French / German IT specialists: 3 tips for a smooth hiring process
If you are working with French or German coworkers or will be in the near future, there are cultural differences you may notice even as you start the recruiting process. Each recruiting & onboarding process is different, especially depending on the profession in question. As we’ve done with several different types of employee, let’s recall the quick checklist for efficient & harmonious work with your European IT professionals.
Most Germans that are open to work are looking for a job that is as close as possible to the one they are leaving. But since the application documents are very extensive (cover letter, CV, diplomas, certificates from previous employers), thoroughly analyzing profiles is a lot of work. On the flipside, that’s also true for applicants.
In addition to the current shortage of candidates, this contributes to the fact that the number of applications received for a published position is generally not very high.
This can facilitate pre-selection on the one hand, but leave you without any results on the other. The provided application documents are generally neat and sober. If there are gaps in the CVs or a lot of job changes, it will be important to do some "digging" in order to understand the reasons for those anomalies.
Work certificates (Arbeitszeugnisse)
Conducting profile analysis involves the study of German work certificates.
It should be noted that a German work certificate has to be positive so that it does not negatively affect the employee's future. However, there is an assessment code that allows you to understand the nuances and to interpret the certificates correctly. Even if it does not allow you to acquire very precise information, it will still give a general idea of how to evaluate the candidate.
Our video tips for understanding work certificates in Germany
In France, application documents won’t be as exhaustive as in Germany, less thorough and informative. There will be a cover letter, a resume, and the diplomas if asked for, but no references from former employers. Without these references, it’s more difficult to verify how well the candidate has really worked so far. It’s simply not a common practice in France. If job references are not provided, recruiters apply standardized checks. It is perfectly permissible to ask for references from colleagues or superiors at the former company to get an idea of the candidate's work.
There may be a greater total of applications in France than in Germany, but this does not make pre-selection any easier. In that case, if there are gaps in a resume or too many changes, it will probably okay to sort them out right away.
Are you aware of the individual needs of your IT candidates?
A good recruiter doesn't need to know how to write code. However, what they cannot ignore is the fact that not all IT talents present the same skill sets, interests and career goals. Learn the basics. Digital literacy will be a key competence for the rest of the century anyway. Prepare to better understand your candidates, both technically and humanly, taking into account that there are different branches in computer science.
For example, a software architect’s profile is not at all the same as a software developer’s, who focuses on DevOps. Their situations on the job market are also very different. For example, 13.1 percent of data scientists are looking for a new position, but only 6.5 percent of technical development managers are actively on a job hunt.
Oftentimes, job descriptions do not sufficiently distinguish between those skills that are indispensable, and those which are merely desirable. In addition, many skills can also be improved through internal training. So think twice before you discourage a potential candidate! A precise description of the job and the required skills is absolutely necessary, but don’t insist on the“nice to have” skills too much.
Many developers are self-taught, without a solid academic background, and do not yet have any specific technical knowledge. It is therefore not a good idea for the job offer to contain wording such as "at least 5 years of professional experience". Instead, we recommend something like "extensive knowledge of PHP" or "safe use of CMS".
There are many different programming languages and almost every developer/programmer has a favorite language. Of course, experienced programmers can also learn other programming languages. But the question is whether they want to. It is therefore advisable to choose the most appropriate programming language for a project as soon as it is planned. For example, an application for the iOS smartphone operating system can very well be programmed in Objective-C and Swift. The latter has been particularly popular in recent years.
However, even with the same coding language, not all software development is the same. The more informed you are about the actual tasks at hand, the more accurate your choice among the candidates will be. The candidates will certainly be more enthusiastic if the future supervisor is personally interested in their field.
In addition, you can also highlight the latest technical developments in your company. If you can’t highlight such innovations, IT candidates will be less likely to apply for a job with you.
Getting to know IT specialists properly
The Internet platform Stack Overflow has become the largest platform for online developers and the first point of contact when it comes to programming or coding questions. Companies from all over the world use this platform to find new employees for projects or long-term positions.
