Of course, to get this far, you need to get a job at a Danish company. This is not always easy, and presents some special challenges to foreigners in regards of finding open positions, contacting and communicating with Danish companies about possible positions and navigating job interviews. All of these are areas that can present foreign STEM graduates and students with conundrums – as can questions like: ‘what are Danish companies looking for in regards to engineers?’
These issues and questions are well-known by the Danish Society of Engineers, IDA, and their colleagues at Capax Recruitment, who have helped a long list of engineers and engineering students finding jobs in Danish companies. Here is some of their advice for foreign engineers looking for work in Denmark.
Looking for Danish work opportunities
There are various ways of contacting Danish companies. Choosing the right one often depends on what you are trying to get in contact with them about. A common channel is applying for open positions.
“Finding open positions involves much more than looking in the classified section of papers. Today, many positions are advertised through other channels, primarily internet sites like Jobfinder and LinkedIn,” Senior Careers Consultant at IDA, Lise Dan, says.
Another growing trend is that companies hire people through their employees’ networks.
“Networking is central for many engineers and engineering students. Denmark is a nation of late adopters, but we have definitely seen the light in regards to networking. Today, it is an integral part of your career as an engineer or technical expert - not only in regards to finding work, but also when it comes to developing your career and developing your skills,” Lisa Dan says and continues:
“Engineers seem to follow the general Danish trend; Between 20 and 40 per cent of open positions are advertised in what you could refer to as the traditional way. The rest are filled through networks and networking – and I would speculate that some of the successful candidates who fill ‘traditionally’ advertised positions can thank their network for the new job.”
Christina Just, partner at Capax Recruitment, a Danish headhunting company that focuses on finding engineers and technical experts for Danish companies, agrees.
“The general tendency is towards more electronic and personal contact between contacts and job seekers. That is why we usually tell foreign engineers and engineers to get involved in the IDA professional networks. They are a great way of getting to know Danish engineers and companies,” she says.
Sending ‘blind’ applications
If you want to be pro-active, and contact companies that are not advertising for new employees, you can write to them and introduce yourself, as well as sending them a one page CV. Your introductory letter should highlight your key skills and accomplishment. In Danish companies, hiring processes often involve managing directors or senior managers working closely with the company’s HR department. Before sending an application, it is important to find the right contact. A good way of doing this is a phone call to either the HR-department or the head of a department relevant for the kind of positions you are looking for.
“Be sure to be prepared for the phone call and have good, relevant questions ready. Danish engineering companies and engineers are very fact-oriented, so be sure to have your facts and professional questions ready. If you have a professional background in fields that are different from the ones you find in Denmark, the phone call is also a great way of talking to a potential employer about this and explain what your qualifications are,” Christina Just advises.
CV and introductions are different in Denmark
When applying for open positions, it is important to keep things brief and to the point. At most companies, the person doing the first sorting of applications only has about 30 seconds to skim the CV. Some companies even use software for the initial skimming. Keeping things simple and straightforward also helps in regards to the HR-department and managers who will read your CV, if it makes it through the initial sorting.
“In Denmark it is very important to ‘show it, do not tell it.’ Danes focus on what you can do and pride themselves on a problem solving-approach to their work. So giving examples of what you have done with what you have learned is more important than where you have studied and who you have previously worked for. This goes for both your job application and your potential job interview,” Lise Dan says.
“There are often different cultures surrounding applications and CVs. We sometimes see people write too much, or write about themselves in third person, which is generally not done in Denmark. Danish companies realise this and take it into account, but if your application and CV follow the conventions for Denmark, it shows that you have researched not only the company you are applying to, but also the Danish culture,” Christina Just adds.
Both advise applicants to focus on answering the questions and ticking the boxes in relation to the skills and experience that a company is looking for. A good way of doing this is including a couple of the terms from the job description and then give examples of how your skills and experience matches these terms.
Getting it right at the interview table
In Denmark, most companies go through several rounds of interviews before hiring a new employee.
“The first interview round is usually about technical questions and your general professional know-how. The second will be more about you as a person. During both rounds, it is important to be able to give examples of how you have used your skills to create solutions. Have your success stories ready. If you tend to get nervous during this sort of thing, it can be a good idea to practice a presentation of yourself and your skills beforehand,” Lise Dan advises.
In Denmark, the general rule is to avoid talking about salary expectations at the first round of interviews, unless the interviewers bring it up.
A good idea is to prepare questions. For example talking about what sort of challenges you are likely to face, what sort of deadlines projects would usually have and a host of other, similar things, shows that you have a realistic idea about the position and what it entails.