Are language requirements still a thing in the Finnish IT market?

While Finland is consistently titled as the happiest country in the world with its beautiful nature, high educational level and strive for equality, we also have quite a unique language pattern. If you say “kuusi palaa”, that can have nine different meanings depending on the context. No wonder Finnish is considered one of the most cry-inducing languages to learn within Europe and it might evoke some thoughts in the minds of international tech talents.

Due to the Finnish language being quite special, there are a couple of questions that the international talents in our developer community tend to pose. Two of the most frequently asked questions are whether language requirements are a thing in the Finnish developer market and whether it is possible to find a project in Finland without native language skills.

Luckily we’ve talked to hundreds of different clients and hiring managers in the Finnish tech market and we are able to give you a complete, comprehensive answer to this important question: partially, yes – and sometimes, no.

Let us explain. As the developer community grows and becomes more diverse, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that there are opportunities for people of all backgrounds and cultures. While English is the lingua franca of the global tech community, it would be naive to say that language skills wouldn’t have any significant impact on the job hunt. Although they're slowly being phased out, they do still exist.

Projects where Finnish is often required

To grossly generalise, public sector projects and other big & established clients, who are catering solely to Finnish clients tend to require Finnish skills more often than younger or international companies. Of course there are exceptions on both ends, but this might help you navigate a little in the playing field. The need for Finnish emerges when developers need to communicate with their colleagues and clients in their native language and any time – of course, not always – documentation is written in Finnish.

If English is not comfortably used by the people or thoroughly in documentation, it can be quite hard to break that language barrier. The good news is that while many companies still require their developers to speak Finnish, the reality is that many companies now understand that English is the language of business and have started to hire people from all linguistic backgrounds.

Loosening language requirements can benefit companies

While it’s not only convenient to international talents, there are many clear benefits for companies too to opt out on Finnish language requirements:

Companies who don’t require fluent proficiency in the Finnish language have better chances of finding the best possible experts as it widens the talent pool considerably. Loosening language requirements increases diversity and enriches the environment with different viewpoints. Different international perspectives and ideas greatly benefits your organisation and leads to a positive culture reputation in your company Loosening language requirements can further help the client to enter the international market or enforce the already existing presence.

And these are just to name a few. For example, we at Thriv are committed to bringing diversity into our company and we've been working hard to make sure that our team represents a variety of genders, ages and ethnicities.

Don’t let possible language requirements limit yourself

Here are a few of our tips on how to make the most out of your job search and how to make yourself the absolute top candidate for your next project, regardless of language requirements or different cultural backgrounds.

If you have experience from non-Finnish companies, take time to write out a short explanation on what the company does or at least mention the sector where the client is operating at. This is not just for decoration but also beneficial for getting projects. A lot of clients wish that their future freelancer talents have field-specific experience and it’s an absolute bummer if that missing detail is the one to scrap you out of a case.

As an international talent, it is also worthwhile to consider working with freelancer agencies. We’re obviously tooting our horn here, but the truth is that most of the freelancer projects aren’t posted in public forums, but are directly sourced through vetted agencies like Thriv. With agencies you also get to grow your professional network, meet new people in events, receive help with adjusting your market rate, and get guidance for navigating around the world of entrepreneurship. If you’re looking for an inhouse position, public job forums like LinkedIn, Duunitori and Jobly are good places to start.

The importance of honing your CV can’t be neglected either. Your CV is the first handshake you’ll have with a potential client so make sure that it’s a firm one. Check for spelling mistakes and read our killer advice on how to write a CV that sells from our previous blog post.

Take the challenge to learn the language

Finnish is usually mentioned when bringing up hard-to-learn languages. However, it’s definitely not impossible to become a Finnish speaker. So why not give the language a try? Once you get a hang of the base, you’ve done most of the work.

Especially if you’re planning to stay in Finland for a longer period of time, getting familiar with the basics, and most importantly the culture, will always be beneficial. “Moi”, “kiitos” and “ottaako kukaan lisää kahvia?” are always guaranteed winners to learn.

We at Thriv aim to boost your career as a freelance developer and want to ensure that you get the most out of it. Discover the future with us by applying to our developer community!

Read on what is our secret behind our match-making process here.

Linnea Saari - Client Relationship Manager

Linnea Saari

Client Relationship Manager