You may be living abroad, thinking to someday work in Switzerland.
Or you may already be here as a trailing spouse. Either way, these tips will hopefully help you to navigate the Swiss job market. Our goal is for you to successfully apply for employment in your new home.
Depending on who you talk to, the opinion is that the job market has dried up. So your chances as a multilingual, talented future worker are quite good! But I want you to keep in mind that regardless, Swiss employers like bulky resumes with as much detail as possible. There is simply no way around gearing up for job hunting, even if your qualifications speak for themselves...
Swissifying your resume
You should know that a Swiss resume (or "CV") has very peculiar requirements compared to other parts of the world. As you will see, you are expected to include both professional and personal information.
Even a photograph is required! While you are probably on a shoe-string budget, it is really important to have a professional photograph taken somewhere in town. First impressions count, so it would be a shame to miss the chance to shine.
Expatica has published a helpful guide on writing a Swiss CV. Just remember to include as many certificates and artefacts as possible, such as language certifications or course completion documents from night school.
Searching and networking
If you take a look at job listings in your local newspaper, you will probably notice lots of ads in German. Therefore, this should not be your primary strategy for uncovering job leads. Instead, a majority of jobs requiring English skills will be listed on websites or can be found through job agencies.
Another way of finding companies that hire employees with foreign language talents is through proactive networking. Get to know your local expat groups, mingle after work and meet their Swiss friends, and casually inquire as to where other expats might work. You would be surprised at the number of companies in Switzerland with an English language policy. Think insurance companies, hedge funds, banks, non-profit organizations etc.
Also, sign up for a profile on LinkedIn and actively promote it by adding connections in those companies of interest.
Applying for a job in Switzerland
In regards to the language of your application, a rule of thumb is that you should submit it in the same language as the original job posting. In other words, if the posting is in English, submit a resume in English.
In most cases, you will be expected to submit a letter of recommendation from your previous employer (Arbeitszeugnis), so make sure to include it with your initial application. Obviously, do not skip the cover letter. This is the most powerful tool to get your CV the exposure it really deserves!
Negotiating your pay, job title and fringe benefits
Do not expect to know how much you are going to earn before the interview takes place. Salaries are never published in the offer letter and are most of the time negotiable. However, remember that you are in Switzerland, so ask for more than you would expect in your home country.
As a rough guide, you can also wade through the salary-related posts on the English Forum... And be aware that the Swiss usually talk about salary per month as opposed to per year. In other words, someone will say that the salary is CHF 6000, meaning CHF 6000 x 13 = CHF 78'000.
Finally, salary is not the only dimension you can bring up in negotiations. Often, the job title is something to discuss (i.e. "senior" vs. "junior"). Possible fringe benefits to consider are a half fare pass for public transportation (Halbtax-Abo), the possibility of working from the home office, or a contribution towards your wireless plan.
Some advice about job sources
- Do not only focus on the big online job boards (monster.ch, jobscout24.ch, jobs.ch), but also check for any vacancies that companies publish on their own websites.
- Sometimes, the perfect job pops up in the most unlikely place. It is important to go out there and network, letting everyone know that you are in the market.