On my previous blog, “Stairway to Employment in Denmark. Part 1”, I shared the beginning of my battle to get the job in the country, which had taught me that though it is not an easy way for immigrants to find work due to lack of networking and reliability proof of their foreign capability and education in front of Danish society, there are many other ways to get through it which includes endurance in participation of career and volunteer related events to connect with key people in job industries.
And finally I was invited to my very first job interview in Denmark by a growing IT company in Copenhagen. It was the moment where I felt that all my 3 months efforts came to an enlightenment. It was perhaps because the company is quiet reputable in hiring international talents, which make Danish is not required for most positions, unless it is related to direct communication with Danish customers. Yes, language is often a barrier for most immigrants in Denmark when it comes to job application, and Danish is not a relatively easy language to master. For most good english speaking persons, it is often shocking that Scandinavian countries are very strong when it comes to maintaining their language from the wave of englishfication. Thanks to the growing international atmosphere of Copenhagen, there are some companies out there which acknowledge english as working language, while giving time for their employees to study Danish. So, when I did job search around Copenhagen area, I narrowed it down to companies which published their job ads on english only. This is another advantage compared than Oslo, which most companies required at least Norwegian level 3.
Anyway, in order to prepare my first job interview I did the following things:
1. Investigate About the Company as Detail as Possible.
The company which I was about to have an interview with has an online platform for end-consumers to share their online shopping experience on any web shops, so I created an account there and get to experience as well as noted down features which could have been better for the companies. I even broke down all product categories on its websites and checked the relevancy. I read and observed the companies’ highlight on media, and what happened on its current investment (good investment means good prospect for future employee’s rewards).
2. Ask The Danes
As a new immigrant, I don’t have yet have so many Danish friends and network, but I am glad that I know a Dane whom I met at one summit abroad. So I met at her place and asked some stuff about facing job interview in Denmark. According to my friend, Danish company looks more on characters first, and skills to second. Some even have psychological test to ensure the employees they hired match with corporate culture. When it comes to salary negotiation, she thought employees should be able to do so, but in this kind of economy it may be hard consideration.
3. Investigate Salary
I know it was just my first job interview, but I just wanted to better prepare in case question around salary arose. My Danish language teacher suggested me to contact labor union before signing the contract. She also told me that nowadays many people are afraid to lose their jobs which make companies sort of in stronger bargaining position. I tried different sources to know proper salary for the position I applied (classification designer/ category manager). Funnily, Copenhagen does not have minimum wages system. It is all about collective agreement between labor union and companies, and some only based on companies and candidates’ agreements. Government does not touch this matter too much, which make Denmark somewhat liberal market compared than Norway and Sweden. I talked to my friends who have worked in Denmark, investigated on-line, and joined the forum in Copenhagen. There are as well websites like jobindex.dk and glassdoor.com which help me get to know average salary for certain education and position. The later even provides anonymous shared salary information within certain company, for specific position. Basically 25,000 DKK (before tax) is OK start within business sector to live in Copenhagen.
So I went to the interview, a little nervous, but confirmed that I had collected all my confidence. The office was located in downtown Copenhagen, near the central station. I arrived half an hour earlier, and in that early morning I was already greeted by a very nice lady from HR whom I recognized from her accent that she was an American. I also met a young lady from Lithuania in the kitchen when I sipped my first coffee there, and a Spanish sales person. It was quiet an international company.
My first interview went pretty well, with few awkwardness at the beginning (who aren’t?). Basically I just told about myself and what I had done in the past related to the position I applied. It was really clear to me that the company focused on character and culture of mine. The person who interviewed me was a department director. He spent half of the interview time explaining how the system worked, and let me question some technical details (which I have prepared from home…important) about it. It is important to give yourself an impression as a critical thought person, without sounds as being an arrogant one. And this is exactly what I did: listen comprehensively and question analytically.
My racial background may give a little doubt to the employer. Indonesia has not yet famous as a country which produces world-class executive, so I also emphasized points of my international projects and working abroad. It gave proven points to potential employer that I may be an Indonesian by race, but not necessarily by mentally thinking as I am influenced by cultures worldwide. My interviewer also brought up topic about salary, which was a bit surprising to me that this matter arose at first interview. Good that I prepared. The director used a sarcastic phrase of “How cheap should I pay you?” which may sound insulting for some, but I took it as funny yet alert point. We did not come to agreement about salary in this point, but I was glad when he mentioned that he had a good feeling about me.
A week later I received a call from the company that I passed the first interview and was invited to the second one. The HR personnel who contacted me mentioned that my personality matched with the company’s culture. When I heard about this, I jumped as I just won the lottery. It would be the last interview round with this company, and I determined it to be the last one in my first stage of hunting job in Denmark (as I may want to seek another opportunity in the future).
