How to find a job in Spain – 10 Key Tips and Resources

Torre Picasso

Torre Picasso, the tower with many of the big banks and consulting companies

First of all, I would like to make it clear that it’s neither easy nor impossible to get a job in Spain. Even if unemployment is over 25% and youth unemployment amounts to an astounding 50 % (I was 24 and freshly graduated when I found my first 2 jobs), there are plenty of opportunities for resourceful expats in Madrid. Indeed, Madrid is really the best place in Spain to get a job right now in general, and the language and organization skills anglosaxon tend to have are very sought after as Madrid is getting more and more international after being pretty closed until the 1990’s. But it is really hard and requires you to be in the top 10% in your field.

I will then give my advice assuming you already decided to move to Madrid, or already moved, and are looking for a job here.

Tip #1: Yes, you do need to speak Spanish to get a Spanish Job !

Before starting, you have to know that finding a job in Spain right away without speaking any Spanish will reduce your possibilities to 1% of all the job market, and will lead you to “Expats only” jobs. Even an English teacher, a waiter in an Irish Pub, or an expatriate working in a multinational company, will need to speak at least a bit of Spanish to be able to perform to the full extent of their job description. And as you’re reading GuiriGuide, we’re assuming you are the kind of person who wants to mingle with local people and get to live like a local ! But don’t worry, my opinion is that after only 3 to 6 months immersion in Spain, you can reach a sufficient communication skills to go to interviews with confidence.

This said, you should not dith all you English language skills as mentioned in next tip…

Tip #2: Differentiate yourself – Think about your “competitive advantage” as a foreigner and profesional and target relevant companies and jobs.

Do not think of not speaking Spanish fluently or not being a local as an issue, but rather, think of being a native English speaker as a key differentiator you have.
This method does not apply only to your language skills, but also to other skills you may have acquired and that are scarce in Spain. For instance, before graduating, I understood the fact many spaniards do not realize any internships nor study abroad was something I could use to my advantage.
This means your targets to get a job should be businesses looking for people with these differentiated skills you defined. The typical job many foreigners start with is English teacher. I know at least 4 people who started out this way and then created their own flourishing business and now are happier and richer than ever.
Again, you should not restrain your research to “English-speaking only” jobs, but do leverage your language skills !
To sum up, the typical targets for foreigners are businesses with international presence and/or dealing a lot with foreigners and/or requiring language skills and/or requiring skills which are scarce in Spain (IT skills are #1 in this case). I know small business owners in Madrid who have a lot of difficulties finding quality service personnel with language skills.

Tip #3: Think like a Spanish recruiter

Might seem obvious, and might seem contrary to the “differentiation” advice I just gave, but you must make your résumé so Spanish that a local with no previous knowledge of your background and/or country will not even have to think to understand and trust your credentials. Let me put it another way: an average HR employee has only 10 seconds to assess if your profile is worth going to the next stage. Why should (s)he bother to understand and take risks with some apparently interesting but unknown masters or experience you included when another 1000 Spanish and straightforward CV are waiting to get an interview ?
I thus recommend applying the “Actors Studio” method: think as a Spanish recruiter, be ruthless, and ask for help to some Spanish contacts you have to make your resume as Spanish as you can. Make your resume as Spanish as possible. You can even ask for an “homologacion” to the Education Ministry if you feel an official piece of paper is needed.

Tip #4: If you have experience, leverage it. If you don’t, complete your studies in Spain.

This goes with the two first advice. Let’s say you have 3 years experience in management consulting, but no idea of Spanish. Leverage your experience and create a portfolio to directly differentiate with other Spanish candidates who will go the traditional resume way. Portfolios are a great way to show you know how to solve such and such problem, a specific example of the value you can bring in their Spanish situation.
If you don’t have any experience, my advice would be to use the fact that you’re still studying to complete at least a quarter in Spain. This is great option because it will make you much more easier to get for recruiters: “Ah OK, he’s a foreigner from a school I do not know about, but he did this school, si I know he’s here in Spain to stay on the long term”.

Tip #5: “El enchufe”, or the mighty importance of contacts in Spain

"El Enchufe"

“El Enchufe”, or the plug, the cute Spanish word for nepotism or even corruption

You need to develop your own network in Spain. Contacts are a key component of job search all over the world, but is twice as important in Spain compared to anglo-saxon countries such as the UK or the US. Fortunately, the job market is large enough not to depend to much on contacts, such as it occurs in other places in Spain or South America. Of course, a contact will not sure a job, but will allow you resume to get on the top of the pile, where thousands of resume may be. Again, here’s when you can leverage your “foreigner” profile: go to networking events for foreign and local businessmen, and leverage your difference to make people remember as the “foreign guy who speaks spanish with differentiated skills”. In my case, I leveraged contacts to learn about the companies and jobs I was having interviews for, to ask about Spanish negotiation tricks, and also get my foot in the door.


