In the last part of Brussels series (find the first one here and second one here),  where I’m discussing job hunting situation in the European bubble, I sat down with Christian, Managing Director of Hanover Comms Brussels. The idea came to me when I brainstormed what would have been the most valuable piece of information 4 years ago.

What’s better than having a first-hand outlook from the other side of the market? While researching the companies, it’s great if young people could get into the mindset of their future employer as well.

In order to get on the same tune with the applicants, laying down the expectations is a great way to see and figure out if the company – or even the industry – would be the right fit. I hope this piece will help you get an internship in Brussels Now let’s move on to the fruitful discussion we had with Chris. 🙂

Liv: Hi Chris, happy to have you here! Could you please tell us more about you and your background? 

Chris: I have been working in Brussels for more than 17 years now, spending the first 2 years as a policy advisor to a Member of the European Parliament and the rest in public affairs consultancies. I joined Hanover Communication, a British public affairs and corporate communications agency, in 2010 to set up their Brussels office.

When I joined Hanover the company counted 37 employees in London plus my coffee machine and me in Brussels. Eight years later we have offices in London, Brussels, Dublin, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and a total of over 140 employees, 16 of which work in the Brussels office.

In Brussels, our team advises corporations, trade associations and NGOs on how to engage with EU policymakers in order to ensure that their interests and concerns are taken into consideration when regulation is developed. Our clients include Apple, Microsoft, TimeWarner, Lexmark, Cummins, among others.

Liv: Is Hanover looking for young talent? How often do you hire interns?

Chris: We are looking for interns on a regular basis. At any time during the year we will have at least 2 interns, sometimes, depending on the number of projects we work on even more.

Liv: What does a typical job for intern looks like? What’s their job description in Hanover?

Chris: Interns main tasks usually include monitoring legislative developments, researching and analyzing legislative and policy initiatives, writing reports for clients, and provide logistical support for marketing or client events. At Hanover Brussels interns are considered and treated as a full part of the team in the sense that they are fully integrated in our work for clients, participate in client meetings and even in new business pitches. We think it is important that interns get to know the clients and understand their priorities in order to do their tasks more effectively and to add value to our team.

Liv: How are you selecting candidates for an internship? What are the criteria?

Chris: We tend to recruit interns who already have relevant work experience in Brussels, for example in form of previous internships in the EU institutions, a Brussels based trade association, or the EU affairs department of a company. As the intern is fully integrated with our team of consultants, it is important that they are swiftly operational. We have found that interns that already relevant work experience operating on a different level than interns who come straight out of university. Furthermore, our interns need to be fluent in English, have an interest in EU politics, great analytical skills and should work well in a multinational team.

Liv: What makes an intern stand out? What was the last time you were really impressed?

Chris: I am constantly impressed by our interns. It is just amazing how many smart young people there are. Those interns that we offer permanent positions normally have outstanding analytical skills are willing to go the extra mile, are passionate about what they do and are great team players. The personal fit with the rest of the team is very important to us. You can be the smartest person in the world but if you do not get along with your colleagues it will cause problems. At Hanover Communications we also like people who have an entrepreneurial spirit and bring themselves in beyond their immediate tasks and areas of responsibilities.

Liv: Are you offering regular job positions after an internship? What does it take to get a job after an internship in Hanover?

Chris: On average we offer every second intern a permanent position at Hanover. Whether or not we do so depends on three factors:

a) does the intern actually want to stay with us? Working in a consultancy can be quite dynamic and stressful, therefore not everyone might be keen to seek a career with us.

b) Do we believe he or she would be a good consultant and has the potential to grow?

And c) does the business situation allow us to hire the intern? As a commercial operation, we are more exposed to an overall economic slowdown and changes in the market than for instance public institutions or trade associations, which means we need to make sure that we generate sufficient revenues to support our employment costs.

Liv: Can you give any advice on starting up – anything that worked for you in your career?

Chris: I started my career in Brussels as an intern in the European Parliament and was lucky enough to land my first job in a consultancy right after that. If you look for a job in EU affairs work experience in the EU institutions is a great advantage and perfect entry point for a career in Brussels.

Liv: Any tips you’d like to share to future candidates? (How to approach CV… is the experience crucial or is it about the personal traits (?)…. )

Chris: Most importantly, do not send a generic email or motivation letter. Personalise and tailor it to the company you apply to. Do your research and be clear why you are interested in the company and the position. Secondly, make sure your CV highlights relevant achievements, which ideally can be quantified, rather than just a description of the task.

What have you achieved during previous work experiences, your studies or voluntary work? For example, if you have organized an event indicate how many people attended, if you regularly blog indicate how many people you usually reach. This makes your CV more meaningful. And yes, make sure it is clearly structured and does not contain any spelling or other mistakes. You will be surprised how many people send CVs full of mistakes which immediately disqualifies them because in a professional services company like Hanover Communications the ability to produce documents of a high quality is important.

Liv: Thanks so much for your time and super-insightful interview!


— Hope you enjoyed this interview – please leave a comment if you liked it! Also, it would be great to hear your experience (good or bad) in Brussels. Feel free to leave any questions – I’m happy to help where I can!