Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: Top-10 global employer Coca-Cola has dozens of jobs in Europe

(Editor’s note: This post was updated at 1400 CET with additional information about employment rules for The Netherlands.)

It’s amazing to us how many jobs U.S. multinationals post for their operations in Europe.

Since the Great Recession, U.S. multinationals as a whole have employed about 50 percent of their workforce overseas.  Of course, the question is, under what circumstances are expats eligible for these jobs? How many are filled by EU nationals? How many are U.S. corporate transferees, and how many are going to expats? We’ll get to that later in the post. But as we were aggregating info for this post, we were fascinated with one of the largest global companies of them all.

chartoftheday_3618_the_world_capitals_for_us_corporate_expatriates_nAtlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. Coke has more than 129,000 employees in 200 countries around the world. That number as of 2014 is down 20 percent from peak employment of 150,000 in 2012. Interestingly, Europe is the beverage giant’s smallest market. Coca-Cola employs 1,600 associates here who work with about 60,000 employees at European bottlers, according to the company’s website.

But it’s an important enough market that Coke has 20 websites (that we could find) using the language of each market including Bulgarian, Estonian and Lithuanian. (A couple such as Greek and Serbian were off line.)

Coca-Cola currently has the most jobs – 15 – posted in Poland. They include European Travel Operations Managers based in Warsaw. Here’s a snippet from the job description:

As the Travel Operations Manager for Europe you will be part of the Global Procurement Operations organization. You will manage operational travel services for Coca-Cola associates in Europe by focusing on supporting them with all their travel related issues as well as working with regional travel service providers (designated corporate travel agencies) and travelers to identify key program drivers and implement plans to drive increased efficiency, effectiveness and system savings. Your main goal will be to drive regional compliance to key global travel management cost savings processes (including online booking, advance ticket purchasing, lowest logical airfare and the use of preferred suppliers) and overall compliance to Global Travel & Entertainment policy, which you will achieve by providing clarity, training and assistance to your clients and consequently and continuously communicating.

No. 2 on the list is London with eight jobs open including a procurement specialist.

The company has more detailed information on its websites than other U.S. multinationals including looks inside its various business groups. If you spend time looking at the various European pieces of this giant organization, you notice almost every head of a Europe business group is European. That includes George Dromev, technical director at the German operations, who is a mechanical engineer from Bulgaria.

Here’s a little bit of his story:

In 1992 Coca-Cola planned to open a branch in Bulgaria. They were looking for people in the fields of marketing, technology and finance. I read the job ad in the newspaper and knew that this was exactly what I wanted. But I did not even dare to dream about it. Coca-Cola seemed to be so far away. One evening my wife asked whether I had read the job ad correctly because she thought that it was such a good match as if it had practically been written for me. But I did not have the courage to respond. We were arguing for three days, and then I was fed up. At the end of the day I wrote my application only to no longer have to discuss this topic. After several tests and interviews I got the job. It had been the best decision of my life to write this application.

We asked Coke’s Europe media person to give us a little more clarity about employment policy but didn’t get a reply.

Anyway, here are some, though not all, of Coke’s market-specific websites in Europe:

Coke Bulgaria  Coke Croatia  Coke Czech Republic  Coke Denmark  Coke Estonia   Coke Finland   Coke France  Coke Germany  Coke Hungary  Coke Italy   Coke Latvia   Coke Lithuania

Coke Norway   Coke Poland   Coke Romania   Coke Slovakia   Coke Slovenia   Coke Spain   Coke Sweden   Coke Switzerland (French or German)

After conversations with HR executives and recruiters, we found out U.S.-based multinationals typically hire local talent (as Coke did in Germany) who know local markets, languages and business culture, only bringing in expatriates with relevant expertise to fill the skill gaps. These are the high-end engineers or top level managers whose skills aren’t readily available in any given market. And that’s what this all boils down to – who you are in terms of skills and education. Do you have skills that are in short supply in Europe, especially tech skills or specific industry skills? Because most European countries have shortages of skilled professionals in certain fields, especially digital skills for what are called ICT jobs … information, communications technology.

Overall, it’s complicated, with rules varying from country to county. That said, it simply comes down to this – there aren’t enough talented people to go around in Europe, especially in the tech world.

In some EU countries, the employer must sponsor expat work visas. Also, national employment bureaucracies sign off on as to whether you’re the best candidate, or your position could be filled by indigenous talent. In Austria, a residence visa is tied to a confirmed job offer and will only be granted if the Austrian Labor Market Service is convinced no Austrian or EU citizen is available to do the work specified in an employment contract. (If all this sounds ambiguous, it is. Some companies want Americans for obvious reasons, including previous experience at top companies, entrepreneurial hustle and insights into technology. And what do you know? They craft job descriptions that can’t be filled by locals.)

So, what about Europe-based companies? The best way is to hook up with a recruitment agency. Almost every large company in Europe uses them. But be aware that big companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Leuwen, Belgium, hedge their talent bets by recruiting promising leaders straight out of college. Those include foreign nationals while they are living outside their home countries, who they send back to their home markets to begin their careers.

We’ll have a more detailed post about the mechanics of getting jobs with the big corporations including specific open positions. Meanwhile, here’s information sent us by Undutchables, an Amsterdam-based expat talent recruitment firm. We selected the Netherlands because it’s fairly representative of Northern European policy, though certainly more liberal than France, where expats have to meet far more detailed requirements, such as actually detailing the project you’ll be working on!

From Undutchables Executive Consultant Karin Björkman Tendijck:

If a company in The Netherlands (Dutch or international) would like to hire non-EU citizens, they need to arrange a working permit for the candidate. You can find more information at www.ind.nl (immigration office). A company can hire U.S. citizens for positions here and is not restricted to hiring local employees. But again, the (company) will need a working permit. A company can register via the IND to hire candidates on a ‘knowledge migrant’ visa, which is a quicker process in order to get the working permit. Again, all this information you can find on www.ind.nl

Netherlands policy for highly skilled migrants:

A highly skilled migrant seeking employment in the Netherlands must earn a minimum gross income of EUR 4240,- per month excluding holiday allowance or, under the age of 30, EUR 3108,- per month excluding holiday allowance. The income criterion does not apply if the employee is hired by an educational or research institute, or is a postgraduate student or university lecturer younger than 30.

From 19 December 2007, graduates who have finished their studies in the Netherlands are eligible for a knowledge migrant permit (kennismigrant). To qualify for this permit, a graduate has to earn a minimum of EUR 2228,- monthly ex holiday allowance.

An employer who hires a highly skilled migrant is not required to obtain a work permit for this foreign national employee, who nonetheless must have a residence permit. The application for the Dutch residence permit must be submitted by the foreign national employee to the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service. The IND aims at processing these applications swiftly, if possible within two weeks. Our experience, however, is that the IND usually takes longer to process a residence permit.

Employers have to have a contractual agreement with the IND that allows them to employ highly skilled migrants.

For more information, please visit the IND website (the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Office).


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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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