Introduction to Recruitment Practices in Austria
After months of researching recruitment processes in Austria, we have come to many interesting conclusions. Through our research you will discover a great deal of valuable information for a job search in Austria. You will find that this is a country that to be very hierarchical and formal. However, according to an Austrian human resources professional that we interviewed, “if you are in the organization and you get to know it better then it is quite funny and you have fun together and you’re not that strict or formal anymore.” Many survey respondents emphasized the importance of being formal and polite under all circumstances in Austria. Austrians expect punctuality, respect, and submissiveness. There is a formality within working relationships, however those people eventually become very close friends, and once you are part of work life in Austria, you will have a very strong social community surrounding you.
Austria is located in the heart of Central Europe and is known for its fantastic alpine landscape and rich cultural history. Austria[J3] boasts one of the lowest rates of unemployment of any European country. Austria’s economy is dependent upon service work. Within the service sector, the trend of small businesses is very evident. As far as exports go, agriculture and forestry is key because that more than half of Austria is covered in forests. With its growing and globalizing economy, as well as a significantly higher average household income than the OECD average, Austria is not a country to be overlooked when applying for jobs around the globe.
Austrian Business Communication
Austrians are diplomatic and very concerned with following cultural protocol. One of the most important assets you can have when applying for a job in Austria is knowledge of their customs. According to an Austrian head-hunter, “They are all big family here (sic), so try to become a family member - La Familia”.
Punctuality is very important in Austria. Arriving early is considered punctual. Appointments are often planned weeks in advance, and should be followed up with written confirmation.
Presentations in Austria should always emphasise integrity. Any information given in presentations should always be backed up with facts and concluded modestly. One should always expect questions after giving a presentation. The absence of these questions often signifies a negative reaction towards the presentation.
Austrian business culture is very hierarchical and bureaucratic. CEOs always make the final decision, although they are often not involved in negotiations. Senior managers delegate and supervise tasks. Middle managers follow the instructions of senior managers.
Employability on the Austrian Market
The Austrian Application Procedure
While there are many ways to go about applying for a job in Austria, by far the most common way is digitally. Online job sites are becoming increasingly popular in Austria. Executive recruiters are also becoming more popular. However, the way you apply is not nearly as important as who you know. Networking is very important to Austrians, so getting a local to endorse you for your application is very helpful. [A4]
The firsts step in the Austrian application procedure is finding a job that you wish to apply for. Once you have done so, the best course of action is to find a local to recommend you for this position. If you are unable to do this, simply apply for the job using the online or paper application as requested by the company. Once you have done so, the company will hopefully contact you to come in for an interview. After this interview, the company will make their decision. Be aware that they may take a long while to get back to you, and while it is possible to make a call to the company asking about the status of your application, ultimately you must wait for them to contact you with their decision.
Letter of Application Guidelines
The letter of application should spark the employer’s attention, and should not include too many details that will be shared in the CV. The letter should contain an introduction which states how you found out about the job and what your intent is for writing, body paragraphs that describe the applicant’s skills and how they would benefit the company, and a conclusion that welcomes further discussion about the job position. As one recruiter puts it: “The cover letter should be structured in 3 parts: who am I, why do I want to work for this company, and what can I offer the company”. This letter should be fact-oriented, focused on education, written in formal German, and no longer than one and a half pages.
The CV is meant to show the applicant’s history and how this history is applicable to the job they are applying for. After studying 5 high-quality Austrian CVs, we have found that the order of the sections of a typical Austrian CV are as follows:
- Personal details
- Work experience
- Special skills
- Interests and hobbies
In addition to these sections, Austrians are expected to include a small passport-sized photo along with their CV. The applicant should look profession and well-dressed in this photo. Additionally, the applicant should sign the bottom of the CV and include the date and place that it was signed. Austrian CVs are also extremely succinct.
Additionally, many Austrian professionals have stressed the fact that a nice-looking folder, called a ‘Bewerbungsmappe’ is very important when applying for jobs in Austria. This folder should hold all application documents and should look very professional. The paper should be good quality and as one respondent puts it, “shouldn’t look cheap”.
Before your interview, it is important to do as much research as possible into the company you are applying to. When the day of the interview comes, it is important to show up early, and to dress professionally. First impressions are very important to Austrians, therefore an interviewee should always appear well-groomed and pay a good deal of attention to their own demeanour.
