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Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in Portugal

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: April 2015

Finding a Job

The Portuguese economy has not fully recovered from the global recession, and jobs in Portugal are rather thin on the ground at the moment. With the aid of online job portals, you can start your job search before you leave your home country.  You can filter your search according to job function, industry, salary or location and also search for keywords on online job sites such as the following:

Many daily newspapers also publish job advertisements in their print issues and online. Some of the most widely read Portuguese newspapers are:

Note that all these sites are in Portuguese only. In most areas of employment, you will need a good level of Portuguese to give yourself the best chance of finding work. If your Portuguese is not yet strong enough, there is English teaching and other positions.

Jobseekers in Portugal can also register with the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP). There are also private employment agencies. If at all possible, you should check if the agency is accredited and look at online reviews before committing yourself. For a comprehensive list of employment agencies in Portugal, see the Employment Agencies website.
Once you have arrived in Portugal, you can also look in newspapers and browse notice boards in shops and elsewhere. Networking is very important in Portugal, so if you do have any connections, do not hesitate to make use of them. In fact, it might be worth taking up a temporary job at first to increase your chance of networking. Lastly, keep an eye out for career fairs and exhibitions, and look at ‘Vacancies’ sections on the websites of suitable organisations. You might also want to make speculative applications to these organisations. For information on job prospects in Portugal, see Work Culture and Labour Market.


As your curriculum vitae or CV (these are also the terms used in Portugal) is an introduction to a potential employer, it is essential to make it strong, highlighting your academic qualifications and professional experience. If the advertisement for the job in question was in English, you can write the CV in English, otherwise it should be in Portuguese.

The CV should be concise, at two pages, or a maximum of three if you are particularly experienced. It must be well structured, first listing your personal details: your name, date and place of birth, address, marital status and contact details, followed by your strengths and objectives. Next comes the main body, with sections including Education, Professional Training (which the Portuguese regard as particularly important), Employment History and Interests. Include IT Skills, Language Skills, Voluntary Work and Scholarships  as appropriate.

Arrange education and employment history sections in reverse chronological order, accounting for any gaps. When listing your academic qualifications, include dates attended, the name of the educational institution, study programme, degree obtained and your study subject. Employment History should include start and end dates, job title and name of the organisation you worked for. Include brief details of primary responsibilities in your recent jobs.

In all correspondence with your prospective employer, check that your spelling and grammar are correct, avoid using informal language and explain any abbreviations used. Include a photo if it is requested.

Cover Letters

Employers may require a cover letter with your job application, though the Portuguese do not regard them as essential. The letter should be handwritten, short at less than one A4 page long, and drawn up as a formal business letter.  It should explain your motivation for applying for the position, demonstrate how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and highlight what you will bring to that particular role. Pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and demonstrate how you fulfil them.


When preparing for a job interview, it is crucial to show that you understand how the organisation operates, what its objectives are and how you could contribute to its success. Interviews in Portugal do of course vary in style, but there are some similarities. Terms of address tend to be formal, though the actual substance of the interview is often not. The Portuguese have a relaxed attitude and their interviewing style reflects this. Personal skills are considered very important in Portugal, so, despite this more personable interviewing style, you will need to remain on the ball. Though most interviews take place in person, in recent years, telephone and online video interviews have become common, especially when the candidate is abroad at the time of interview.

Interviews typically start with “Tell me about yourself”, which is a prompt for you to give a brief summary of your background and current situation. Subsequent questions will test how your skills match the interviewers’ requirements. This gives you the opportunity to show your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. Some interviewers ask cunning questions that probe your ability to think on the spot. Finally, they will ask if you have any questions about your potential future role.

Some Portugal- based international companies and large domestic companies use assessment centres for recruiting purposes. These assessments last a day or two and include tasks that test your suitability for the position, such as presentations, group activities and written tests.

Note that you should take copies of qualifications and references to your interview. After the interview, write to the interviewer, thanking them for their time. You will hear about your success in due course (be patient – no one is in any particular hurry in Portugal.)


When attending a job interview, remember that punctuality is vital! It is better to arrive a few minutes early than keep your potential employer waiting. Another important rule is to dress appropriately. Even if the organisation does not have a specific dress code, it is still best to choose business-wear in discreet colours. Women should avoid using eye-catching jewellery or heavy make-up. Throughout the interview, make sure to sit up straight and make appropriate eye contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!
Once you have successfully obtained a job, you may be eligible for a work permit. For more information on how to apply for work permits, see Expats Working in the Immigration section.




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