Stack Overflow regularly conducts surveys among developers. In 2022, 7.52% of the 70,000 developers (defined as people writing code at a professional level) were German, placing Germany in 3rd place. France was in 6th place with 3.25%. So we can consider that the numbers are twice as representative of German as of French developers. According to this survey, the preferred programming languages are:
- HTML / CSS (59 %)
- SQL (52 %)
Specifically for German IT professionals, the latest reliable figures are from 2019:
- Rust lead with 82 %
- Followed by Typescript (75 %), Clojure (74.7 %) and WebAssembly (74.6 %)
- Elixir, Cotlin and Python were bottom top 7 with 72-73 %
Whereas among the French the numbers came up as follows:
- Rouille (82 %)
- TypeScript (75 %)
- Clojure (74 %)
Regarding the developers' background, it should be understood that:
90 % of developers learned a new language, professional level or skill on their own
83 % of developers program in their spare time
65 % of developers have over 5 years of professional experience
60 % of developers wrote their first code before the age of 16
25 % of developers have studied at a college or university
Preparing and improving your selection process
As soon as a candidate catches your eye through their application documents, and asserts their quality during a phone call or a video conference, you should of course meet them in person.
During the interview, you need to analyze the candidate's professional history, their achievements, acquired skills and knowledge, and you need to do so with regard to the generally available skills and career paths that can be found in the respective country.
French candidates are less reserved than their German counterparts and try to “sell” their strengths. To them, their academic education (if they have it) is as important as the impression they make personally. Meanwhile, your German candidates will generally refrain from any subjective evaluation of their abilities and strive to remain factual.
German companies offer many bonuses to their employees and are therefore very attractive to French candidates. You have to convince them that your company's product range and methods are high quality to establish yourself on the market.
Don't hesitate to put forth the details about the strategy, tactics and operational responsibility of the position to be filled as well as the type of clientele, the product range, service policy, and the prospects you’ve obtained.
The cultural differences between French and Germans (people-oriented vs. fact-oriented) naturally show during the interview. Your German HR staff would be used to asking the candidate about their career, the technological results achieved and their knowledge of the company. However, the French IT candidate is more likely to try and assess whether the human relationship works, first and foremost. As in an appointment with a customer, it is important for both parties to open up during the interview.
The legal notice periods for employees leaving a company in Germany and France are bound to range from a minimum of one month to up to three months. They’re designed to allow the departing IT support to pass on the indispensable information, such as administrator logins, the company methodology for managing internal and online traffic, and, if applicable, the necessary company aand employee data that may need to be moved from one system to another. Indeed, former employees are often contractually held to train their successors before they move on.
It is important to carefully plan the integration phase of the German employee, from a human standpoint as well as from the business perspective. This can be done with the help of integration workshops, for example. Nothing guarantees that you will even be able to keep a rare candidate on your team long enough to cover the recruitment costs, if you don’t make the effort to properly integrate them into the team. Even if some recruitment firms offer a money-back guarantee for this unfortunate scenario, you’d only be back to square one.
Who’s who? How to introduce your team
The work environment plays an important role for programmers, developers and help desks. So give the candidate a glimpse of their future team on your “careers” site. This can also be done with a short introduction video.
Answer questions such as:
- How big is the team?
- Who will the new colleague closely cooperate with?
- Who will be the new colleague's superior?
- What work methods will be used?
Create team spirit
For most developers, rigid hierarchies are a nightmare. They want quick decision-making processes rather than having to go through all the steps from department manager to CTO. So create smaller teams for different projects and try organizing the IT department in a less hierarchical way than what you may be used to. IT managers should always be open to new processes and technologies and encourage open interaction and mutual learning within the teams.
Make a clear commitment to technology
If you don't have anyone from IT on your leadership team, it sends the wrong signals to your developers - especially in companies whose business largely takes place online. It's a very clear indication that your company doesn't seem to value technological advancement much. But your coding staff will want to avoid technological stasis. If you want to remain attractive for this type of talent, even other managers should make a clear commitment to a modern technological orientation of the entire company.
Offer the home office option
IT professionals have always been accustomed to work beyond physical presence. Over the past 30 years, global Internet projects have been completed by IT teams without anyone ever seeing the others face to face. And despite this, you’d like to ask your staff to be at the office 40 hours a week developing software? A good developer could earn enough as a freelancer working from home, so they will think twice before agreeing to those terms.
Finding and keeping the right IT people is vital to any business today. By now you should feel equipped to work with IT professionals in France & Germany. In the future, it will remain essential to keep up with the complex and constantly evolving European job market, so as to evolve with it.