Job Hunting for Foreigners in Poland

This post initiates another cycle of blog posts (the other one being “What Career Personality are you?“) that aims at answering the following main question:

What do experienced managers have to do to find a job in a certain country?

Related questions we will answer:
Is there demand for foreign managers? What is expected of them?
How important is it for job hunting managers to know the local language?
What skills or competencies do they have to demonstrate to be successful?
What are specificities of the local markets?

We’ve chosen the respective Country Managers from Target Executive Search CEE to help us answer it. Why? Because the Austrian Executive Search company with its over 20 years of experience is present in Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. In addition to that, Target is dedicated to on-going research. In 2009 they published the results of a study that aimed at answering the question: “Can (local) CEE management compete?”. Please find more details at the very bottom of the post.
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The first post focuses on Poland with Adam Zygmunt, Client Partner, answering our questions:

1) How is the job market for foreign managers in Poland? Is there any demand? Do companies need foreign managers?

Let’s look at the Polish market in general first: it is demanding and competitive. As it has a quite attractive and big customer market everybody wants to be here. That results in a presence of many actors that compete against each other. And that results in, generally, a high demand of employees who are expected to perform above-average.

As to the need for foreign managers: it is definitely not the early 90’s anymore. If an international company sends their own managers from HQ to Poland, it is to find and train a successor within 12-24 months. Companies with smaller structures tap into the local pool of managerial talent. It is extremely rare for them to prefer a foreign manager to a local one; assuming there hasn’t been any previous connection.

2) What kind of competencies, personality, skills should such a manager have to be successful?

For a manager to be successful, they need to truly know and “feel” the Polish market with its informal and formal laws and tax regulations. They should also have active business contacts. They must speak English fluently. It goes without saying that understanding the cultural nuances are essential when it comes to team management, speaking Polish is one aspect of it.

Additionally, foreign managers have to be very flexible and straight-forward in relationship management to avoid problems with subordinates as far as their performance, engagement and respect to the company is concerned. To win “credibility points” it is very important to prove that they are not here only because they were sent by HQ or were recommended by another “friendly” source.

3) Assuming somebody has these traits, how should they go about finding a managerial / executive position in Poland?

There are 3 main ways of finding a job no matter if we are Polish or foreigners:

The least effective and most passive way is to undertake the “traditional” steps: job postals, newsletters, job search group chats, “career” sections of company websites, contacting the HR department.

One of the most effective and most active ways is networking: taking advantage of existing contacts (family, friends, former colleagues, business contacts, etc.) or creating new ones (incl. virtual ones) using business groups and associations, thematic groups using social media portals such as as LinkedIn or Goldenline.pl. It requires a lot of time and commitment, but – done correctly – it usually pays off.

The third solution is to get in touch with a few headhunters who are present in Poland, and ideally in the city of your choice. If they have a suitable recruitment project they will contact you sooner or later. However, the candidate should not expect to be offered a new job opportunity every month or patted on the shoulder every week. You have Career Angels for that :)

If a foreign manager is very keen on finding a job in Poland, they might try to contact international Shared Service Centers across the country. Language skills other than Polish could be more important. However, you should have managerial experience in the core area of the SSC.

4) What would you say is typical for the Polish job market?

Poles rely a lot on networking when looking for new employees and employers. To give you an example: more and more companies have started to implement official referral bonus systems for their co-workers.

The other thing is the paradox role of the motivation letter: you will see that almost all job ads say, “Please send your CV with your motivation letter to xxx” – but almost nobody reads it, because there are even less people who can write one. In Poland, the CV definitely plays the leading role. Make sure it’s sound and meaningful.

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2009: “Can (local) CEE management compete?” (results here)
2014: “Can (local) CEE management compete?” (in progress, fill out here)
2014: “How satisfied are HR Managers with the quality of local recruitment companies?” (in progress)

Should you wish to receive the results of the above studies or to participate, please contact Adam Zygmunt directly: Adam.Zygmunt (at) TargetExecutiveSearch.com

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