As many others, I started some time ago the race for another job. The recession didn’t make it easy especially at the beginning. Brussels, although capital of Europe and home of many European headquarters, remains a small city (e.g. Bucharest is twice as bigger and has twice as more inhabitants) where jobs are scarce and the competition is cruel. From my job-searching experience the common setbacks for an expatriate in finding a new employment are:
- You don’t speak Dutch. Ouch! If you don’t speak Dutch than you’re chances to find an employment in the private sector in Brussels are already diminished by 50%. All the multinational companies present on the Belgian market will demand you to speak Dutch. So, even if you find the perfect job description, even you have all the skills, competences and knowledge job-wised, if they also ask Dutch, don’t even bother to apply. You’re wasting your time. Between a candidate with less experience and less skills but with some Dutch and another candidate with an extensive profile and no Dutch, the company will choose the one who is able to speak Dutch. Not fair, but true.
- You don’t have enough experience. According to an HR Professional from Secretary Plus, the current job market is flooded by extremely qualified communications profiles in demand for a job. These people, with 5-7 year experience, speaking several languages, had lost their jobs and are ready to take any other job available in the field, even if it is below their qualifications. Therefore, although you may perfectly be able to meet the requirements of the job you are applying for, the extensively qualified profile will be usually preferred. From the company’s point a view, this is a wise choice in a short run, as it would spear the company to invest time in training and forming the new employee. On the other hand, in the long run, the over-qualified person will get bored of the job, than frustrated with the lower pay and will look somewhere else for a better deal. Obviously, the company which hired him in the first place, will have to organise again a recruitment process, allocate new budget, team will have to readapt to the new comer and so on.
- You have too much experience. If some companies estimate that you still need some extra experience, HR agencies may estimate that your profile is too versatile for what they can offer in terms of positions. After contacting Ranstad office in DeBrouckere square, I received an email telling me that it was “good to know me” but my profile was simply too good for their jobs.
- The pre-selection is made by Human Resources agencies which don’t fully understand the client’s needs or the profile needed for the job. Unfortunately, some HR agencies may consider that you are overqualified for the job, therefore your profile will not be short-listed. And this is extremely frustrating, especially when you know what you want, you found what you want, you are perfect for the job, but others just believe that you are too good for it. I have recently applied for a “Communication assistant” position via Manpower. When I called them up to see the status of my application, they informed me that my profile hadn’t been short-listed. I asked them which qualifications/skills/experience I was lacking and they simply told me that I had a “manager” profile and that I was overqualified for the job. I explained over the phone and via several subsequent emails why I was good for the job and why I really wanted “that” job, but I did not receive any favorable feedback whatsoever. The irony is that later on I found the same job application on LinkedIn and I could apply directly to the employer. And guess what, I was selected for an interview by the employer.
- Some Interim/ HR companies provide redundant service. Another way to possibly find a job is to subscribe directly to the HR agencies. This means going to the actual HR office with your CV, presenting yourself and asking if they have any job offers that fit your profile. The advantage is that you present yourself as a real person and not as just another CV. In theory it is quite simple and straight-forward, but in practice it is a completely different story. Once in front of the HR agency’s reception desk, you can either be told to go back home and subscribe via their website (which you have already done, by the way), either to call person X or Y for an appointment, after previously sending your CV by email. You explain that you have already subscribed on their website and that the agency has already received your CV by email, therefore you would like to speak to somebody. At this request, the person from the reception will ask your printed CV. But you only have it in digital format on your USB key that they can not access. Therefore you need to go to a print shop. When you return with the printed copy of your CV, you are told that actually it is best to send your CV by email and to call up the agency on the next day to fix an appointment. Optimistic, you go home and do as told. On next day, when phoning up the agency you are told that they do not set appointments unless you applied for a certain job and you are invited for an interview.
- You need a work permit. In Belgium, Romanian and Bulgarian citizens need a work permit untill 2011. This actually means that they cannot apply for a work permit by themselves and that only the company that wants to employ them can do it. The application for a work permit is simple and consists in filling out some form and waiting for about 1 to 2 weeks for the work permit. Unfortunately many companies misinterpret the work permit procedure and perceive it as a long full of red-tape process. The result is that in the end these companies refuse even to take into account applications from Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.
- You are discriminated on the basis of your nationality. Some organisations mention in their job offers posted online that they do not accept applications from nationals who do not have a valid work permit. It was the case of British Council in Brussels which although welcomes applications from all nationalities, it does not provide a work permit. Currently British Council in Brussels states only that “all applicants must be entitled to work in Belgium”.