Costa Rica

  1. About Costa RicaCosta Rica
  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 Costa Rica

Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted 0.7% in 2009, but resumed growth at more than 3% in 2010. While the traditional agricultural exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef are still the backbone of commodity export trade, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export trade in recent years. High value added goods and services, including microchips, have further bolstered exports. Tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange, as Costa Rica’s impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country’s political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the fiscal incentives offered in the free-trade zones; and Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America. However, many business impediments, such as high levels of bureaucracy, difficulty of enforcing contracts, and weak investor protection, remain. Poverty has remained around 15-20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is not highly dependent on remittances as they only represent about 2% of GDP. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of – mostly unskilled – labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system. The US-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force on 1 January 2009, after significant delays within the Costa Rican legislature. CAFTA-DR will likely lead to increased foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including the insurance and telecommunications sectors recently opened to private investors. President CHINCHILLA is likely to push for fiscal reform in the coming year, seeking to boost revenue, possibly through revised tax legislation, to fund an increase in security services and education.

Read more: Information about Costa Rica at

Population: 4.6 million

GDP per inhabitant (2010): USD 12,300,-

Unemployment rate (09/10): 7.3%

2. Working conditions

The maximum daily number of working hours depends on the kind of working day you have, of which there are two in Costa Rica: Normal Working Days or Jornadas Ordinarias Normales, or Special Working Days or Jornadas Especiales o de Excepcion. Both kinds of working days can be subdivided in day and nightshifts. Normal daytime working days may be of maximum 8 hours or 10 hours per day, if the work performed is not heavy or unhealthy work. However, the maximum hours one may work per week is 48. Normal daytime working days take place between 5 AM and 7 PM. Night time jobs are those jobs that take place between 7 PM and 5 AM. Night time jobs may be of no more than 6 hours per day and a working week may be of no more than 36 hours. A mixed working day is when you work shifts that are partly considered daytime and partly considered night time. Mixed shifts may be of 8 hours daily unless you work until 10.30 PM or later in which case shifts are considered night time and may be of only 6 hours. Working on a Saturday is considered a Special Working Days. Special working days also apply to several fields of employment among which domestic servants who can work up till 12 hours a day. If working 12 hours daily one is entitled to a break of at least 1.5 hours. People over 15 years of age but under 18 years of age are also considered to work special working days. People in this age group are not allowed to work more than 6 hours a day and 36 hours per week. Finally, plan to earn about 10 to 15% of what you are earning now for the same job. If you are earning US$100,000, you will maybe make US$15,0000 here. Example: Journeyman auto mechanic making US$90,000 in the USA will make maybe US$15,000 in Costa Rica.

Read more: Information about Working conditions in Costa Rica from

Legal working hours : 48.0 hours per week.

Length of trial / notice period: Several days to 3 months. / Employees of more than 90 days and less than a year are guaranteed a two week notice before being laid off. Those employed after a year are entitled to a one month notice.

Employment formalities: If you are highly skilled in an area where that job cannot be filled by a Costa Rican, the employer can apply for a work permit for one year. This is very difficult to get. Costa Rica is not a third world country. There is a large pool of highly literate and well trained people to fill nearly every job category. In order to work in Costa Rica, you must either be a citizen of Costa Rica or have legal Permanent Residency. With any other residency (rentista, pensionado, etc), you CAN own a business but you can not work in that business. You must hire Costa Rican labor and your responsibility must be limited to management of your business. No labor can be done by you that could be done by a Tico.

3. Sectors that are recruiting

Telecommunication, Agriculture.

Companies that are recruiting: N/a

4. Applying for a job

Speculative applications by mail and Internet are common practice in Costa Rica. Before writing a letter, try and find who is responsible for applications in the target company as this will mean that it gets in front of the right person directly and will have a better chance of being properly considered.

Advice regarding the CV: Cover letter relevance is declining in Costa Rica due to intensive email use. In addition, resumes are now personalized and recruiters do not request letters as often. However, it is always good to have a letter ready to optimize personal marketing and in case it is requested. Cover letters give candidates a chance to catch the attention of potential employers and to provide further details of why they are the right person for the job. They can accompany resumes or can be sent following a meeting or conversation when the resume was submitted. Cover letters, like resumes, must be crafted as much as possible to specific companies. In order to catch the employer’s attention and differentiate the candidate from the competition, the company and the position must be investigated in advance. The ability to mention current information about the target company demonstrates initiative and makes the cover letter more persuasive. Key information sources to conduct company research include the Internet, library reference materials, attending corporate information meetings and talking to people who are familiar with the company. Cover letters in Costa Rica will be effective if they meet at least five basic objectives. They must be specific and personalized, that is, addressed to a particular individual in the target company, preferably the one with decision-making authority. Also, they must make clear why the candidate is interested in working for the firm and explain how he/she can meet one or several needs of the company, preferably based on his/her skills and outstanding achievements. In addition, they must convey the idea that the candidate is the suitable individual for the job. Finally, they should open doors to future action and communication by tactfully, and in a positive way, such as suggest scheduling a meeting.

Read more: Information about Costa Rica at

5. Major recruitment pointers

Business Etiquette/knowing how to behave during interviews:Depending from the company you apply for, tightly ‘casual’ cloths will also do. For example a good pair of jeans with a shirt for will do for both men and women in most of the job interviews. However, there are some companies or fields (big companies, lawyers, accountants etc.) that they use a particular dress code. Learn about the company’s dress core (if there is any) before attending to an interview. If the company does not have any dress code and you are not applying to a field that requires a special dressing, do not attempt to attend at the interview with fancy, colourful clothing because this will only result in expressing your eccentric personality. Remember, despite of the company size, it is a formal interview that you need to be taken seriously!

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

Flagship training: Universidad de Costa Rica, San José; Universidad Nacional, Heredia; Instituto Centroamericano de Administración de Empresas, Alajuela; Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, San Pedro and other locations; Universidad EARTH, Guacimo and other locations; Universidad Veritas, San José

Compensation&Benefits / Taxes: Wages in Costa Rica are much lower than in the US and Europe. It is important to take into account that the cost of living is far lower. Overtime in Costa Rica is paid as the hourly wage plus 50%. Every employee in Costa Rica is entitled on a Christmas bonus or aguinaldo of one month’s salary. This bonus is paid during the first 20 days of December. The Christmas bonus is calculated as an average of last year’s salary.

6. Recruitment resources and networks

Important business networking sites:

Where to network: