In the Region Focus series of articles we focus on different regions of the world and provide tips for auditors thinking about working in these areas. If you have a particular region you would like us to investigate, please let us know here.
We have so far covered Russia, Greece, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Cayman Islands, Spain and Australia. If you would like to know more about working in these regions, please see the appropriate articles.
Region Focus - France
The first and most important thing to note about working in France is that you will need to speak the language. Unless you work for a niche sector where you deal mainly with other non-French speakers, mastering French really is a necessity.
Qualifications are taken extremely seriously in France. Whilst there are a number of routes to qualification, the majority of audit candidates enter the process upon completion of a degree from a business school. Qualification typically takes four years and passes through the following intermediate diplomas; DPECF (Diplôme Préparatoire aux Etudes Comptables et Financères), DECF (Diplôme d’Etudes Comptables et Financères) and DESCF (Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Comptables et Financères). Coming from abroad, it may be advisable to attempt to gain official recognition of any educational or professional qualifications already have. The best way to do this is to contact ENIC-NARIC (European Network of Information Centres – National Academic Recognition Information Centres).
It’s common at interviews for French employers to ask more probing, personal questions than is common elsewhere. For example, you may well be asked about any plans you may have to get married or have children. In part this may derive from the generous nature of the French social security system, which grants long leaves of absence to employees whenever a child is born, creating expense and difficulty for their employers.
Job protection in France is also much greater than in other European countries. It is not easy for employers to dismiss workers so they have strong incentives to make sure they’re getting the right person in the first place. Foreigners working in France often comment on how formal the relationships in French workplaces are. There is a much stricter separation between the lowest level employees, middle management and the upper management tier.
In common with the larger European economies the current recruitment market in France has tightened. Whilst listed French companies and international companies with an EMEA HQ in France continue to recruit auditors, it’s clear that they are becoming more demanding of their candidates and less flexible when it comes to salary negotiation. Audit recruiters in France have commented that their clients are returning to recruiting only from the top 10 business schools, whereas in the more candidate driven markets of 2007 and early 2008, this had been extended to include the top 20 business schools. Additionally, we see a trend of clients providing candidates with clear guidelines on maximum salary levels at the beginning of interviews and asking those who are not happy to withdraw from the process. There is little or no negotiation to be had at the end of a recruitment process.
Likewise, candidates are also more cautious in their approach to recruitment and making careful assessments of a potential employer’s ability to thrive in a difficult economic environment. In general, they are avoiding sectors such as retail, construction, financial services and automotive. In any case, recruitment in these sectors in minimal with most having frozen additional recruitment until the end of Q1 or Q2 2009. Salary levels are unlikely to rise over the next six months but they will stay at their current levels. Those with 3- 4 years of experience from one of the ‘Big 4’ firms in Paris can still expect to achieve €55- 60 when joining an internal audit team.
Although currently a difficult time for many European economies, France still offers good opportunities within accountancy and audit and the relaxed French lifestyle remains an appealing draw for many looking for a change of location.
Written by CareersinAudit.com, the leading job site for auditing vacancies.
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