Getting into HR in France

Hi there,

I graduated last year with a law degree in the UK and am now on a fixed contract as an HR assistant in an international company, supporting both UK and European employees.

I really want to go to France to experience work over there and improve my language, but am wondering if there is an equivalent to the CIPD in France? Or what qualifications are necessary to get experience? I was looking at doing a masters in HR over there so wonder if this may be worth pursuing again?


  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    18 Apr, 2018 11:41

    Welcome to the Community, Abigail.

    Maybe one that  can help with?

    ps I don't mind your two posts being separate... but just want to link there here:

    How to specialise in employment law

  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    @Steve - the cavalry arrives :-)

    @ Abigail - Welcome to the Community. good place to start with your question.

    French generalist HR is driven by a legal formalism that would bring tears to the eyes of many UK HR practioners. Being able to undertake an HR job in a medium size organisation will therefore call for a thorough understanding of these complex and detailed procedures, which if they are not religiously followed can create severe problems. It is also an environment where unelected union delegates are automatically given the statutory right to sit on representative bodies in a country where at a national level unionisation is around 10%..... Going into a SME would therefore present major challenges for someone who has not been brought up in this highly specific context.

    My suggestion would be to consider 3 routes :

    1. Target french companies with a strong presence in the UK, and try to find a role in the softer areas like career development where UK skills will be more readily transferable
    2. Target large UK companies with a presence in France, and sell yourself as someone willing and able to make the bridge between the two sides of the pond
    3. Undertake an HR course in France, ideally with an major international component (your naturally excellent English will be a big plus in this context).

    For option 3 I can strongly recommend the International HR Professional MBA programmes offered by the Magellan Institute (no big surprise as I am part of the teaching and programme design community for these programmes). The programmes are for a whole academic year with 6 months spent in industry, and include 2 or 3 periods (depending on the programme) of one week seeing applied HR in countries like Brazil, US and Indonesia. There is a common core content for each programme, then specialisation either in International Mobility, Compensation & Benefits, or a more generalist International HR role.

    Full details on the Magellan Institute site https://www.magellan-institute.com/en/institute/magellan-institute/ Click on SPECIALIZED MBA at the top of the page for full details of the programmes.

    People come from all over the world for the programmes and nearly 100% of those graduating are in work within a few months of graduation - often with large multinationals, major consultancy firms.

    PM me if you want to exhange in more detail, and good luck with your hunting

  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    18 Apr, 2018 13:21

    In reply to Ray:

    Fantastic. Thank you, Ray.
  • Hi Abigail,

    I actually did what you did. I moved to France for 2 years to experience living abroad and learning the language.

    When I first went I had these lofty notions that I would be able to find a job in HR as I had plenty of experience in the UK and had covered some European legislation etc. However, the reality was that because my French was not fluent that I would not even get past the first stage of the application process. As I am sure you are aware, everything in the French employment relationship has to be written in French. As I wasn't fluent this ruled out HR Assistant/Admin jobs but I also wasn't experienced enough to get HR Business Partner type roles where the fluency of the language was a smaller issue.

    This was 10 years ago, but you do talk about wanting to improve your language so if you are not completely fluent then that could be a big barrier.
  • In reply to Jeny Parsons:

    Hi Jeny and thanks for highlighting the language issue, which is very important.
    Undertaking a period of further study in France, and living/speaking the language during this period would IMHO go a long way to help Abigail make progress with the language - provided that she keeps away from anglophonic ghettos and focuses on building a principally francophonic circle of friends... that's how I met my wife of 38 years standing.
    Although contractually binding docuements must be in the french language, the Code du Travail requires an employer to provide a translation of all these documents into the mother tongue of an employee if they request it - and it is the translated version that then takes legal precedence ...... I am eternally grateful that one one of my colleagues from Vanuatu has never asked for a translation of his documents into Bislama..... :-)
  • In reply to Ray:

    Hi Ray,

    Yes, absolutely studying in France and surrounding yourself with French speakers is a fabulous way to improve your language skills. I still remember learning a good amount of vocabulary from the French version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire" as they would put the question up on the screen and I could sit there with my dictionary and look up anything I didn't know!
  • In reply to Jeny Parsons:

    Hi Jenny, thank you for your reply.
    My French is rusty but advanced I would say... I studied in the French part of Switzerland for a year so I would hope it would come back to me but I think the company I apply to would have to be accepting of that (if possible!)
    Can I ask what you did in France when you went to live?
  • In reply to Ray:

    Hi Ray - thank you so much for this response!
    I was looking at masters in France for RH during my degree and applied to a few - I was accepted by 2 but decided not to go for it in the end due to personal circumstances but the passion to go to France is still within me!
    Thanks for the information about your course - I would like to talk to you further but can't seem to be able to privately message?
  • In reply to Jeny Parsons:

    Wow, "Who wants to be a Millionaire" is quite advanced already - I started with children's TV programs! :-)
  • Hi Abigail,
    Please head over to the European Association for People Management 'EAPM' website, which CIPD is also a member of. The Association forms an umbrella body of national organisations which represent HR professionals.

    The French HR association in 'EAPM' list is called Association Nationale Des Directeurs De Ressources Humaines (ANDRH) National Association of Human Resources Directors.

    In respect to your UK qualifications,
    I highly recommend you get an evaluation of all your qualifications by the French evaluation authority 'CIEP'. In Europe CIPD is probably the biggest HR and no doubt the oldest HR Association and from what I understand French education is very different from the UK. You should try looking for a dual masters in HR provided by French and UK university together or others. This will definitely shine on your CV.

    I hope this information helps.
    Regards Assoc Umar S.