The questions asked in an interview will be standard, mainly regarding why you believe you are a good fit for the position. These questions should be answered using facts and without much elaboration. The interview will most likely be conducted in German, therefore non-native speakers should brush up on their German language skills prior to the interview. Additionally, the applicant will likely be asked a series of questions about their long-term career goals. Because of this, it is beneficial for an applicant to create a long-term career plan and to figure out how this job that you are applying for fits in to this plan.
Decisions in Austria may take a while, so an applicant should be prepared to wait. If they have not been chosen for the position, they will be notified of this, and it is acceptable to ask for feedback in order to improve for the future.
One Austrian recruiter’s best advice for an interview is “Be very very well prepared, wear a suit/ blazer, be polite and talk-active but not too much; you should really show that you are an expert in the field you are applying for´, be able to explain things in detail”, while another recruiter recommends that you “be knowledgeable about the company”. According to our interviewee, Julia, the most important thing to keep in mind in an interview is to always be polite. She states that depending on the feel of the company, some humor may be helpful, but ultimately politeness is what will make you stand out as an applicant.
The official language in Austria is a dialect of German. Austrians are fiercely proud of this language, and therefore applicants should have a good basis in German. In fact, when one professional was asked what would be the most important thing for internationals when applying for jobs in Austria, he simply said “Speak German”.
Below is a table showing the relevant linguistic conventions used in Austria:
The most important thing to note about the German language is that there are many ways to address others, but when applying for jobs in Austria, you must always use the most formal form of address. One survey respondent stressed the importance of this, saying “Always write in the politest way possible, write ‘Sie/ Ihr’ etc,”. You must also remember to address people by any titles they may possess.
Online Job Sites
Through an interview with a young Austrian professional named Julia Wimmer, we gained some insight into what it is really like to work in Austria. Julia first suggests that since there is still a great focus on print media in Austria, it would be very beneficial to look at local newspapers in order to find jobs. She also suggests that online versions of newspapers and job boards can be helpful during the job search. As far as what is important on an Austrian CV, she suggests that work experience and education are the most important elements. She also states that Austrians tend to put a lot of extra personal details on their CVs, such as your parents jobs and whether you have siblings. She states that the professional dress code is very formal and modest. She states that Austrian business culture is quite old-fashioned, and while it may seem hierarchical and strict to an outsider, once you are part of the working environment it is a lot of fun and much less formal and strict. Julia stresses that personal connections are extremely important when seeking a job in Austria. The best way to make a good first impression in Austria is to be extremely polite every time you contact the company at which you are applying. Additionally, you should be self-confident but not too self-confident. Depending on the environment of the company, it can also be beneficial to use humor. The management style is still a very strong hierarchy, so management is quite impersonal and they expect a lot of their employees. Because of this, Austrian employees are very submissive and polite. Julia states that ultimately, Austrian business culture is extremely formal during the application process, but once you are in it becomes more informal and friendly, and is a place that you can make real personal connections.
Austria has a rich history and culture, and is situated in a beautiful and topographically diverse part of Eastern Europe. Because of its growing and globalizing economy, Austria is becoming a popular location to look for jobs. When applying for jobs here, however, it is important to keep in mind the cultural norms. First of all, formality is key in this country, and therefore you must take great care to address others with the most formal language possible. Secondly, the German language is a source of pride for many Austrians, therefore it is important to have at least a basic knowledge of the language in order to succeed in Austria. Lastly, it is important to be both concise and fact-driven when dealing with Austrians. It may be an adjustment to follow these norms, but if you take care to do so, you will find yourself working in a business culture where, as one respondent puts it, “Calm, joking but very serious and focussed when necessary”.
Extra quotes from our survey respondents
- “You think that there are a lot of hierarchies and that everyone is very polite to each other and there is a distance between people, but if you are in the organization and you get to know it better then it is quite funny and you have fun together and you’re not that strict or formal anymore.”
- “Austrian employees are quite submissive and show a lot of respect”
- “It’s a fun mix of being really formal but still having a lot of fun with each other and having a personal relationship”
- “Maybe it’s not that easy to get a job in Austria but once you’re in, people will try hard to keep you”
- “It may be formal before you get in, but once you’re in it will become quite personal.”