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Interview with Anne Boucher, chief of international HR

The SNCF rail company is looking for international profiles


The SNCF is developing outside its French borders and is looking for international applicants interested in the railway business. Anne Boucher is chief of international HR and she unveiled the expectations of her company.


What share does the international aspect takes in a company with a strong French tradition such as the SNCF?

The presence of SNCF group abroad can be seen in its results: in 2014, 27% of turnover was generated outside France. Out of 250,000 employees in the group, about 20,000 work outside of France in branches. They almost all originally come from countries in which such branches are implemented.

This trend is expected to increase. International development is one of the major challenges defined by the company for the years to come: by 2020, we target 30% of turnover generated abroad. In such a context, the culture of the group is evolving: we want to open our recruitment more on international profiles, including in France.

What qualifications is the SNCF group looking for?

There are major sectors concerned. First, railway infrastructure maintenance and engineering, which are activities carried out within the SNCF network. Second, everything related to exploitation: designing transport plans, managing drivers, maintaining trains, etc. Third, everything related to the management of stations (such as the flow of travellers, information, etc.), and all that can also include construction - it's one of the activities of the AREP branch.

These are major activities of the railway sector.

Yes, they form the core business of the company. In order to master them, it is essential to develop specific skills: even though several schools of engineering such as the ESTACA are beginning to train students in the railway sector, some know-how can only be learnt in the SNCF. Such skills are covered by certifications that employees can obtain during their career.

What type of profiles are you looking for for these activities?

Currently, we are looking for highly qualified professionals with 10+ years of experience. But we are looking ahead and recruiting junior profiles. For the long-term objectives of the international part, we are looking for profiles with Masters or PhD level. We are assessing degree holders from schools of engineering, but also young individuals from university courses carried out in France or abroad.
For several years, we have been working on the feminisation of our technical roles: we are particularly interested in applications from young female engineers.

What skills is the SNCF interested in?

Applicants must have an advanced level in French and English. Mastering an additional language is clearly an asset, whatever the language: Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic... even Swedish, since SNCF is present in Sweden.
We are also looking for the behaviour necessary to work out of your country of origin: adaptation capacity, curiosity, humility, customer focus, social curiosity and technical interest. We are also particularly interested in management capacities: juniors we are recruiting are bound to take team management roles.

In terms of mobility, what prospects does the SNCF offer to its collaborators?

There are two types of mobilities, which can even be complementary: international opportunities and intragroup mobility in France.

Applicants recruited in rail functions will carry out the first years of their career in France. If they wish to work in another country, they can check out employment exchange organized within the SNCF group: there are missions abroad, and particularly in branches. It is also possible to apply directly in those branches.

To maximise your chances to be granted a mission abroad you need to socialize. There is a reason why the SNCF group has developed a specific talent pool: it allows our teams to discover young executives within the group (with less than a 10-years career) with an appetite for the international. They are in charge of dedicated activities such as networking breakfasts with expats and career advisers. We give them the keys to develop their network. We also give them advice on the development of skills so that they gain what the group needs internationally.

Developing a network, carrying out an active surveillance of the market and developing skills are also necessary assets in mobility. It is fairly common to see SNCF collaborators working for a while in a branch of the group, but the contrary is also true for employees in a branch.


Photo credit: Patrick Messina (header) / Pierre Le Tulzo (text)