1. About ColombiaColombia
  2. Working conditions
  3. Sectors and companies that are recruiting
  4. Applying for a job
  5. Major recruitment pointers
  6. Recruitment Resources and networks

1. About Colombia

Colombia is a country with a unique culture influenced by a fusion of its indigenous Indian, Spanish and African origins. A diverse geography and warm climate makes Colombia home to some of South America’s richest natural resources such as petroleum, coffee and fruit. Though the country struggles with historical class differences, political conflict and illegal drug cartels, improvements have recently been made socially and economically making Colombia a more inviting country to international investments and business opportunities. For those wanting to conduct business in this emerging market, a thorough understanding of Colombian heritage and culture must be achieved in order to secure your future business success.

The SANTOS administration has highlighted five “locomotives” to stimulate economic growth: extractive industries; agriculture; infrastructure; housing; and innovation. Colombia is third largest exporter of oil to the United States. President SANTOS, inaugurated in August 2010, introduced unprecedented legislation to better distribute extractive industry royalties and compensate Colombians who lost their land due to decades of violence. He also seeks to build on improvements in domestic security and on President URIBE’s promarket economic policies. Foreign direct investment reached a record $10 billion in 2008, but dropped to $7.2 billion in 2009, before beginning to recover in 2010, notably in the oil sector. Pro-business reforms in the oil and gas sectors and export-led growth, fueled mainly by the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, have enhanced Colombia’s investment climate. Inequality, underemployment, and narcotrafficking remain significant challenges, and Colombia’s infrastructure requires major improvements to sustain economic expansion. Because of the global financial crisis and weakening demand for Colombia’s exports, Colombia’s economy grew only 2.7% in 2008, and 0.8% in 2009 but rebounded to around 4.4% in 2010. In late 2010, Colombia experienced its most severe flooding in decades, with damages estimated to exceed $6 billion. The government has encouraged exporters to diversify their customer base beyond the United States and Venezuela, traditionally Colombia’s largest trading partners; the SANTOS administration continues to pursue free trade agreements with Asian and South American partners and a trade accord with Canada is expected to go into effect in 2011, while a negotiated trade agreement with the EU has yet to be approved by the EU parliament. Improved relations with Venezuela have eased worries about restrictions on bilateral trade, but the business sector remains concerned about the pending US Congressional approval of the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.

Population: 44:7 million

GDP per inhabitant (2010): USD 9.800,-

Unemployment rate (09/10): 11.8%

2. Working conditions

Working practices in Colombia
• In most Colombian cities, working hours are generally 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., but may extend until 7.00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Business is rarely conducted at the weekend, which is normally reserved for family.
• It is important to schedule business appointments at least two to three weeks in advance and confirm them once you have arrived in Colombia. Also try to leave a few hours in between them should they go on longer than anticipated.
• Business lunches are a favourable method of conducting business in Colombia and often go on for several hours.

Structure and hierarchy in Colombian companies
• Colombian companies tend to have vertical hierarchies. This hierarchy is an important part of Colombian business culture and should be respected whenever possible.
• Most decisions are made from the top by the senior members of staff, though often opinions and consensus is sought from subordinate employees.
• Titles are important and should be used to show respect to those with authority, especially elder and more senior members of the group.

Working relationships in Colombia
• In Colombian business culture, cultivating close personal relationships and building trust are considered vital components for a successful working environment. Doing Business in Colombia © Communicaid Group Ltd. 2007
• Colombians prefer to do business with people whom they know/trust and it is not uncommon to find many family members working for the same business.

Business practices in Colombia
• Handshakes are the most common form of greeting, though people who know each other well may greet each other with an embrace. Offering your hand upon arrival as well as departure is an essential part of Colombian culture.
• As part of the formality of Colombian business culture, titles are important and frequently used when addressing someone. Courtesy titles such as “Mr” (Señor), “Mrs” (Señora), or “Miss” (Señorita), and professional titles (i.e. “Licenciado”, “Doctor”, “Profesor”) should be used, followed by a surname. Since first names are generally only used with family and close friends, you should wait until invited to address someone in this way.
• The formality of Colombian business culture and flexible attitude towards time often results in business negotiations being a lengthy process. It is imperative not to rush this process and take the time to continue developing relationships for negotiations to be

Colombian business etiquette (Do’s and Don’ts)
DO expect to spend a lot of time getting to know your Colombian business counterparts before any business takes place.
DO translate all your marketing literature, business cards and any other documents you present in your business dealings into Spanish. Failure to do so may jeopardise your business potential.
DO accept invitations from your Colombian business counterparts to social or business occasions. Social events are an ideal time to develop relationships which are an essential part of Colombian business culture. They are also a great opportunity to experience and learn more about Colombian culture.
DON’T rush business dealings with your Colombian colleagues and avoid pressing for final decisions.
DON’T be overly aggressive while negotiating business deals, as it is considered rude and often perceived as arrogant.
DON’T ignore formal Colombian dining etiquette as this will reflect poorly on you as an individual and will also negatively impact any business dealings in Colombia.

Read more: Information about Working conditions in Colombia from

Legal working hours : 48.0 hours per week.

Length of trial / notice period: 1- to 2-months /15 days (in cases of dismissal for cause); otherwise 30 days

Employment formalities: Colombian companies may hire foreign employees after certifying compliance with the legal national-foreign employee ratio (pursuant to Colombian Labor Law, in companies with more than ten employees, Colombian nationals must occupy at least 80 percent of all managerial level positions and 90 percent of non-managerial positions), which will allow the employee to obtain a Temporary Work Visa. Foreign employees have the same rights as Colombian employees. According to Colombian Labor Law, trial periods may not exceed two months for indefinite term contracts and no more than 20 percent of the total term of fixed-term contracts. During the trial period, an employee may be dismissed by the employer without the payment of the legal indemnification. Labor contracts may be terminated without previous notice. The effects of termination vary depending on cause for termination and type of contract. A contract might be terminated with just cause by the employer in the case of an employee’s violation of legal and contractual obligations or internal regulations. In any other event, the contract can be terminated without just cause, but the employer must pay legally specified indemnification.

Read more: Information about employment formalities in Colombia from

3. Sectors that are recruiting

Oil and Gas industries, Infrastructure, Energy, Tourism, Finance.

Companies that are recruiting: Nothing significant.

4. Applying for a job

Application documents: Motivation letter: short and clear. Do not mention your wage claim on the application form. CV and motivation letter should be handed in in Spanish.

Advice regarding the CV: The CV should be organized and also interesting for the selector. Use existing templates to built your CV.

5. Major recruitment pointers

Business Etiquette/knowing how to behave during interviews: In effective Colombia job search, you should complement online job search by methods that are more traditional because Colombian jobs are advertised in different ways and some jobs are not advertised in traditional forms at all. More than half of all Colombia jobs are not advertised at all and are filled through referrals or networking. We refer to this as the “hidden job market” and it is a very important aspect in the job search process.

Once you have a job interview make sure you know the company.

Languages you must be able to speak: Spanish and English.

Flagship training: University of Bogotá.

Compensation&Benefits / Taxes: Fixed salary linked to educational background + experience.

6. Recruitment resources and networks

Important business networking sites:

Where to network: