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Finding Employment

Switzerland - Finding Employment

Finding a job in Switzerland may be difficult for a foreigner. Competition in the job market is high and to fulfil the employment process you need to have a work permit issued by an employer. For most jobs you will also need to speak the local language. Almost half of the unemployed people in the country are foreigners. On the plus side, if you do manage to find a job, the salaries are amongst the highest in the world, the economy is stable and according to the law, foreigners have to be employed under the same salaries and work conditions as citizens.

The average unemployment rate reached 3.4% in November 2016. You have to note that looking at different parts of the country separately, you will see how divided it is in terms of the unemployment rate. While in Zurich the percentage is around the national average, in Geneva it reaches as high as 5.6%. There are many factors that cause this. Cultural differences, for example, or the local language – French is considered more demanding and more difficult to perfect than German. It may also be a result of incomplete data, due to the fact that not everyone who is unemployed will be registered. While in Geneva, over 60% of unemployed people are registered as such, in Zurich only 39% are. This might be simply caused by differences in approaches to unemployment.

Employment can commence only after you are registered and have obtained Swiss health insurance. An employer cannot hire you without your insurance card number and any work performed before that, even after your work permit is granted, is considered illegal. Hiring a person illegally can result in heavy fines or even prison for the employer and a fine for the employee. Also, no payment will be allowed for the work done in the illegal period.

English is usually required for work, but is not necessarily a big advantage to have over other candidates. Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. In big international companies English will be used on a daily basis, but most likely a local language will also be required. In smaller companies you might be asked for fluency in more than one of the local languages. On top of that most Swiss people speak very good English, so unless you want to become a teacher and you’re a native English speaker, sticking to only this language might not get you any further in the job search. There are of course exceptions: if you’re skilled in engineering and technology, pharmaceuticals, consulting, banking, insurance and IT, financial analyses, business analyses and systems analyses, you might get a job based only on the English language. Some of the international companies that have headquarters in Switzerland and hire English speakers are: Nestlé, Novartis, Zurich Insurance, Roche, Credit Suisse, Adecco, Swiss Re and Glencore. There are also many international organizations that post job offers for English speakers: United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, and the International Red Cross.

The best way to look for a job is online. Just look for “Jobsbörsen” in your search engine and you will find websites which post job offers. They offer customised job searching and an application form. The most well-known are:

Job Agent and
Job Is Job.

Once you have chosen where you want to apply, prepare a CV and a cover letter. Both of these should be written in the language of the advertisement. If English is also required, make a copy in each language. If you have any certificates or references, they will need to be translated as well. Before you send your application off, ask someone to check the spelling and grammar. In your CV, put all the information that is relevant for the job and accentuate the skills that you have gathered and the reasons why you are a perfect candidate. Internships and extracurricular activities are also appreciated, so don’t be afraid to mention them. If you choose to send your application by post, make sure all the documents are printed on good quality paper and look presentable.

Other places where you can search for jobs are:

Newspapers and magazines – the most popular newspapers with job sections are “Temps", "24heures” and “Tagesanzeiger”. Job sections are called Stellenmarkt or offres d’emploi and you can find them in daily, weekly or monthly magazines, Online Newspapers and Zeitung list all of the online newspapers.

Employment agencies – are called Arbeitsvermittlungen or agences de placement and they are commonly used but might have some restrictions on the residence permit. What is worth noting, is that they cannot apply for your residence or work permit. The top two agencies in the country are Manpower and Adecco.

Career fairs – this is an opportunity for employers and candidates to meet, chat and exchange contacts. For many events like this you will need to send your CV first and wait for confirmation. You might also be able to schedule an interview with a particular employer in a certain time slot.

Speculative applications – another approach to job searching is to contact a company directly, without going through the particular application system. Search for the most interesting Swiss companies and check for which positions they are hiring at the moment. Prepare the cover letter, giving the reason for your application, and pass it on with your CV to the head of the human resources department (Personalabteilungsleite - Directeur de Ressources Humaines). You can find a list of the biggest Swiss companies here.

Chamber of commerce – try to search through your country’s Chamber of Commerce – they are also providing job offers on behalf of employers.

Temporary work is a good solution if you can’t or don’t want to find a full time job. You can find a temporary job in all the major economic sectors now, including construction, industry and services, including banking, communications, healthcare, retail, transport, hotels and restaurants. In Switzerland, you can register yourself with an online agency, such as staff-finder.jobs/public/work-temporary-en or swissstaffing.ch/en/branche/temporary-work. The agency looks for potential employers and is a buffer between both of you, so you don’t need to worry about payments and formalities.

Good luck!

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