies suitable for you appear. It happened to me - the agency employee liked me so much that she became my “lawyer”, throwing up various job options and promoting my candidacy to various employers. Ultimately, I found an outstanding job through the agency, and we have remained good friends with that employee.
Here are the main recruiting agencies in Portugal:
- Spring Professional
- Kelly Services
Search for suitable vacancies, apply to them, and try to get a personal meeting with an agency employee to create an emotional connection and interest in your candidacy.
I ignored this job search channel in Portugal for a long time, but I shouldn't - it turned out to be the best and most effective.
- Responses to vacancies on various job search websites.
The usual way, which also works well.
There are a lot of websites, but here are the main ones:
- Indeed – is a convenient aggregator that summarizes vacancies from different websites and recruiting agencies
- Net-empregos – is the largest website in Portugal
- Carga de Trabalhos – this website specializes specifically in vacancies in creative professions (design, marketing, media, IT, communications, etc.)
- Expresso Emprego – a large website with a general focus.
- SAPO Emprego – a large website with a general focus.
- Alerta Emprego - a large website with a general orientation.
- Turijobs – a website for tourism, hotels, and recreation vacancies.
- Emprego Saude – a website for vacancies in medicine.
- IT Jobs - website of vacancies in IT.
- BEP (Bolsa de emprego público) - portal of vacancies in the public sector.
There are a lot of similar websites in Portugal, so I advise you to choose a specialized website that matches your focus (for example, IT, medicine, etc.). Or use aggregators (such as Indeed) for a faster and more convenient search and instant sending of a CV with a cover letter.
- Responses directly on company websites, spontaneous responses, LinkedIn.
You can also search for vacancies and send CVs directly to the contacts listed on the official website of the employing company.
On the websites of many companies, there are particular forms for sending a spontaneous CV that is not focused on any specific vacancy (here is an example of this form of Prozis company). From my personal experience, it doesn't work sufficiently, and I've never been invited after a spontaneous response - but it's definitely worth doing as one of the additional job search tools.
What is definitely worth a try is also to apply for vacancies published on the LinkedIn network. This works incredibly well for IT specialists so that you can search for jobs on this social network and contact HR employees and companies that interest you. It really works.
So you have prepared an excellent CV and responded to interesting vacancies, but what's next? What happens next is something that most likely never happened in your home country. You will have to wait. Most likely, you will not receive any answers (neither positive nor negative), and after six months, you may receive a call saying "Hello ... we are calling you about your CV..." Yes, the same CV that you sent six months ago. They even called me back a year later, when I already lived at the opposite end of the country. So you need to be prepared for this - this is a part of the local mentality, and if you really want to work here, then this must be considered and respected.
The only correct solution here may be to be patient and send hundreds of different CVs monthly, consistently, and non-stop. Over the past 5 years in Portugal, I have sent more than 1000 CVs, which gave results in the form of several dozen interviews in all regions of the country (if you look for work only in a specific city or region, it will be ten times more difficult for you, so if you can be flexible and not be tied to a particular city - this will only help in your employment). Sure, I have a rather specific specialization, and if you, for example, are a highly qualified IT specialist, you may find a job in a week, but for everyone else, you need to take precisely the quantity and be patient. It will definitely come in handy for you.
I know dozens of people (including native Portuguese) who have been “really desiring to change jobs” for decades, but when you ask them how many CVs they send per year, per month - you hear the answer 2-10, then you immediately understand the reason. Unfortunately, this strategy does not work in this country and most likely will not work for you either, although there are always exceptions.
Invitation for an interview
And again, if you are not an IT specialist (this is an entirely separate case, which is fundamentally different from all other areas, you will need to get used to a certain conservatism of Portuguese employers. They want to conduct all interviews personally, and only personally, on the territory of their offices. You can offer a Skype interview, but most likely, you will be refused and asked to come to the office.
That is why it is crucial to start looking for a job in advance (for example, while you are in your home country), but then come to Portugal, given that the interviews will be held personally, and even the coronavirus could not break this centuries-old system, although it is worth noting that recently, employers increasingly agree to interviews online.
At the same time, if the employer is located in another city and insists on a personal interview, it makes sense to ask him if he can pay your expenses (whether it is public transport or gasoline). There is no law in Portugal (like in Germany, for example) that obliges companies to pay travel expenses to job seekers, but it's definitely worth a try. Perhaps you will learn a lot about your potential employer and his attitude towards employees in that way.
In my case, there was an employer who not only paid for my round-trip high-speed train ticket from the south to the north of Portugal but also paid for the hotel during the interview and the first week of hotel accommodation after getting a job so that I could find own apartment. So try, ask and make conclusions.
What about the language?
You may not like it, but then again, if you are not a valuable IT employee (it just so happened that these guys have a special status, and therefore they fall into a happy exception, by the way, we wrote separately about the salaries of employees in IT, here in our article), then you must be able to speak Portuguese. This is really important, and it's not an option - it's your responsibility if you want to enter the labor market and compete with the locals, winning this competition. They can forgive you for not having a work visa and take you to work even with a tourist visa, but they will never forgive you for not speaking Portuguese.
This rule has only 2 exceptions. These are unique, highly qualified specialists (IT, scientists, artists, musicians, etc.) for whom companies will do anything and naturally forgive them for their lack of knowledge of Portuguese. The second exception is jobs with low salaries and lower status (for example, call centers are a top-rated destination at the moment, especially in Lisbon when they are just looking for native speakers - Russian, Spanish, English, etc. and take people on a minimum salary and intense working conditions and night work, without the requirement of knowledge of Portuguese).
Knowing the language is vital if you are not included in any of these exceptions or do not want to be included in them.
I learned Portuguese in my home country a year before coming to Portugal. Yes, it was not perfect - but you should have seen people's faces at the interview when I started (albeit clumsily), but to speak their native language. This is pure psychology of respect - and if you are respected, then many companies will make various concessions to you and want to hire you, not your Portuguese competitor. Some time ago, learning Portuguese was quite difficult and expensive, but now, in the 21st century, it is much easier to do. For example, without leaving our website, you can already take the first step in this direction and start learning Portuguese with an online Portuguese course or private lessons with a teacher.
Finding a job in Portugal is difficult but possible
Of course, when looking for a job in Portugal, you need to be well-versed, know the market, and speak Portuguese to understand the types of work contracts, the salary according to your specialization, and how much tax you will be pay on your salary.
But the most important thing is to have motivation and patience. If you are a worthy specialist, you know your worth and know exactly what you are the best at and what you can offer the company - you will find a job in absolutely any country in the world and in any economic situation.
If you want to find a job in Portugal - I hope this step-by-step instruction and my five years of experience in this field will be worthy helpers for you, and you will definitely find the job of your dreams.
Good luck in your job search, no matter where in the world you are looking for it!