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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Job? Moscow Market Tightens

After several years as a boomtown for expatriates, the job market in Moscow is rapidly changing from a haven for candidates with extensive Russian backgrounds to a more narrow field for those with special skills. Employers and recruiters say that companies are increasingly looking for candidates with business, law, or technical experience. Although the number of Western employers in Russia and the pool of local foreign talent continues to grow, new Russian work regulations require employers to prove that Russians cannot do the same job as the foreigners they hire. But attorneys and recruiters say that those rules are being loosely interpreted, and with a combination of luck, careful management and enlargement of contacts, there are still many job opportunities for foreigners. Some companies find the pool of inexperienced but enthusiastic young foreign labor to be an asset. Lars Gutbergsen, who is the coordinator of recruiting at Arthur Andersen, said his company found it beneficial to hire recent university graduates for entry-level positions because "they don't have very high expectations and they don't have very high demands." Arthur Andersen employs about 30 expatriates in its Moscow office, the Danish national said, approximately half of whom were local hires. There are more optimistic prospects for candidates at the upper tier of the market. "As investment continues, so does the market for executive talent," said Alan Clack, a principal consultant with Deloitte & Touche/Ward Howell International, an executive recruiting firm. Clack said the expatriate candidate pool for executive positions has "blossomed." In another trend, Russians are increasingly competing with their foreign colleagues, and not simply because of the work-permit rule. "The market has changed; people who know what is going on here and can work here are more valuable than expatriates," said a consultant at one large Western accounting firm. Although a survey of job advertisements over the last week turned up a majority that require fluent Russian, not every position requires it, according to Colin Blackwell, expatriate placements manager at the Ancor recruitment and personnel firm. He said he came to Russia from England eight months ago with an undergraduate business degree and no Russian but found work in a matter of weeks. Aaron Smith, 25, came to Moscow from Washington in August 1993 without work, but with a resum? long on international relations and Russian studies. Smith landed a job as membership coordinator with a local social and business club in Moscow, but only after about two months of sending out letters and networking, while he lived off of his savings and stayed in a friend's apartment. For Dawn Vrablie, 22, an American who studied in Moscow during the autumn semester and has taught English since January, connections made her job search less painful. Vrablie, who has just found a secretarial position at the law firm White and Case, was friendly with the person who held it before her. "I kind of feel like it is either who you know or luck of the draw," she said. Both Vrablie and Smith said that they had many friends who had looked for work unsuccessfully for months, and Smith said he would no longer advise people to come to Moscow without work already lined up. "Teaching English is always an option," Vrablie said, "but many people aren't too excited about it." Brett Canfield, 23, who arrived here in October and is now general marketing director of Moscow Messenger Service, said he thinks it is best to come equipped with a Masters degree in Business Administration. "It's not exactly a real job," he said of his work, which has paid him on a commission basis, causing him periodically to take additional part-time work to cover his expenses. Most recent job seekers placed a premium upon personal contacts in an environment in which access to job vacancies appears scarce. "I don't see this as a very attractive market anymore," Canfield, an American, said. "It can be quite infuriating if you are not helped along," Blackwell acknowledged. He said young people who come straight from college with a degree in Russian tend to be at a greater disadvantage unless they also have a knowledge of marketing, finance, or technical expertise. He added that for those hopefuls who plan to send out resumes "cold," the best targets are the large consulting and accounting firms. "One thing that can't be expected is applying from abroad and getting a job without the people seeing you," he cautioned. Another approach taken by some job seekers is to visit the commercial section of their embassies, many of which have regular business briefings or social gatherings where contacts can be made. Some prospective candidates take out classified ads. Smith advised jobseekers to consider offers carefully, not just with regard to salary, but with consideration of insurance benefits, visa support, and even provision of lunch. Blackwell added that it is in the interest of applicants to find an employer who will take on the responsibility of tax withholding. Despite the challenges facing job hunters, Clack insisted that the rewards made it worthwhile. "Because the rules are different here, it is sort of a level playing field," he said. "Lots of experience isn't necessarily as important as lots of initiative, lots of patience, lots of intellectual fortitude."