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Prague has always been a very popular destination for expats, and contrary to what might be expected, career opportunities for expats in the Czech Republic are improving. In this special Expats.cz interview, Jon Hill, Country Manager Czech Republic at global firm Reed Specialist Recruitment tells us more about such opportunities and offers valuable advice on expat careers in the Czech Republic.
Could you give us a general overview of the expat recruitment market in the Czech Republic?
In the post-financial-crisis period there are more opportunities for expats working in Prague. Large international companies are now looking for candidates with international experience, whether they be Czech or foreign, to add a different perspective to their business rather than assuming traditional, outdated Czech business practices, and to meet the new challenges post-crisis. The shared service centre market is still hot, with opportunities for many language speakers in both Prague and Brno. Large international companies are looking for professionals: the days of short-term opportunities for backpackers are over.
Many expats came to Prague in the early 1990s, but this number has declined as Czechs have been trained to fill positions. How does expat recruitment today compare with that of the early 1990s, including with regard to the number of expat positions available?
There appears to be a shift back towards international companies looking to hire expats again to address the challenges after the financial crisis. More senior level executive positions are becoming available for expats. In the past, the expat was flown over to set up a business in the culture of the mother company/country to ensure compliance with systems and processes. The local was then put in a position of “authority” through his or her title but had little influence on the business strategy and continued to respond to corporate orders from overseas. Unfortunately, such employees were unable to respond to the crisis and are now being replaced by expats.
Which, if any, sectors, is the numbers of expats recruited still strong? Why is this so?
Language teaching jobs, IT, creative and senior executive roles are available for the expat.
How strong is the competition for positions in these sectors?
The competition is strong as Prague is still a destination of choice within Europe. The standard of living to cost ratio is high, salaries are competitive, and the Czech Republic is accessible from most locations due to the excellent transport infrastructure. For more niche language skills such as Dutch and the Scandinavian languages, there is huge competition from all the shared service centres in the Czech Republic and neighboring countries.
At what level are HR companies recruiting? Is it mainly executive positions or is it a mix of high-end and less senior posts? Or does it depend on the sector/company?
The recruitment market in the Czech Republic is competitive, and there are many local and large international recruitment firms operating. Job hunters can receive help in finding a job from a temporary position to executive levels, from a large number of recruitment firms. Service levels differ greatly; if jobhunters are expats, I would suggest that they use an internationally renowned brand as they have access to the expat and senior level roles. Local agencies generally provide a local service for local people.
Could you describe average salaries for your placements?
Executive: CZK 150,000+/month
IT: CZK 80,000/month
Finance: CZK 70,000/month
Sales: CZK 60,000/month
Language: CZK 30,000/month
What level of Czech is required for most placements?
IT and language jobs require very little Czech; finance and sales generally require it. International firms with English as the business language would not require staff to speak Czech unless they are in a client facing role.
How long do placements generally last?
Hopefully longer than our guarantee period! Most placements last for three years, which is the international standard for the duration of an international secondment, and the situation is not very much different in the Czech Republic.
How does the recruitment process in the Czech Republic compare to that, say, of Germany or the UK?
It is definitely longer. Jobhunters will encounter passive recruitment companies that have to be chased or that lack the ability to open an opportunity on behalf of applicants. Recruitment in the Czech Republic is seen as “HR” rather than the necessary sales activity that will improve applicants´ chances of getting a job. Internal recruitment divisions within companies are notoriously slow, and HR staff do not have the necessary skills or negotiation powers to persuade internal business partners that a jobhunter can do a job for them. Recruitment is seen as the first step into HR, which is a very dangerous presumption as on-boarding is the most important part of the employee life-cycle! I suggest that jobhunters carefully select an international company with a pro-active consultant that he or she can work with. Applicants SHOULD NOT send their CVs to every single agency and every company around. If they have a specialism, they should choose an agency with a specialist recruiter.
Are there any significant differences that people should be aware of? For example, as a rule the Czech CV is much shorter than the Anglo-Saxon CV.
No, the CV should be written as a sales tool, to promote your skills and experiences wherever you are in the world.
Prague always attracts a certain number expats who come to find work “on spec”. What opportunities do they have apart from teaching English or editing English translations?
IT, language and freelance work.
What areas of growth are you seeing in Prague? What are the reasons behind this?
IT is still strong, and the number of shared service centres, is increasing, so language teaching is an area. Companies are now looking for more creative marketeers, PR professionals and designers. The renewable energy and utilities sector is growing. Prague is still seen as a key hub and gateway to the east. We are receiving more vacancies week by week at the moment, and increasingly our clients expect to hire an expat over a local to meet this demand.
Are there many opportunities for expats beyond Prague? If so, in which regions and in which sector?
In Brno, in IT and language teaching.
How has the economic downturn affected expat recruitment in the Czech Republic?
Initially, the downturn was very damaging, and not just for expats, but companies are now looking for international expertise to pull their organisations out of the post-crisis lull.
Can you identify any significant trends developing in expat recruitment, and the key factors behind such trends?
Nothing has really changed to be honest
How do you see expat recruitment developing in the future?
IT, IT, IT