Tip#6: Reassure the recruiter you’re not a tourist, even if you are one

Ok, this is so against so many laws, but all recruiters did ask me: “but why are you in Spain? do you have family/ a girlfriend here?” Many people did not believe I came to Spain only because I wanted to ! They thought I was there to spend some good time, prove myself I could land a job here, and then go back to London to get a good paying job. Many recruiters will not believe you came to Spain to stay if you do not give a personal reason. Sounds a bit awful, hope you will not have to face these kind of issues, but be sure you will have to reassure your recruiter that you are not just here to enjoy the sun and then come back to your home country, one way or the other !

Tip #7: Keep language teaching as a Plan B ( unless if it’s your plan A! )

Unless you want to dedicate your time to teaching english, a career with huge career and business opportunities in Madrid by the way, I would keep the language teaching as a back-up plan to pay the bills. Taking a month-long TEFL training and contacting the main language schools (another post will come about this…) before arriving in Madrid will give you many opportunities to find short language stints while keeping looking for a real job without worrying about you are going to pay your bills.

Tip #8 : Give yourself 6 months to reach your goal and decide on the next steps

My opinion is that you need to give yourself at least a 6 months period to find a job here. This will give you time to:
1) become fluent (have a look at the method I presented last time to learn spanish in 6 months)
2) create your own network – Contacts are a very important aspect of getting a job in Spain. I leveraged contacts to learn the ropes and land interviews. By assisting to networking events, you can quickly constitute a network of professional contacts who also are foreigners for instance and are more likely to help you.
3) identify precisely targets, some of which you would have never thought of before coming here
4) do some practice interviews with some Spanish friends, then aim at completing a few real interviews with companies you don’t really care for, only to get good at presenting and “selling” yourself in Spanish.
After 6 months it will be time to look back and assess if you became fluent, how many interviews you got, and decide if it’s worth keeping on trying. This is a personal choice.

Tip #9: If they make you an offer, shoot first, think afterwards

I learned this one the hard way. All was going as planned, I was just completing my semester in a top university in Madrid, ICADE, and a consulting company was making an interesting and well paid internship offer which will allow me to go through summer, keep on searching, and with a promise from them to recruit me in 6 months if all goes well. All my hopes vanished when I did something I thought was normal in France or the UK. I mentioned I was seeing other companies, just at the moment when we were speaking about salaries and signing. It was a crime of adultery, even if we were not married, or even officially boss&employee ! They got afraid that I would find another or even negotiate, found an excuse to put another surprise interview and finally retracted the offer. A Spanish friend of mine, Iñaki, then told me: “Always tell them recruiters they’re the only ones, the love of your life…. and always keep looking, you never know.”
So I would recommend to accept the first interesting offer that comes your way, and then from there go up the career ladder, as I did afterwards.

Tip #10: Key ressources for your job search
– The best job board in Spain: – Also check Monster and other jobboards you will see on the first page of your google search for “job spain” have way less jobs on offer.
– Headhunters: If you’re interested in expat focused jobs, I would contact headhunters such as Michael Page, Randstad, Manpower
– Networking: Search for groups on and – Lots of networking events in Madrid for foreigners and/or locals. Go to Guiripreneur events to network with foreign entrepreneurs in Madrid, or GuiriBusiness for foreign professionals in Madrid.
– Job Searching Book: My bible, and also another million’s people bible, “What colour is your parachute“. How many times when in doubt did I come back to this book and felt invigorated.
– An example – My resume in Spanish: Have a look here if you want to see my CV as it was when I arrived in Madrid –

I wrote this post thinking about all the things I wish I had known 3 years ago and the questions new graduates coming to Madrid asked me this year. I hope they will help you find a job here in this fabulous city :)

Ask me your questions via twitter @pierrewaters ! or surf my site for help for your move to Spain.