I prepared myself like I had never done before: Mapping a whole new category list for the company that meets stakeholders’ perspective. I did it during the weekend, few days before the last interview took place, and I did it with passion as if I was part of focal points in the start-up development during my business school time. Bunch of research paper and journal related to product category were lined up on my reading list to give me ideas what tools I should use to tackle category issues in the company. I also joined a labor union named Djøf, an umbrella of workers within business, economics, and law industries.
One Tuesday in November, there I stood in front of company’s office. I murmured to myself several times that I would do fine, yet my palms went cold from being nervous. As usual, I came half an hour earlier.
The second interview was a bit different as I had a quick conversation with the founder, defending and giving him impression that I was qualified for the job. It was a moment when I was faced with a person whom I could feel that he had a very strong character, and in which if I could not manage it well, would kill my character in second. I didn’t have time to think, but there I sat ensuring my mind that I could give good explanation to him, including my rough map of category which i had prepared the weekend before. Not to forget in the end that I was a member of Djøf to ensure that I bind under this union collective agreement. I as well figured out that the company was not part of any collective agreement with any union in Denmark. In other word, I am free to join any.
One thing I always do after meeting people at one business inquiry is to send them eCard: A simple thank you note, despite of any reply and the recent end I encountered. As the director said, “do not underestimate the importance of gratitude”.
Several days had passed since my last round of interview. The company had said earlier that they nailed down to 2 candidates among many for this position, and they would call me before end of November. I was really nervous, and could not stop to pay attention to my mobile phone, hoping for a call.
Things came better and better, and I got the job!
It was officially confirmed in my last meeting with the director to discuss about salary, where funnily my request was a couple thousand kronor lower than his offer (of course I took his). I was a bit disappointed with my union as they sent me late appraisal of my contract, in which they suggested that my salary should have been higher (but I have signed the contract, so nothing changed but me and the company agreement). Afterall, I am satisfied with this ending. Good start to begin my career in the new country. Good company’s environment. Good boss. And most importantly I have a job, a good job that is related with my education 🙂 This is the best Christmas give of this year for me!
Good Things To Know: What Did The Job Center Say About Danish Labor Market?
In November 2012, my Danish history and culture’s class invited guest speaker from job center to give us overview about Danish labor market. Her name is Linda, and she originally came to Denmark from NYC about 20 years ago, and is now officially a Danish citizen. There were plenty of things she shared to us, but here are some interesting points she made:
1. The Danish labor market has never been this harsh. When she arrived in Denmark, a greeting of “Hey what is your job this week?” was common due to easiness in switching jobs to jobs, even a cleaning job was a joke as it had good payment.
2. She believes that many immigrants come to Denmark and try their best to utilize their skill to get employment, but many as well, mostly come from the middle east and africa, have hijacked the welfare system of Denmark. For example, the woman from particular religious background who kept giving birth despite being ill, had repetitively asked for child compensation and job place to her center. And when the job center staff asked back why she kept giving birth when she knew she was ill, the only answer she got was “It was not me who wanted it! It was…(pointing to the sky. read: god. #_#)”. Many as well persist to stay within their own community and do not speak Danish. These type of immigrants have jeopardized the goodwill and reputation of other immigrants who came to the country with good initiatives, but co-accidentally come from the same countries or religious backgrounds. So, all problems related to racism and xenophobia in Denmark do not come in a snap. It all has a starting point.
3. When I asked about the chance for salary negotiation and minimum wages in Denmark, her remarkable answer was “in this kind of competitiveness in getting job, just take the job, and you will figure out the rest rules such as union, minimum wage, and pension, on the way”.
4. There are four types of people whose job center will prioritize when it comes to career counseling:
a. Spouse of Danish citizen
b. Spouse of worker in Denmark
c. Spouse of EU/EEA citizens ( the easiest and fastest way to get work permit, but not included job packet and assigned counselor)
d. Green card holder (generally this type of permit has a very limited rights, such as not entitled for salary subsidy and inability for their spouses to come along to live in Denmark).
5. There is option named salary subsidy which allows the top three types above to get half of salary paid by company and half by job center. Job center can as well issue a letter to company that work-permit holders have contacted, about internship or additional training.
For you who have successfully got the job or opened new business in Denmark, congrats and keep up your good work! For you who are still hunting or thinking for new idea, don’t give up, keep trying, stay connected and focus on your job searching.
Merry Christmas 2012 and Happy New Year 2013!
More info about working in Denmark: http://www.eurograduate.com/planning_overview.asp?eid=1&id=4
- Stairway to Employment in Denmark. Part 1 (nordicnomads.wordpress.com)
- SAS Avoids Bankruptcy After Unions Approve Plan (nytimes.com)
- Danish Economy Will Contract This Year, Governor Bernstein Says – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)