Switzerland - why work abroad?

Country: Switzerland
Official languages: French, German, Italian, Romansh
Government: Representative direct democracy
Population: 8 million
Capital: Bern
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
Member EU or EEA: EFTA
Phone code: +41
Internet code: .ch

Why this country?

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.

Looking for work?

Besides newspapers and the Internet, in Switzerland it is common to ask people in your personal network if they have contacts in a company who can let you know about staff needs. Based on this information, you can write a simple application letter.

Tips for job applications?

Written application forms are widely used to recruit staff for specialised profiles and management functions. For less-skilled profiles, initial contact is usually made by phone or via the Internet. Do not send documents that give the impression of having been prepared for general use. Never mention references or letters of recommendation in your covering letter or CV.

Is it standard to include a photo on the CV?

Yes, a good quality photo is welcome.

Is there a preference for handwritten applications?

On the contrary, they are not welcome.

Is the Europass format CV widely used and accepted?

No, it is totally unknown.

Making contact by phone

In the tourism, construction and cleaning sectors, this is the best way to get a job.

Do I need to send diplomas with my application?

If specified in the advertisement, include a copy of your highest-level diploma with your covering letter. However, never include this if you apply spontaneously. Hand it over at your first meeting at the company.

Should I supply references, letters of recommendation or proof of good conduct?

You should be able to provide names of people who can act as referees, if asked. Letters of recommendation are rarely used. If you need proof of good conduct, this is usually mentioned in the job announcement.

Usual length of time between publication of the vacancy and start of the job

Anything from 1 week for jobs in hotels and restaurants, to several weeks for management jobs in public administration or a multinational.

Preparing for the interview

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.

Dress-code tips

Find out about the dress code for the sector and the job and do not overdress. Flashy clothes and jewellery are only appropriate for particular jobs such as saleswomen for jewellery or luxury products.

Who will be there?

Depending on the job and whether there is an HR department, there may be two or three people. In small companies, it may just be the employer.

Do we shake hands?

Yes, shake hands with all those present at the interview.

Is there a typical interview structure?

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.

When is a question out of bounds?

The following subjects are considered private: sexuality, intention to marry, political allegiance, pay in previous jobs, state of health and forced resignation from previous jobs. Nevertheless, some employers may ask a female candidate about her family plans.

Negotiating your pay and benefits

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.

Is a trial period likely?

Work trials are common for low-skilled jobs. For hotel and cleaning jobs, a 1-day trial is usual. This must be paid. You can refuse a trial only if the employer asks you to do it unpaid. Assessments may take 1 or 2 days, but you will not be paid for them.

How long is the standard probationary period?

At the start of any contract there is a probationary period, which is often used as a test period. This can last for 3 months at most. During this period, you can resign or be fired immediately as long as contractual leave times are respected.

Will the employer cover my costs for attending an interview?

No, except in the case of some public services.

When will I hear the result?

You will hear by phone, letter or e-mail. Only when you have written confirmation can you consider the procedure to be concluded.

Getting feedback and further follow-up

The employer does not expect you to follow up on the interview or test results, but you can always say that you would like to have feed¬back and see how the employer reacts.

How early should I arrive for the interview?

Arrive a little in advance of the interview. You can expect the employer to be on time as well.

last modification: 2014-09-04
Privacy Policy