Yours madridly,
Pierre-Alban Waters

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This post is also available in: Italian

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011 by in Finding a Job & Working in Madrid

27 responses to “How to find a job in Spain – 10 Key Tips and Resources”

  • Some great advice there, thanks Pierre. One area that is really exploding in Spain is that of startups, and the IT area generally. If you have sought after IT/web skills, you should be able to find work in Barcelona or Madrid. I’m compiling a directory of startups at and if you follow links to their website (or twitter account) you may often see they are hiring. Which reminds me of another tip – try searching (for example) on Twitter for “Madrid ofertas” or “Barcelona empleo”. You will see plenty of offers turn up in English, which suggests they are open to international candidates. Even those jobs advertised in Spanish may be worth persuing if they require a rare skill. Always assuming you’ve followed Pierre’s advice of course, and learnt Spanish.

    • Great advice thanks Mark !

      You are totally right. Some skills are so sought after and only require internal communication, as it is happening for some IT skills, companies will consider the “speak spanish” criteria as #2.
      I totally agree also that many companies are open to international candidates, but you still need to speak Spanish in Spain to really be able to compete.

      As always, the conclusion is: yes you can find a job in Spain if you don’t speak Spanish, but only for positions where you skill is very rare or for “expat focused positions”. The question to ask yourself is always: What does the companies I target want ? against who am I competing ? who do i differentiate ? If the answer is that Spanish is not a required skill, then go for it !

  • Did you write the post on the best English language schools to apply to in Madrid? I’m looking at moving out in Madrid in September but anticipate needing a teaching job whilst I learn the language. Fantastic website by the way!!


    • Thank you Grace for your comment ! No, I did not write such an article on the best language schools. You have great forums and webs dedicated to TEFL jobs – I focus on the job searching process in general in Spain as a foreigner !

  • Hi Pierre,

    This is one of the most helpful & detailed article for anyone who is thinking of a professional future in Spain. In the last one year I have been reading many articles & journals about how to relocate & find job in Spain. But this I think stands out among all.
    This post very much to the point with all the details required, without any unnecessary points.

    Thanks once again.

  • Dear Pierre,

    I read your article and I found it interesting, but my question is I think that the thing I have is not speaking English in a Spanish community but speaking Arabic as I am Egyptian. So I have 2 Language Arabic Fluent and English which is not bad, So what do you think that I could do.
    My expertise is IT ( Networks and Maintenance ) 6 Years. And also Management As I worked before as a shop Manager in a Diet sweet Center and also Shop Manager in an Art Gallery then promoted to be Operation Manager Responsible for all the Art gallery shops which at that time was 5 branches. Then i shifted my career little bit to be in the industry of the telecommunication as I started as a call Center Agent in a multinational Company then went to another company to Be a Team Leader then have been promoted to Be a floor Manager then at the end the Call Center Operation Manager.

    So what do you think do I have a chance finding a job in Spain as I am at Madrid now for more 4 days and then I will go to Barcelona for another 3 days and if I didn’t find something in this period I need to go back home Egypt.

    • To find a job, you need to come here, learn the language and treat looking for a job as job in itself.
      No one can assure you will get the job, but I can assure you the only ones who succeeded were the most prepared and dedicated !

      • This is a really helpful page!

        I would like to ask, my level in spanish is average, how can i get a job on this stage?
        I can learn very fast but i need a job in order to come to spain. I cannot risk coming and wait for months and then maybe get a job.
        I always wanted to come to spain and live there but it seems impossible since most jobs/internships offer less than needed and no housing.
        Which jobs usually offer housing?

        • The best in your case, to ensure something before arriving, is to aim for English teaching jobs. Get a TEFL qualifications at a good academy and you are 100% sure of having a first job to start with !

  • Hola,
    I’m Maha from Egypt. I speak Spanish very well as I lived in Barcelona and also in Ecuador during my childhood. My English is better than my Spanish but my Spanish language skills are very good. I also speak Arabic as it’s my mother tongue. I currently work as a Human Resources supervisor in an oil & gas drilling company in Egypt. It’s a multinational company. However, things in Egypt are very unstable and due to this my company cannot secure staying in Egypt for a long term.
    I’ve studied in International schools for most of my studying life and have been working in multinational companies since I sarted working.
    Your advice would be highly appreciated as to live and work in Madrid has been a dream for me.

  • Hello Pierre, I would like to teach English in Spain. I currently live in Trinidad and Tobago, teaching Spanish to my students. Can you give me some information on how to get a job teaching English in Spain? Do I need to travel to Spain first and look for a job or can I apply to Spanish schools in my home country? Do I need a TEFL certificate when I already have teaching experience? Thanks for your advice.

