Successful job interview in Panama


passing a job interview in Panama can be a stressful moment, especially you are not familiar with the cultural and professional codes of the country.

How to successfully pass a job interview in Panama ?

What happens during the interview ?

What are the do's and don'ts during a job interview in Panama : what to say or not, what to wear, how to behave ?

Thank you in advance for sharing your experience with us !


Hey everybody,

Great question. I've been on a few job interviews here in Panama. I guess it really depends on the type of job you're applying for.

When I went in for a call center job, I walked in the door, got an interview right away, did a voice assessment to make sure my English was good enough, and was immediately offered a job. I had the job before the drug test results were in.

Don't be surprised when you're sent to get a copy of your police record. It's standard here.

When I interviewed with a major U.S. computer company here in Panama, it was no different than any other interview I'd gone through in the States. This company had everything squared away though before they actually hired me. They waited for my background check in the States, waited for the drug test results, and all that stuff.

I guess since I've interviewed with companies that had English speaking staff, my experience is that it wasn't much different from interviewint in the U.S. I'm not sure about real Panamanian companies and interviews in Spanish.

Here are a few tips I've learned along the way.

Tip 1: Be ready for a much lower pay than you're used to in the U.S.

Tip 2: Have your work papers in order. Working is completely different from residency. It's really hard to find a job without papers here.

Tip 3: Dress up. In the States you wouldn't go to a warehouse picker/packer job in a suit, but here in Panama things are a little different. For example, you can walk into any immigrations building in the U.S. wearing a pair of shorts. Here you can't. Personal appearance is a big deal. You want to show up to any interview, or any business like appointment, dressed as sharp as you can. I've heard of people being offered higher positions simply because they were dressed to impress, compared to some others who showed up in jeans and T-shirt.

Tip 4: This is not the United States. They can ask you just about anything they want during the interview. When I used to interview people in the States, I remember that I wasn't allowed to ask if they were married or had kids because it could lead to discrimination. Here they will ask you about your family.

Tip 5: Make sure you have a professional looking photo of yourself ready to post on your resume. Check with the interviewing company first. Some companies are becoming more modern and don't expect it, but many will want your photo on your resume, which illegal in the U.S.

Tip 6: Always, whether it be in a resume, or during the interview, put an emphasis on time and attendance. No offense to my Panamanian friends, but that laid back mentality usually results in Panamanian workers showing up late or oftentimes not coming in at all. Also, put an emphasis on customer service. Customer service here is in general horrendous. I always make sure to mention during my interviews that one of my greatest strengths is my sense of urgency. I never put off for tomorrow what can be done today.

Tip 7: I probably should have mentioned this earlier in the list, but Panamanians put a great emphasis on education. If you have a strong educational background, make sure that's mentioned at the top of your resume. Seriously, half the time it doesn't matter what area you have a degree in, as long as you have one. I personally do not have a degree. I chose the military route, and that's made things a little tougher than it would be if I had a degree from Harvard.

Hope this helps a little bit.  Good luck.

Hi Michael, thank you very much for these useful tips.:top:


Michael's post covers it really well. I might point out that speaking Spanish is very, very important. If you have a really unique skill that is in really high demand here, such as some highly skilled job on the canal zone widening, you might get by without needing much Spanish, but to survive here it would be very uncomfortable for you without it.

Like Michael says, dress is very important. Always neat hair, shined shoes, heels, etc. It is common practice to see a woman that lives in the countryside in a mud house, walk 3 miles to a bus stop point holding her heels, dressed immaculately, leaving her flip flops alongside the road for pickup when she comes back. Nylons/hose are not usually worn here.

Here's an article from Don Winner's Panama Guide that recently appeared.....

Welcome to Panama Guide
Wednesday, November 09 2011 @ 03:52 PM COT

Panama lacks manpower

Tuesday, November 08 2011 @ 05:16 PM COT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 306
#Panama - The Panamanian labor market is experiencing a dilemma: there is not enough manpower to work in tourism, technology and communications, construction and financial intermediation, among others. A study by the Research Department of Employment, of the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (MITRADEL) realizes it. It also reveals that by the end of this year and in early 2012, more than 11,000 new workers will be required just in the hotel industry. Samuel Vargas, the General Manager of Jobs at MITRADEL explained that just last week they intervened to allow 700 people to be admitted to work on the expansion of the Panama Canal, and by January of next year there will be a need for 2,500 new workers for the new Metro subway system. "The real work on the Metro system will begin in January," he said.
Vargas said that the country companies are having problems because there is not even labor available for such activities as drivers or general assistants. "We have to continue training to meet the high demand," he said. MITRADEL data reveal that in the last job fair held at the Roberto Duran gym on 12 October 2011, more than 100 companies had 14,900 jobs to fill, but the fair was attended by only 5,000 people.

Rafael Chavarria, coordinator of the National Council of Organized Workers, believes that formal education in the country is not doing its job. "The professional and technical institutes should be given more resources, since that is the labor required," said the union leader. He added that the workforce could be trained in the National Training Institute for Human Development. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Did you catch the buried headline? The Ministry of Labor "intervened" to allow 700 foreign laborers enter the country in order to work on the expansion of the Panama Canal. However they didn't actually say that in the article. They don't want to say it. The government of Panama doesn't want to admit that they can't get Panamanians to train up to fill these jobs, so they are very quietly allowing foreigners in, but only when the employers start screaming at the tops of their lungs. I've been preaching this for years. The Panamanian economy continues to grow and expand, meaning more and more jobs are being created all the time. This year growth of more than 10% is expected. However the manpower pool is already stretched thin. The government has been applying band-aid fixes, but pretty soon they are going to have to call out the big guns. Meaning, to loosen up the rules for foreigners to come here to work. And when Panamanians start bitching the answer should be "Do you have a job? If so, then what are you complaining about? If not, here's a list of 9,000 jobs we need to fill. Pick one, and we will train you to fill it. Everyone else with a political agenda, pound sand." And by the way, a road-trip to Panama for every elected politician in Washington DC should be a mandatory assignment. They should have to write a paper that answers the question "What is Panama doing right, and what do we need to change in order to be more like them?"

Nothing to worry about.   You simply are not going to get hired in Panama.  There is a law that states as a foreigner, you cannot work as a doctor, nurse, lawyer, physical therapist, to name a few.   Also, the law requires that if you want to hire a foreigner, you must hire 10 Panamanians for every foreigner you hire.   Don't come to Panama to work, you will not get hired.