Straddling the border between Central and South America, Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. From the country’s high altitude sprawling capital Bogotá to the Caribbean island San Andres, Colombia offers some of the best natural resources in the world. The country is known for its robust education system, which makes it an appealing place to build out a local employment hub.
At times, hiring and recruiting in Colombia can be a challenging process for people seeking employment without connections in the country. Many recruiting agencies in Colombia use their own contacts, or find potential talent through Colombia’s prestigious university system.
Hiring throughout the country is largely based on networking and what resources the person doing the hiring has. However, as Colombia has begun to expand into the global job marketplace, the process has become easier, thanks to remote job search engines.
Networking is the basis for hiring and recruiting in Colombia.
Often when a company hires an employee and the job relationship goes well, the human resources (or HR) department will encourage their employee to have their friends apply for similar jobs at the company. This approach has its advantages, as it tends to save money on recruiting costs.
But focusing too much on established networks also has its drawbacks. It can limit an employer’s access to the talent available in the global job market.
Colombia has some of the most prestigious universities in Latin America, with huge areas of focus in finance, medicine and agriculture. Bogotá, Colombia’s capital and largest city, has such a strong reputation for education that it is sometimes referred to as the Athens of South America.
Many Colombian universities offer internship programs (known as practicas) that help students get practical training and employers recruit recent graduates with hands-on experience.
Expats looking to find a job or employment in Colombia can also benefit from university programs, which tend to have more training resources.
Today, more and more employers are using job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn to recruit in Colombia. Employers must post salaries so that prospective employees both in the country and internationally are able to filter and search for the positions that closely align with their expectations.
These job sites are especially helpful in major cities like Bogotá and Medellín, the two cities where industries like tech and finance are expanding the fastest and where salary expectations are highest.
If you’re trying to find a job in a smaller city like Ibague or Santa Manta, it’s still common for businesses to post jobs on actual bulletin boards, or advertise via word of mouth. Companies in these cities usually have fewer resources.
You should research salary ranges and working hours ahead of time, so that you know what to expect when signing a contract. You will probably need to commit to a position for one year, with the option to stay for a second or third year.
Applying for a job and getting an offer is only a first step to actually being granted employment in the country. You will need to make sure that you follow all of the necessary steps for obtaining a work visa, and that your company provides the proper documents for a work permit.
Being bi-lingual is a great advantage for those wanting to work in Colombia. Your interview will likely take place in English, but many companies will want you to speak Spanish in order to accommodate both native speakers in Colombia and to ease communication at a multinational level.
Partnering with an international hiring agency can help you find a position that matches your skillset. Recruitment agencies usually help to expedite the visa process.
However, it’s important to be wary of fake agencies that take advantage of foreigners looking for a job. Here are some tips for working with international recruiting agencies.
Be wary of agencies that charge upfront fees to use their services
Do a quick Google search on the agency before signing up with them. This will help you gather if they are a legitimate agency or not
Do your own research on the minimum wage, salary ranges, and labor laws to ensure that the agency isn’t obligating you into a contract that doesn’t pay well/give you good incentives
However, for native English speakers who wish to teach English as a second language in Colombia, there normally isn’t a bi-lingual requirement. Most educational institutions actually want you to just speak English. You will likely need a college degree, though some private schools might require additional hours of training, such as postgraduate experience in education.
If you’re looking to hire in Colombia, here are a few things companies need to keep in mind as they ramp up their recruiting efforts.
In Colombia, there are anti-discriminatory laws for background checks that have to be followed. You cannot require an employee to take an HIV or pregnancy test, or discriminate against an employee for a disability or disease. Further, you cannot ask potential employees their age, sexual orientation, civil statues, or any political opinions. For example, you cannot offer someone a lower salary because they are pregnant
Unless the employee has an issue that would make them unable to complete required tasks of the job, you should skip performing background checks to avoid potential litigation.
Companies can partner with a third-party international recruitment agency to help them find talent in Colombia, but these services do not usually provide support for payroll, benefits, and compliance.
If your company wants to take care of the recruiting themselves but is looking to outsource payroll and benefits, then they can partner with an international PEO or EOR service. An EOR, or employer-of-record, service like Via ensures that you are following all of the country’s necessary onboarding and offboarding procedures.
When hiring Colombian employees, it is important that you properly classify your independent contractors and employees, especially for remote workers. Proper classification will help you avoid litigation issues as well as problems with taxes. You do not need to have a written agreement with an independent contractor, but an agreement is recommended to establish working boundaries, including working hours.
There are a few important factors to establish when hiring an independent contractor:
The employer has little to no control over the contractor's individual work. If the employer has too much control over the contractors working hours–they are likely an employee.
Employers and contractors should use invoices to keep records to properly pay taxes
Independent contractors must register with the DIAN through their own unique tax register ID in order to properly submit taxes at the end of the year.
Foreign entities do not have to report to the DIAN unless they have a branch or subsidiary. However, they do still need to ensure that they are paying their taxes correctly as well as their independent contractors.
Most importantly, if a business improperly classifies employees in order to avoid payroll taxes, the employer may face litigation from the contractor for not paying them benefits and social security.
Companies of all sizes want to hire remote employees in Colombia, but don’t know how to navigate the country’s local labor laws. Via makes hiring Colombian talent and building your global team seamless. With our easy-to-use platform, Via helps you manage local HR processes for direct employment such as benefits, payroll, background checks, and more. Our team of local labor lawyers and on-the-ground experts ensure that your company remains compliant while expanding abroad. As your employer-or-record/entity in Colombia, Via assumes full responsibility for employment liability, so that you can focus on what matters: recruiting and managing your team.
With Via’s transparent pricing, you can pay full-time employees or contractors in Colombia with no hidden set-up fees, no foreign exchange or transaction fees, and no minimums–start with 1 employee and scale up at your own pace.