The dream of living in Europe, with its diverse cultures and stunning landscapes, has always held a special place in my heart. As an IT engineer based in India, the prospect of relocating to Europe for work seemed like an exciting yet challenging endeavor. This blog post recounts my experiences, from deciding to relocate to the exhilarating process of finding work, all while providing valuable insights for those considering a similar path.
Seizing the Golden Opportunity
After persistently seeking the chance to relocate to a European country, I finally seized the opportunity to work at my client’s site in the Netherlands for a year. Consequently, I relocated to the Netherlands, and life progressed smoothly over a year. Throughout this period, I had the privilege of exploring the Netherlands and several other European nations, a valuable perk of residing in Europe. This implies that, with your visa or work permit, you can traverse all the countries encompassed by the Schengen Area. After a year, I found it necessary to seek a job change to prolong my tenure here.
The Interview Experience
With an unwavering goal in mind, I began researching the requirements for landing a lasting developer job in Europe. From understanding the necessary visas to tailoring my resume for European employers, I realized that meticulous preparation was key.
Having refreshed my skill sets, I began applying for developer roles aligned with my expertise through LinkedIn. While a few employers turned down my applications, I received interview invitations from various companies. Subsequently, I navigated through these interviews and secured two offers. Drawing from my experiences, I’ll now outline the employer’s interview process and share my insights, lessons learned, and tips in the upcoming sections.
Crucial Phases of Interviews
The whole process, from applying for jobs to getting offers, takes anywhere from 3 weeks to months. As I was trying in December, it took a fair amount of time for me to receive the offers as it was the holiday season.
My first interview with a European tech company was a mix of excitement and nerves. The virtual setting, bridging the geographical gap, made it a unique experience. The interviews weren’t just about assessing technical skills; they also delved into my adaptability, cultural awareness, and problem-solving abilities. It was clear that European companies valued a holistic approach to hiring.
The interview process consists of 3 to 5 stages, primarily conducted virtually through platforms like Teams, Skype, or Meet. While only a small number of employers require an in-person interview, this situation has been particularly relevant post-COVID. The sequence of these interview stages can vary, except for the initial stage with the Recruiter.
Stage 1: Recruiter Discussion
The initial stage involves an introductory meeting, during which the recruiter assesses whether the candidate possesses the necessary skill sets for the position they are seeking. If the recruiter has a positive impression after the meeting, they will proceed to schedule a technical interview.
Stage 2: Technical Discussion I
This stage entails a technical discussion aimed at evaluating your technical skills. The interviewer’s objective is to grasp your practical work experience. This stage can manifest in various formats, such as:
- You could receive certain problem scenarios and be required to analyze the issues and devise solutions. On occasion, they might even prompt you to verbalize your thoughts to gauge your analytical abilities.
- You might receive requests to engage in projects, tackle challenges, and answer multiple-choice questions on online platforms such as Codility, HackerRank, and similar sites.
- You could encounter two options:
- Online Coding Session: In this scenario, you might receive tasks like debugging code and identifying bugs or issues within it. Alternatively, you might engage in a live coding session where you’re presented with a task and asked to code in real time.
- Offline Project: Another possibility is being assigned an offline project based on a specific scenario. You’ll have the freedom to work on this project offline, managing your own time, and submitting the solution for review within a designated timeframe (e.g., 3–4 days). Subsequently, the code will be evaluated. If the solution aligns with their expectations, they’ll arrange a meeting to delve deeper into your approach and other aspects of the solution. Speaking of offline projects, I have written blog posts detailing my experience with tasks like making parallel API calls and populating databases from CSV files, which were part of my offline assignments.
Stage 3: Technical Discussion II
This stage primarily focuses on thoroughly evaluating your technical proficiency. Occasionally, they might request that you formulate a solution or design a product based on a provided problem statement or use case, aiming to assess your problem-solving and design capabilities.
Stage 4: Hiring Manager Discussion
This stage is about testing your soft skills and understanding things like how good you are as a team or individual player, how responsible you are, and how well you fit into the team. You might be given some scenarios and asked to explain how you handle them. You can expect some questions like,
- How do you handle conflicting situations within the team or company?
- How much do you value Diversity and Inclusion, and why do you value them? What are the benefits of having a diverse team?
- What do you expect or value most in an employer?
- How do you keep yourself updated with all the latest technologies?
Stage 5: Cultural Fit and Team Discussion
This stage focuses on evaluating your cultural fit within the team and how potential team members perceive you. It’s crucial to gauge your compatibility with the team and how comfortable both you and the prospective team members are with your presence.
