The French vs. the British

Talk of cultural differences has fuelled the love-hate relationship between the French and British for centuries.  Yet, for the first time, some groundbreaking research in the name of LinkedIn buzzwords could distinguish the French frogs from the British rosbifs.  The largest professional networking site has released the top ten most common words to feature on its users’ profiles in 2014 in both France and Britain.  So, in light of this, how differently do the French and British describe themselves in a professional context?

Firstly, here’s a copy of the top 10 buzzwords or mots clés for both countries:

Interestingly, both the French and the British overwhelmingly described themselves as “creative”, “motivated”, “passionate” and “strategic” in the workplace.  So far then, so much in common.

Yet after this, slight differences between the two nationalities begin to surface.  According to LinkedIn, the French are self-declared “experts” with a “specialist” skill set.  The British, on the other hand, believe themselves to have a “wide range” of abilities.

Contextually, this doesn’t really come as a surprise.  Hierarchy in France is very much respected and getting to the top requires years of studying, so to call oneself an expert in a certain field is to be held in the highest esteem.  The majority of professions require a corresponding Masters degree and a considerable change in career is notably harder to achieve in France.  The British, on the other hand, are relatively more lax about degree titles and regard professional experience as more important.  What they lack in educational expertise, they make up for with a proven “track record” of “extensive experience” as well as “drive” and “enthusiasm” (or so they claim)!

The critical difference, however, is that the French declare themselves to possess “international experience” and “multicultural” skills, noticeably absent from their British counterparts’ list.  With the global business language being English, perhaps the Brits feel international experience to be less vital.  The French, on the other hand, faced with a more challenging economic situation, may feel obliged to prove themselves capable of adapting to foreign markets.

Nonetheless, LinkedIn has such a considerable following in both countries it seems that the world is getting smaller rather than bigger.  The fact that both French and British workers have chosen to use an American networking site to sell their skills suggests a move towards the international worker, where cultural specificities are becoming irrelevant on the global market.

So, with these points in mind, what does your LinkedIn profile say about you?  Do you use more English or French buzzwords?  If any at all?  On a final alternative note, an interesting outlier comes from the Netherlands where “sustainable” made the list of top ten buzzwords last year: does this mean their offices are filled with environmental enthusiasts?

If you liked this article, take a look at our blog for more.  And if you’re currently looking for a job, whether you’re French or British (or any other nationality for that matter), consult our job offers here.


The Rise of the Male Assistant

Gender equality is a hot topic in employment: it drives company initiatives, informs HR journalism but generally doesn’t stray far from the line “We need more women”.  Yet, here’s a vocation in which you might see a reverse trend; it’s all about the men.  For the first time, men are embracing the executive assistant profession which, half a century ago, was a uniquely female venture.  Today, when equality of the sexes in the workplace is more of a reality than a promise, the profile of an executive assistant is being regendered.  Enter the male assistant.

Here at TM International, a recruitment agency specialising in the placement of bilingual assistants, we have seen a notable increase of late in the number of male candidates sending in their CVs.  The classic profile tends to be a man in his early twenties, a first jobber or with a primary experience up his sleeve.  So why, unlike his predecessors, has he decided to become an assistant?

As touched upon, male assistants typically belong to the younger generation; that which has grown up believing in equal working rights for both sexes and is comfortable with the idea of a male assistant working for a female boss.  Suffice to say, twenty years ago, this probably wasn’t the case but well-worn sexual prejudices are on their way out and men are no longer averse to the idea of being an assistant.  Notably, the desexualisation of the profession has a lot to do with it.  The transition in job title from ‘secretary’ to ‘assistant’ has helped rebrand the secretary, from a woman in a short skirt to a respected professional, and has removed any sexual stigma.

Furthermore, the onset of technology in the workplace has completely changed the role.  When word processors were brought in, companies no longer needed typists but sought organisers; those who were resourceful and on whom an executive could rely to make his/her life a lot easier.  The role has more scope and can be very rewarding; just look here for how valued a good assistant can be.

And a more demanding role requires a higher salary.  In the UK, salaries for executive assistants range from £25,000 to £75,000, while in France, they can range between €24,000 and €60,000.  David Morel, managing director of Tiger Recruitment in the UK, notes the higher salary as a fundamental factor pulling more male applicants to the job.  In addition, the opportunities for progression as an assistant within a company are now more apparent than ever.  An assistant has experience in many sectors of the business and works closely with senior managers, meaning he/she is well-positioned to climb the rungs of the company.

All in all, while the assistant demographic is still overwhelmingly female, any movement towards embracing greater diversity in the workplace is to be applauded.  And, on a general note, the next time you ring somebody’s assistant, don’t expect to hear a female voice…

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Ten Tips for Success in a Phone Interview in Your Second Language

The phone interview: it’s a daunting prospect even in your first language.  But in your second language the thought is even more nausea-inducing.  As a common first step in the recruitment process, it is essential to be well equipped for the moment of that all-important phone call.

Regardless of your level of fluency in a language, speaking on the telephone can reduce even the most confident speaker to a mere stammer.  The difficulty resides in the fact that you can no longer rely on the luxuries of lip-reading and body language.  78% of communication is non-verbal, which explains why a phone call can be such a challenge for foreign speakers.  However, if you are interviewing at an international company it is expected that you will be proficient at conducting phone calls in other languages.  This skill today is indispensable, so here are a few tips to bear in mind before the phone rings:

  1. Prepare notes.  The beauty of the phone call is that you are invisible.  Play this to your advantage and ensure that you prepare answers in note form for questions that you know will be asked, such as “Why do you want this job?”  Additionally, jot down any technical vocabulary which you are likely to forget on the spot.
  2. Don’t be tempted to read entirely from your notes as you will sound robotic and probably speak for too long.  Use it instead as a prompt sheet if you lose your way.
  3. Keep your speed in check.  When nervous and speaking a foreign language, we are likely to speak too quickly.  This can lead to slurred phrases and mispronounced words, making it very difficult for the person on the other side of the line to understand.  Your interviewer will appreciate your measured speed just as you will appreciate his/hers in return.
  4. Pause before you answer.  Sometimes it can be tempting to reply straight away, especially if you are used to taking language exams when hesitating means lost marks.  During a phone interview however, it is expected that you will pause for reflection before answering.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer to repeat something.  Bear in mind that even native speakers have to ask for things to be repeated on the phone.  It is better to clarify a question than to answer what you think was asked and be mistaken.
  6. Be wary of formality.  If you have only had experience of speaking on the phone in a foreign language with friends before, do not be tempted to drop to this level of informality in your phone interview.  For instance, “Hey” and “Bye bye” are not appropriate for a phone interview in English.  Also, for languages which have a polite and an impolite form, such as the “tu” and “vous” form in French, be sure to use the polite form.
  7. Phone signal.  This is vital.  Why make things harder for yourself by trying to hear over background noise or a poor connection?  If you have access to a landline, be sure to give this number to your interviewer rather than your mobile.
  8. Practice as much as possible at speaking on the phone in the given language prior to the interview. If you find comprehension difficult, ringing company numbers with automated messages can be an excellent way to improve your listening skills on the phone.
  9. Ensure that you are well acquainted with basic phone vocabulary.  Here is an excellent site which lists the most important phrases for phone calls in English.
  10. Don’t set the bar too high. If you are far from fluent in a language, it is better not to pretend that you are on your CV as you will quickly be found out the moment you pick up the phone.

If you found these tips helpful, take a look at some of our other articles.  And if you’re looking for a job, consult the offers on our website.