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On the Road Towards Work at an International Company: Where to start?

Runway Career | On the Road Towards Work at an International Company: Where to start?
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July 27, 2017

A successful job application and interview require some basic prerequisites for job seekers. These are expected, but there are certain different aspects if someone decides to link their career with an international company. Lots of people are tempted to improve their knowledge and develop a career in Latvia while involving the affiliates of foreign companies. How though, can you make sure that an employer realises that your intentions are serious? Fredis Bikovs, director of Runway Latvia shares his experience.

A major advantage for international companies is rotation, offering employees the chance to work at foreign affiliates. “Of course, the idea of beginning a working relationship in Latvia and then to test one’s strength in Malaga, for instance, is particularly tempting for young people,” says the Runway Latvia director. “The opportunity to travel and enjoy a different working environment within a single company and in different parts of the world is often the reason people are motivated to attend an interview, but when potential employers negotiate with the applicant, the choice must be based on more powerful arguments.”

From Norway to Spain: Choosing your destination

“I’d be happy to go anywhere” is a phrase that employers in international companies hear quite often when they ask applicants about their desire to develop their career outside of Latvia. Does this suggest that the applicant is open to the offer and able to adapt? Perhaps, as long as we are not just looking for job searches.

"Flipping a coin to decide which country you want to go to during your holidays is an interesting adventure, but that would not be the most appropriate justification during a work interview, if the person really wants achievements when looking for a job," says Bikovs. In thinking about a working relationship that might offer a chance, sooner or later, to work at a foreign affiliate of the company, it is important to think about a specific region or country or, at best, a city where there is a justified desire to continue the professional career, he adds.
Bikovs says that language skills are often the cornerstone for the choice, but links to a location are very individual. For instance, job seekers often say that they want to work in a country where they spent a year as an exchange student or a city where they spent some time because of a work-related project.

“Before a specialist seriously considers an applicant’s candidacy, the applicant must be able to explain his or her interest and motivation for working at the specific company or sector,” says the Runway Latvia director. “An employer who is prepared to invest time and money in training a new employee must hear the candidate’s long term goals and the way in which the job and the opportunity to work abroad fit in with the person’s career plans. The most important things for a candidate are motivation, eagerness and the desire to develop oneself.”

Attitude, motivation and the correct attitude – values that are more important than knowledge

Employers think that it is self-evident that candidates must speak English if they wish to join a work environment, particularly at the international level. Runway Latvia points out that English language skills today are seen as a prerequisite, not something that is added value. To distinguish oneself through language skills, a person must speak three or even four foreign languages. At the same time, however, employers know that the labour market has a shortage of those who speak Scandinavian languages for instance or, on the contrary, speak Norwegian, but have no work experience. This is encouraging employers to help new employees to learn foreign languages and the skills that are necessary for the job.

“For us as an employer, a young person with Scandinavian language skills whose personality and eagerness to learn point to the potential of a good attempt to grow in the job, even if the person does not have the specific knowledge or has weak knowledge about what the job requires,” says Bikovs. That is of great value. If, for instance, the candidate has no experience, and doesn’t just speak English or Russian, but also speaks Swedish or Norwegian, we offer that person a chance to learn the necessary skills or improve his or her language skills as part of the Runway Academy programme. During the past six years, we have taught the Norwegian language to more than 100 new employees, because that is one of the directions of the Runway Academy. For us as the employer, that helps to ensure that all of our employees are highly qualified and with excellent language skills.

International experience is not always necessary to work for an international company, but a choice between two candidates with foreign language skills means that the advantage will apply to the person who has practiced language skills with people for whom it is a native language during exchange programmes, for instance.

Employers mostly look at a person’s personality, values, motivation and desire to learn, and that is often much more important than academic knowledge. “Many companies today specialise in a very specific niche, and so direct experience is often not possible,” explains the Runway Latvia director. “Companies increasingly seek to shape their employees, so young people without any experience can shape their careers at an international company, just as long as they speak foreign languages and are prepared to learn and improve their language skills.”

Mistakes: Copy-paste application letters, to the consequences related to not attending an interview

Before preparing an application and attending an interview, candidates must do their homework and learn about the company so as to decide whether they are right for the job. Runway Latvia’s experience is that people who attend interviews sometimes only understand the company or the job that they are seeking once they start the interview.

Applications, categorically, must not have language mistakes, they must be prepared appropriately and in the language stated in the help wanted ad. The desired language is usually indicated, but if not, then the CV and letter of motivation must be written in the language in which the ad is written. The motivation letter is the story that the candidate tells, allowing the employer to gain a sense of the potential employee.

The basic aspects of a motivation letter can be prepared for several potential employers, but each one must be carefully adapted to the specific job vacancy and company. “Sometimes candidates even forget to change the addressee to which the application is sent,” says Fredis Bikovs. “Copy and pasting is no way to guarantee success. We still find applications that are obviously generalised and say nothing about whether or not the candidate is right for the job. Motivation letters must be detailed, but at the same time laconic and concrete.” The director adds that candidates often forget to write about the most important aspect – the reason why they want the job, instead they emphasise nothing other than elements of their personality without any specific examples about professional or educational exchange programmes that offer experience and reflect the stated characteristics.

It is also important to mention the skills that are listed in the want ad, as opposed to a long list of knowledge and characteristics that, in this case, may be unimportant. The Runway Latvia director suggests, as a recommendation, that when writing a motivation letter and CV a person avoids popular phrases such as sustainable thinking, synergy, etc., because these are no longer words of importance. It may seem at first that this presents competence, but the use of too many jargon words will ensure the opposite effect.

When thinking about a job application and interview, candidates must remember that what they do today will have consequences tomorrow, and this may seriously limit their career opportunities in future. “If there is some reason why the candidate cannot arrive for the agreed interview, it is important to contact the potential employer to say so,” says Bikovs. “Sometimes employees do not arrive to work on the first day of their new job without any explanation, and there, again, the employer should be informed and told the reasons why. Different things happen in life and people will understand, as long as basic norms of politeness and mutual respect are upheld. Particularly if we are thinking about an international career, failure to attend a job interview or the first day of a new job without any explanation can limit career opportunities not just at the level of the sector or the country, but also internationally. Companies always exchange information and have a register of potential employees even if nothing other than a CV has been submitted.”

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