Mini guide to finding work in Denmark as a foreigner

Looking for a job in Denmark as a foreigner who doesn’t speak Danish? Our mini guide can help you make sense of the job market here.

Applying for work in Denmark isn’t always easy if you don’t have a solid grasp of Danish. We understand that. A lot of jobs in Denmark will require you to speak Danish in the workplace. 

Still, you’re not totally out of luck if you don’t speak Danish. You just need to know where to look. There is actually a job market here for expats who can speak English. And this is one area where your foreign background can be an advantage. 

When applying for work in Denmark, the rule of thumb is that if the job announcement is in English the employer expects your application to be in English. This isn’t true in every instance, but in most cases it is. That doesn’t matter though, because your focus should instead be almost exclusively on firms, NGOs and start-ups that use English as their working language. 

A lot of Danish companies do most of their business abroad, and, during an average workday, their employees can find themselves interacting with co-workers and clients throughout Europe and further afield. 

Landing one of these jobs takes a clear strategy though. If you don’t have one, you’re likely to find yourself applying for whatever jobs you might stumble across, with no certainty about where on your career path they will lead you — if they lead you anywhere at all. 

But, if you are going to come up with a strategy for finding a job as a foreigner, you’re going to need to study the job market, and you’re going to need to ask yourself a few questions about yourself.

Take a second look at yourself

Applying for work is a matter of knowing precisely what it is you want to accomplish, what you can offer an employer and what employers are looking for.

It’s important to accept that you’re not necessarily going to find a job that matches your profile perfectly. The best way to miss an opportunity is to look narrowly for the same types of jobs in the same line of business that you’ve always worked in. 

As far as companies go, they’re more interested in what you can do than where you’ve worked. Show them that. Make it your pitch. 

So, maybe you used to work for an NGO. What’s more important is that your job there dealt with training and project management — that’s what you need to sell to your next employer. The challenge for you is to find a way to repackage it. We know that’s not easy, but the vast majority of your skills are applicable in other lines of business than the one you are in now. 

We see people change lines of business all the time. That’s a good thing, because it means that if you’ve mostly been working in the telecoms industry you don’t need to limit your search to other telecoms.

Something else that should be on your short list of things to do: have a good idea about what it is you can offer an employer here and now. And then ask yourself what you want to see happen in the long-term. 

Once you’ve got that sorted, you’ll be ready to start looking at specific types of jobs and industries to find out what skills are in demand right now and how your profile matches up. Going about things this way will often open your eyes to possibilities you hadn’t thought of before. 

And keep in mind that just because you don’t land in your dream job straight away it doesn’t mean that you won’t land it eventually. The more you work, the more skills and the more experience you gain, and that’s really the key to the job market here. 

So, in that respect, your next job is a steppingstone that will lead you to the job you really want to be doing. It might be two or three years down the line, but you’ll at least be on your way. 

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that you can only know if you are on the right path if you know where you want to end up, and that, again, requires having a good idea about what you can offer an employer, and who your potential employers are. 

Work your network

A lot of private-sector jobs are filled without them ever being advertised for. People get hired either because they know the right person, or because the firm comes looking for them.

LinkedIn is a good place to be, but you also need to make sure that you actively make use of your network. If you want to get the inside line on what jobs are out there, you need to talk to people.

And if you tell people you’re looking for work, they’ll be able to tell others you’re looking for work. You might not know who to speak with, but they might, and they might even be willing to put in a good word for you. At a minimum they can let you know if they catch word of something that you might be interested in.

The best thing you can do is be visible and to talk to anyone you think might be interested.

Meeting people for a cup of coffee is a crucial part of your job search. A lot of people find work in the private sector because they happened to know someone who knew someone.

Meeting someone is a good way to learn about a company from the inside, what’s going in on their industry at the moment and whether they are looking to hire. Understanding a company and its needs will put you in a better position to tell them how your skills and your experience can benefit them.

If you’re not sure who you should try to meet up with, try finding someone else with a foreign background and ask them how they found their job. Networking offers unique insights into the job market, and meeting people for coffee is a good way to network.

Building up a network is a gradual process, but it will be a source of opportunities. Keep in mind that there are people just like you here in Denmark, and they are often more than willing to sit down with you and to help you out.

Don’t forget, you’re still in Denmark

And even though you’re focused on finding an expat job, a good understanding of workplace culture here will be helpful. Danish workplaces have their own unwritten rules, and you’re going to need to be aware of things like the julefrokost, pecking orders and what’s expected of people when they participate in meetings. 

This also applies to your job search. You might not expect it, but things like a picture of yourself on your CV and a short description of what you like to do in your spare time make a difference. We’ve had foreign members tell us how surprised they were to be asked personal questions during their interview. But that’s completely within bounds. 

From the employer’s perspective, that sort of information is valuable because it helps them get a picture of who you are as a person. It’s important for a potential employer to know how you would fit in with the other employees, so questions about your personality are quite an important part of the selection process. 

You can use your CV to open up a little about yourself. Add five fun things about yourself — you’re a keen runner; you’re a rock climber; you and a group of other expats have your own cinema club. Anything you can add helps a potential employer get a good picture of who you are as an individual. Your work history and where you went to school are only a part of the picture. 

And speaking of school, it’s helpful to give your employer a sense of how your degree compares with a Danish degree. A university can help you with this. 

The thing is that no matter how highly respected your uni is in your home country people here won’t know what you learned on the way towards getting your degree. You’ll help your case if you can spell it out by having relevant papers translated to Danish and providing a description of how your coursework compares to a similar programme in Denmark. 

In other words: learn the unwritten rules. They will be just as helpful on the job as they are for finding one in the first place. 

Google is your friend

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repetition: Google is a great way to find the types of jobs you’re looking for — provided you know how to search.

You can search for jobs on Google based on any number of parameters, including your qualifications, your location and the type of job you’re looking for. You can also use Google to find job boards that are specific to your field.

Google your next job

Start by searching based on your profession and location. Use terms like: 

  • job
  • financial controller
  • Copenhagen

That should bring up a list of jobs that you can go through. 

Djøf can help you too

We’re standing by to help you find your way around the job market here in Denmark. We can also help you improve your job search by offering advice about your covering letter, your CV and your job-search strategy. 

Our team of job consultants is waiting for you to contact them. 

Call us weekdays 9-16 or write to us at djoef@djoef.dk.


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