How easy is it to find work in France or Germany? And can I ask why I didn't get the job?

Continental drift

Q. I am studying French and German at university and considering working abroad. Is it equally easy to get a job in either of these countries?

A. It can be easier to find work in Germany if you are British - there is less emphasis on being able to speak the language from the start (in France this is very important indeed). Germany's big firms are also more likely to have a well-honed international recruitment system, and while French companies are gradually opening up, it will take time.

There are essential things to know about working in either country - they have different attitudes, for instance, on crucial matters such as CVs. The French prefer a "functional" format with activities grouped thematically, and like you to include a "projet professional" - a five-line summary of what you will bring to your job and how you see your career progressing. CVs for German employers, on the other hand, need to be in strict chronological order, with no gaps, and you need to enclose copies of documents supporting your application - the whole package can come to 10 to 20 pages. It also helps to know they use graphology, or handwriting analysis, in France, so application letters should be handwritten - and they do welcome speculative applications.

Essential tips on unwritten national rules, job-hunting practices and cultural and management differences - how hierarchical the structure is, for example - are available from a series of guides called Looking for Work in..., €20 from www.labourmobility.com, the site of Expertise In Labour Mobility (ELM). The guides cover 40 countries. ELM might also be able to advise on how the labour market is looking - recently jobs in Germany have been more difficult to come by because of the economic downturn, and having an internship in a company beforehand has become a distinct advantage.

Interview feedback

Q. I was disappointed when I didn't succeed in getting a job in a large company after having an interview in which I thought I had done well. Can I ask for feedback from the interviewers or the company, and what is the best way to go about doing it?

A. You can often ask for feedback which might help you in the future, but you shouldn't expect to be told why you didn't get the job, which sounds as if it might be your aim here. It's not a good idea to try to talk people into changing their minds, or to criticise the way they go about the selection, either. After all, if you only missed the job by a narrow margin, you might want to apply again.

Some companies offer feedback as a matter of course, but if as you say this was a large company they may have too many interviewees at first stage to be prepared to do this.

Major graduate recruiters do, however, often offer feedback to those attending assessment centres. If this is the case, they will usually have made that clear when you turn up for assessment.

Try telephoning the person who interviewed you. They are likely to be busy, so be prepared to call back or leave a message. Feedback after applications, rather than interviews, depends on whether the company specifically says (on its website for instance) that this is on offer. If it isn't actually ruled out, phone or e-mail the person to whom you applied and ask - but be prepared for a wait. Giving feedback isn't the most important part of their job and they will probably have to retrieve your application from wherever it has been filed.

Careers adviser: Graham Keating, careers consultant, University of Manchester.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

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