While I had done my homework, I still made mistakes along the way. Here are some of the lessons learned that are worth sharing:
Strategic Offer Acceptance
Accepting an offer without negotiation can lead to surprises. An initial offer might seem impressive, but hidden variables can change the equation over time. It’s crucial to assess offers thoroughly, especially when juggling multiple options.
Engaging with the recruiter to discuss a revised offer is a viable strategy. They might agree to enhance the proposal by 3–5% if negotiations are successful. However, if negotiations fail, it’s advisable to respect their decision and refrain from pushing further.
Delaying Offer Acceptance
Rushing into decisions often leads to regret. When facing a job offer’s deadline and expecting offers from other potential employers, it’s wise to seek an extension. This is especially valid considering the effort invested in multiple interviews.
Strategic Offer Rejection
Rejecting an offer without examining its terms can result in missed opportunities. Even if you’ve accepted an offer from another employer, it’s possible to evaluate a new offer’s benefits. If the new offer is more favorable, you can reconsider your choice. However, this approach, while feasible, might harm professional relationships. It highlights the significance of starting a new job with contentment to avoid future regrets.
Embracing the New Chapter
After numerous interviews, cultural learnings, and moments of introspection, I finally secured a Senior Software Engineer job in a beautiful Dutch city. The transition was not without its challenges, but each obstacle was an opportunity for growth. As I settled into my new role and life abroad, I realized that my dream of permanently relocating to Europe was more than a goal; it was a transformative journey.
Guidance for Securing a Job in Europe
Research is Key
Familiarize yourself with the job market, visa prerequisites, and cultural conventions of the European country that intrigues you. Customize your applications in alignment with these insights. Crafting a cover letter is essential, and for assistance, don’t hesitate to rely on ChatGPT. If you’ve engaged in hobby projects, contributed to open-source initiatives, or maintained a blog, be sure to emphasize these aspects in your cover letter, as they hold significant value.
Never Give Up
When endeavoring to switch jobs to a European country from your home nation, you may encounter numerous rejections, often starting at the application screening phase. This is predominantly due to many companies being hesitant to sponsor visas and employ foreign professionals. On the contrary, if you are already present in a European country, securing a position can prove easier. This is attributed to the preference for candidates already situated within the country, even if they hold a different type of visa. Nonetheless, a handful of companies do exhibit a willingness to sponsor visas and hire international professionals, even extending relocation packages to cover associated expenses. When it comes to applying for jobs, LinkedIn stands out as your most potent option.
Product-based companies prioritize your practical knowledge over theoretical knowledge. This approach aligns well with effective candidate evaluation. What they’re seeking is a knowledgeable and adaptable engineer who eagerly embraces various technologies. I’ve observed that service-based companies tend to rely on traditional methods, often posing diverse theoretical questions to assess candidates. Hence, if targeting service-based roles, prepare comprehensive theoretical answers related to your profile’s skill sets.
When given an offline project to demonstrate your expertise, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Avoid over-engineering your solution.
- Prioritize code quality and readability. Use comments that facilitate easy understanding and include relevant log statements. Strong code quality showcases your experience.
- Prepare to address queries like your rationale for selecting a specific tech stack and your decision-making process for the chosen implementation approach.
Although English is commonly used, proficiency in the local language can greatly improve your opportunities. Dedicate time to learn the language both before and after your move. In my experience, certain employers were seeking candidates proficient in Dutch. Some job postings were also in Dutch. I refrained from applying for these roles due to my lack of Dutch skills. Nevertheless, I have now taken the initiative to learn Dutch, recognizing its significance in becoming a part of the community.
Be aware of cultural nuances, especially during interviews. Punctuality, communication style, and body language can vary greatly across countries. There can be one stage of interviews specifically to check the cultural fit.
Showcase Soft Skills
European employers often value adaptability, teamwork, and creativity as much as technical expertise. Highlight these qualities in your interactions.
Prepare to discuss your strengths and weaknesses (ensuring that you present your weaknesses in a manner that can be viewed as positive attributes) and how you manage conflict situations that might emerge within the team.
Leverage professional platforms and events to connect with people in your desired industry and location. Networking can open doors you never knew existed.
My pursuit of an IT job in Europe wasn’t just about career advancement; it was about embracing the unknown, learning from mistakes, and immersing myself in a vibrant tapestry of cultures. Through this journey, I have learned that determination, adaptability, and a willingness to step out of my comfort zone are my most valuable assets. If you’re considering a similar path, remember that the road may be challenging, but the rewards are immeasurable. Europe is not just a destination; it’s an experience that will shape you in ways you never thought possible.
Finally, I trust that the interview experience I’ve gained and the invaluable insights I’ve shared hold global relevance, extending beyond European employers.
Thank you for reading and sharing if you liked the content 🙂