Switzerland has one of the most powerful economies in the world. Its largest sector is manufacturing - of chemicals, health and pharmaceutical products, and scientific and precision instruments.
Highly skilled foreign workers have been in demand following changes to freedom of movement rules. Over a quarter of permanent employees are foreign nationals, and many more are short-stay workers or cross-border commuters. Most jobs in Switzerland are in the service sector, a quarter in industry and trade and 4 % in farming. Vacancies in banking have fallen steeply, but those in insurance have risen. The strong currency has led to a decline in tourist numbers, with an impact on jobs in the sector. The most frequently advertised posts are for skilled building-trade workers and nursing professionals.
Research the company in advance: find out about the composition of the management board, the number of employees, the economic sector in which it operates, its competitors and its customers. Look up its environmental policy, its attitude to fair trade and the existence of a social or ethical charter. Be aware of its image overall, and as an employer.
The most topical questions you can expect about your personal competence are questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your flexibility and geographical mobility, your availability and pay expectations.Interviewers take into account your knowledge of the language used for the job, clothing, politeness, tone of voice and the respect shown to the interviewers. Make sure you are well prepared and can give positive answers to tricky questions.
It is important to give specific examples of situations that refer to the answers required and prove that you really do have experience of these situations. For job offers that require knowledge of different languages, the interviewers might switch to one of these languages during the interview, so be honest when you indicate your level of proficiency in a language on your CV.
An interview has a very specific structure: the interviewer introduces himself/herself sets the time frame for the interview and its goals, and gives a brief presentation of the company and the job. They then ask candidates to present themselves and explain their motivation. After that come more detailed questions. At the end of the interview, applicants are asked to state their pay expectations and, if they are still interested in the job, a new meeting may be scheduled.
A minimum of two interviews is usual. Each takes 90 minutes on average (under an hour for less-skilled jobs).
If the interviewer is an HR professional, about half the questions will focus on your social and personal competencies. Use the opportunity to show your motivation for the job and try to highlight all your skills and strengths.
The candidate must show a real interest in the job, be frank and honest, and listen actively. They should ask at the first interview if taking notes is possible. They should also wait to be invited to ask their own questions.
To negotiate a good contract and working conditions, you should be familiar with normal practice in the sector and not be too fussy. In sectors where pay is agreed officially, such as the public and semi-public sectors, there is little room to negotiate.
For minimum and low-wage jobs, it may be possible to agree an increase of about 5-10 % on the company's proposal. For management jobs, it is often the candidate who makes the first proposal on pay. For this to be acceptable, it is important to know the sector and company habits. Remember also that there are big regional differences in pay in Switzerland. In many enterprises, women are paid at least 15 % less than men.
A 13th month's wage is considered a normal part of remuneration. Some companies even offer a 14th month's wage. Bonuses are only given if you achieve your targets.
Pay in Switzerland is quite high but does not include many non-statutory benefits, except for top management jobs. The most common non-statutory benefits that you can negotiate are: part of your travel to work may be considered as work time, medical insurance, additional employer contributions to a retirement fund and a company car. These benefits are negotiable except when they have already been negotiated in general agreements between employers' associations and trade unions.