  • Thanks for ur advices. It will be useful in my next phase.
    I’m here in spain for 1 month now with non lucrative visa (no work permission). Actually i had chance to receive few calls from recruiter looking for arabic native speakers, But the most common question, i had by all firm ,was the work permit, of course my interviewing process just discontinued due to status which simply could be solved by job offer/contract. My questions to you now
    1 is it nessacery to have work permit to get a job ( i am not eu citizen?
    2 I was seriously think in ur tip#4, but I am not sure which would be an added value in my cv. MBA from spain or go to london?
    thank you and wish for all job seeker the best of luck!

  • Hi Pierre-Alban Waters

    I need your advice a bout my situation.

    I have been one year in Spain – A Coruña and I speak Arabic as a mother-tongue ,English I have B.A in English and my Spanish language is in progress.

    I want to work in Barcelona or Madrid.

    hope to hear from you soon

  • Hi Pierre.
    Congrats for the tips!!! Best site!
    I´m a brazilian civil engenier with a Master in Business and Innovation. My wife has a bacheor degree in Administration and work as a free lancer with Interior Designer. We intend to move to Madrid, Spain this year (2015). I have a good english but not my wife. We are going to spent a mounth there in may 5 to 25, to feel the city life and make some contacts (we have two friends there).
    The good part is that we intend to study for a year and we can leave like a year or more period leaving there with no need to have a job. Of course we hope we can find it before that.

    As a brazilian, our spanish is basic (we undestand well but talk a leatlle) but we are going to start this mouth (even I already study a year of spanish, couple years ago).

    1. How can we change our student VISA for work permit?
    2. How the companies see this situation of student Visa?
    3. How the companies see when you have a great job in Brazil, like us and want a medium or basic job in Spain?

    Thanks for your tips! Can we have your email?
    Igor and Maria

    • Hi Igor and Maria,

      Wow, congrats for the big decision to move to Madrid ! I will try to give some answer to your deep and challenging questions:
      1) VISA questions all are dependent on specific situation and country. I recommend you get in contact with an expert and get support, like Genelva at
      2) Companies prefer clearly a person with valid papers.
      3) Companies prefer candidates which they see could stay long in their company.

      If you need expert support to move here, our email is ! Cheers!
      Pierre & Arash, Moving2Madrid

  • Hi Pierre,

    First of all many thanks for the information above which is very valuable.
    I have been living in Madrid for 7 months, came here to learn Spanish. I am a Turkish citizen. My school has finished last week but I want to live here. So I am applying for jobs in all sites but no answer yet. My Spanish is at intermediate level. I do not have a work permit as I am from a non EU country. I was working in a media agency in Turkey as a marketing communication supervisor for big companies.
    How can I get a work permit here without getting a job? Do you think I would have chance here in Spain?
    I do speak English, Turkish and intermediate Spanish but I am not a fluent Spanish speaker.
    Thank you in advance for any kind of advice and help!

    • Hi Aylin,

      Can you send us a message through our contact form or else send us an email. We’ll be able to give you a better personalised response that way.

      You might find the Turkish Embassy in Madrid may be able to help you regarding the work permit. They are located at C/Rafael Calvo, 18 2°A-B, 28010. They also have a website.
      Best of luck with the move, and welcome to Madrid :)

  • Hi Pierre!

    Your information is very useful but I could not find any related story in the comments section.

    I am an American citizen, my kids just moved out so now that I am alone, I am thinking on moving to Spain to live there. I am an Online Marketing Business Consultant and have been working as a Freelance Consultant to the past 8-10 years in Miami Florida.

    I got my Bachelors Degree in Madrid.

    Do you think is better for me to go there and then contact an International Recruiter or first contact them and see what are the possibilities?

    Can you guide me a little bit?

    Thank you!


    • Hi Isa,
      Congratulations on your decision to move to Madrid!
      Since you’re not an EU citizen, you’ll need to obtain a work VISA before coming to Spain. It could be worth your while speaking to an International Recruiter first, and seeing what they recommend you to do, rather than trying to sort that after you’ve moved- just to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything!

  • Hi Pierre,

    Reading your site has been very useful for me as I am looking to move to Barcelona however finding it difficult. My line of work is In Learning & Development, with a career history spanning all facets of L&D from design and delivery to my current role of Business Partner for a full directorate where I work on their Learning plans and help them achieve their business objectives.

    I had seen the chance to work in L&D for Criteo in Barcelona and was desperate to work for them especially in Spain but didnt get past the application stage, so upon finding your site I have been trying to take steps to get the move out to Barcelona as its where I see my life. Finding L&D opportunities is proving difficult



  • Hi Pierre!

    This is a very good piece of advice! I stumbled upon your website today, and I wasted no time to write to you an email.

    I look forward for your reply.

    Thank you,
    Douglas Jau

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