Land a Finance Job in the EU

Land a Finance Job in the EU

Finance professionals who want to experience life and work in another country will find that three different paths can lead to a job in the European Union (EU):

  • Working in the US for a foreign-headquartered company, and then transferring to the home office overseas.
  • Leveraging skills in demand in the EU.
  • Using your ancestral ties to obtain an EU visa/work permit.

Here's how to make each strategy work:

Work Here, Then Transfer

Working in the US for a foreign-based company can open doors overseas, but typically, only senior-level executives are transferred to the home office, says Paul Dorf, PhD, managing director of Compensation Resources, a compensation and human resources consulting firm in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Relocating an employee to Europe is expensive, so opportunities to transfer are not as great as they used to be, Dorf says. Fluency in the language a foreign firm uses raises your chance of being selected for a move overseas, he adds.

Greet Brosens, country manager for the Netherlands for Robert Half International in Amsterdam, points out that targeting companies headquartered in English-speaking countries or in those where English is widely spoken -- think the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands -- removes the language hurdle.

SOX Can Take You There

If you have the right background, companies will overlook the fact that you don't speak the native tongue. Today, internal auditing experience and work related to Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) is in great demand in the EU, where companies have extra time to comply with the new accounting mandates that companies here have already faced.

"Anyone who's gone through SOX compliance in the United States will get a job very easily," Brosens says. She also reports a shortage of treasury experts.

Annual salaries for SOX specialists in France, Belgium and the Netherlands range from 60,000 euros ($82,060) for internal auditors to 120,000 euros ($165,200) for project managers. In the UK, it's even better -- 50,000 pounds ($101,600) to 100,000 pounds ($203,200), Brosens says.

Ride the Grandparents' Coattails

To work in the EU, you'll need a work permit or visa. EU employers often resist hiring someone without a visa, because the sponsorship process is slow and there's no guarantee a visa will be granted, explains Robert Poll, a consultant in the finance division of London-based banking and investment recruiter Jonathan Wren & Co. Ltd.

But there is a loophole for some. "If you have ancestral history in the EU or UK, then you may be eligible to work here," Poll says. Simply put, if you're entitled to a passport from any EU country, then you can most likely work in any other EU country. The process involves gathering a mountain of paperwork. You may need certified birth, death and/or marriage certificates from the home country, as well as passports and other official documents, to support your application.

If you don't have the right ancestors and you want to work in the UK, you can apply for the UK's Highly Skilled Migrant Worker visa. Workers are considered for this visa based on age, education, skill set and marital status. Poll suggests avoiding companies that make money by helping foreigners obtain visas.

Boost Your Odds

To increase your chances of landing a job in the EU:

  • Ask your US recruiter to refer you to one of his EU colleagues, and have your file sent to the EU recruiter.
  • If you can, list on your resume a local contact in your desired country so the employer doesn't have to call the US. Making overseas calls can be tricky.
  • Make it clear in your resume and cover letter that you want a job in the EU. Otherwise, the employer may think you don't realize you're applying for an overseas position.
  • List in-demand American credentials, such as a CPA.
  • Translate education and certifications by putting their equivalents in the destination country in parentheses on your resume.
  • Turn your resume into a curriculum vitae (CV) if the overseas employer requests this format.
  • Set up a networking visit to the country. Include the dates of your visit in your cover letter.
  • Study culture and social norms that could make a difference when you interview.

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