Working in Switzerland: an open but demanding market


per Maria Roques

If Switzerland does not necessarily come first among the countries that expatriate candidates dream of, the country offers very good opportunities for executives. As long as you keep in mind that the Swiss culture is different and the job market is competitive.

For French executives looking to expatriate, Switzerland is a destination to be seriously considered. Although the job market has been disrupted by Covid, the unemployment rate is now 3%. A situation that, it must be admitted, leaves you dreaming. ” We are in a full employment situationtranslated by David Talerman, author of Working and Living in Switzerland and founder of the website You should know that the situations are different in French-speaking Switzerland and in German-speaking Switzerland, where the unemployment rate is even lower.. A situation that has even become a problem as the country does not have the necessary human resources to support its economic development. It is then important recruit profiles abroad to meet expectations. It should also be noted that this situation is facilitated by bilateral agreements that oblige European citizens to have a signed employment contract or a promise of employment in order to obtain a work permit. Working in Switzerland for the French is therefore quite easy compared to destinations like Canada or the United States.

Watch out for the competition

As a result, there are many opportunities in a wide variety of fields. According to Annalisa von Grünigen, director of S&you and Synergie Switzerland, the opportunities for French executives are real. This concerns in particular professions where training is lacking in the country, such as in the supply chain, quality and certain engineering profiles, aeronautics for example. As for Page Executive, opportunities for French executives in Switzerland should be sought in the areas of healthcare, investment banking, finance, luxury and especially in watchmaking and jewelry. Job offers should also be taken advantage of in the areas of production and more particularly in the chemical industry, but also in the areas of e-commerce, marketing or sales. Within the company Wit Partners, executive positions in the healthcare sector in Switzerland are looking for candidates, but require a perfect knowledge of the healthcare network in Switzerland, which is very specific.

Nathalie Brodard, founder of Brodard Executive Search, confirms these numerous opportunities: “ We do not discriminate based on nationality, our role is to find the right person based on their skills and knowledge. » The current needs are in the IT profiles and, in particular, in the developer positions in which French engineers are well positioned. Nathalie Brodard stresses, however, the need, at the very least, to be fluent in English and, if possible, German. Although there are large French communities in most major Swiss cities, the practice of these two languages ​​seems essential to occupy the vast majority of positions. This Swiss labor market expert also highlights the importance of taking into account the Cost of living in the country. ” Sometimes salaries can make you dream, but with rent, insurance, taxes, you have to do your math very well.insists Nathalie Brodard. I also recommend getting help from an accountant or tax expert to fully understand the rest of your life.. »

Read too : Expatriation: remove mobility clauses!

A qualitative job market

Likewise, to successfully arrive in the country, the most important thing is to understand Swiss culture. ” Switzerland, although it has a common language, France, is a country in its own right, with a very specific culture and work habits. Swiss culture is closer to Japanese culture than French culture.“, assures David Talerman. And the specialist specifies that the market remains very demanding, as companies are used to having many applications. They often have the choice between excellent candidates. ” If a company has a choice between 3 candidates and none of them suits you, it won’t take a while, it won’t take long“, slips David Talerman. Therefore, it is essential to have the most professional approach possible. The Swiss market is much more qualitative than the French market and recruiters’ expectations are different. They will usually seek out more information. ” In Switzerland, you must first try to reassure before trying to convince: reassure about your ability to hold the position, reassure about your skills, reassure about your ability to integrate as a foreigner“, adds David Talerman. According to most of the experts we interviewed for this article, the job market in Switzerland is a very small universe, in which everyone knows everyone else. Therefore, it is essential to prepare well for the process.

a network approach

From this perspective, David Talerman traditionally advises you to be well informed about the sectors and companies that interest you. It is also wise to be careful with advertisements as recruiters often receive hundreds of applications which puts you in a situation of significant competition where your chances can sometimes be slim despite the quality and consistency of your journey. We can’t say it enough: before considering any job change, you need to optimize your LinkedIn profile with the right keywords to make yourself visible. “Of course, recruiters in Switzerland are on LinkedIn and use the platform to search for candidates,” comments David Talerman.

To better prepare for your expatriation, it is also important to start a networking process. And at this point, Covid has had quite good effects because professionals, whatever their sector of activity, are used to being contacted remotely by people they don’t necessarily know. Finally, adapt all the means of communication that allow you to apply in Switzerland to the local culture and market realities. Your resume or your professional social media profiles should be tailored to recruiters’ expectations which will certainly be different from those on the French market. Finally, as stated above, don’t hesitate to learn about the local culture. There is a good chance that the recruiter, during the first meeting, will ask you why you want to settle in Switzerland. Therefore, it is preferable to have solid arguments.

Testimonial: Julie Telliez, Senior Director Global Medical Sciences Roche, Basel

The quality of life is very pleasant

“I came to Switzerland because I have been working at Roche for 7 years and the world headquarters are located in Basel. It has nearly 10,000 employees. After 4 years in Paris at the France branch, I arrived in Switzerland for a mission lasting several months. You should know that the cost of living is high in Switzerland. This period allowed me to confirm my desire to assume an international position and also to appreciate the standard and quality of life. My professional objective was to be at a higher strategic level, mainly in interactions with European and American authorities. After 4 months, a vacancy appeared and, with my partner, we decided to stay in Switzerland. We really like life there. So I applied and got the job about 3 years ago. I was promoted to senior last year. The fact of being expatriated allowed me to increase my level of responsibilities and I consider that in terms of perspectives, it is very interesting to work at the company’s headquarters because it opens up new possibilities, namely that of integrating other subsidiaries. However, you should know that even for internal positions, competition is intense. Many positions are recruited internally and the recruitment processes are demanding with multiple rounds of interviews. Opportunities for evolution exist, but they are not as obvious as you might think. In terms of culture, and the world of work, I think that in Switzerland everything is more flexible, you can potentially adapt your schedule and go do an activity during your lunch break. Days may be longer due to cooperation with countries around the world with different time zones. Finally, the quality of life is very appreciable. The country is not very big and the big cities are well served by public transport. It is possible, for a weekend, to take beautiful walks or spend time by the lakes.”

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