As one of the countries with the highest unemployment in the region, Colombia doesn't have a particularly promising and dynamic job market. Things look clearly better in Bogota and other larger cities, where most industries and services are concentrated.
Foreigners with specific business skills, international experience and a solid knowledge of Spanish may find that a wide array of jobs are unable to be satisfied by internal workforce, and that despite the relative lack of jobs some companies are open to hiring expats.
Native speakers of English and other languages may also find work in teaching and education, as the country is striving to become bilingual in the near future.
However, many expats complain that the salaries tend to be low, and that work conditions are not optimal, as employees have to comply with the 48-hour long legal working week. Additionally, events such as the heavy immigration caused by the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Venezuela have put an additional strain on the already feeble Colombian job market.
Colombian employers prefer long, detailed CV's called Hoja de vida. These are slightly different from the international format and drafting a Colombian Hoja de Vida may feel unusual, as categories not included in other parts of the world, such as character recommendations from a close relative or personal and even confidential data are required.
However, many companies also accept US-style resumes, generally one-page documents that briefly showcase the candidate's education and experience.
For more information about the difference between a CV and a resume, see the EasyExpat article "CV vs Resume".
A Colombian CV contains:
CV's should be accompanied by a motivation letter, in which you should convincingly present your background, intention and qualifications for the job.
A cover letter will include:
If you are applying for the position through e-mail, you can send the cover letter either in the body of the e-mail or as an attachment. Check if the company has any preferences on this matter.
Job searching in Colombia is a lengthy process, so you should arm yourself with patience. Public listings on the internet or offline are a great resource, but remember that there are many openings that are never listed and are filled in on the basis of personal contacts. Networking is crucial if you want to find out about these, so make as many local friends as possible.
Search engines work both as a way to find out about current vacancies and as a way to be found. Be sure to post your CV online, so that you can be found by recruiters. You can also sign up for e-mail alerts so you are instantly notified when new positions are available.
Some of the most important job search engines in Colombia are:
You can use online tools such as EasyExpat's Colombia forum to develop your network of local contacts and find out about job openings.
Not many newspapers have classifieds sections, and they are generally online.
El Tiempo Clasificados is a great source of public listings.
Bogota is also home to two English-Language newspapers, The Bogota Post and The City Paper Bogota, that occasionally publish classifieds with job openings for foreigners.
Recruitment agencies can also help you land a job while in Bogota, as they have access to many openings that are not published by the employers. Some specialize in particular fields, but most are generalist.
There are also "Head hunting" agencies that recruit experienced staff for senior-level positions. Many are local branches of international recruitment firms.
Some agencies that you can contact in Bogota are:
Career fairs can enable you to have a first contact with the potential employers and get a feel of the companies and the available positions. When visiting a career fair, it is good to bring along several copies of your CV and dress smart, so that you can apply directly to the jobs that sparkled your interest.
However, such events are rather new in Bogota, with the first official career fair organized by the Bogota Employment Agency in april 2018.
Networking is the best advice that you can get while looking for a job. Let your friends, acquaintances, other expats, local contacts and family know that you are searching for a position. Attend expat events in your area.
Teaching English is one of the most popular way to earn your living as a foreigner in Bogota. Many language schools are actively looking for native speakers, or candidates that have an advance level of English. A university degree (not necessarily in English language) is required, and an English Teaching Certification is an asset.
You can get a position in a private primary or secondary school, in a language school, or – if you have a teaching degree in your home country and you validate it in Colombia – in a public educational institution.
Schools will also help you with the company sponsorship of your work visa.
On the downside, the pay is very low as there are a lot of foreigners seeking to teach English in the city and the competition is fierce, and many teachers are requested to comply with the Colombian norm of 48 teaching hours per week.
The best conditions are offered by private high schools, but a teaching degree is usually required to access such positions.
Applicants will submit their CV and an interview will follow. A common requirement is to pass a grammar test and to provide a sample lesson plan. Trial observed lessons may also be part of the selection process.
Giving private classes can help supplement your income, as the hourly pay is usually higher if there are no intermediaries between you and your student. The challenge is to develop your student base, which is generally done on the basis of recommendations. You can advertise your services on classifieds websites, online forums or by word-of-mouth.
Keep in mind that giving only private classes can not only be a risky and unstable way of supporting yourself, but also illegal. Private classes alone will not help you secure a work visa in Colombia.
Having a prestigious TESOL (or TEFL) certificate can open many doors. There is no single certificate that is recommended, but ones that require at least 120 hours of coursework and practical teaching experience are preferred.
There are a variety of TESOL courses available, either classroom-based or online. Some are 4-week intensive classroom courses, while others last longer and are purely online. A specialized course such as for Business English or teaching English to Young Learners is a plus.
During an interview, candidate and employer can personally meet each other and establish whether the position corresponds to the applicant's motivation and skills.
You should research the company thoroughly before going to an interview, and have a range of questions prepared. You should also spend a reasonable amount of time preparing, as interviews are your most important opportunity to get noticed and advance your case.
It is common to have a series of interviews, with different persons from the company and focusing on different matters. During an interview, you should:
Temporary agencies can help you find employment for short-term work of any type, depending on your skill set and your availability. There are no agencies specialized in temporary work in Colombia, you can direct your queries to the recruitment agencies above.
A work visa is mandatory for all paid employment in Colombia. Work visas cannot be obtained without a valid employment contract.
Refer to "Passport & Visa" section of the guide for full details.
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