Tag Archives: Jobs

Who remembers “Sleepless in Seattle?”

Well, if you do remember when it came out in the movie theatre you probably have the same age as me. So what does that mean? It’s hard to find a new job. Anywhere. But if you are new in Switzerland and you do not speak one of the four national languages you are probably on the verge of a nervous breakdown right now. (Another awesome movie btw).


Jobless or at the brink of a nervous breakdown?
Jobless or at the brink of a nervous breakdown?

You have just unpacked your boxes, fixed the electricity in your apartment, got the stove running, know where to buy high-priced groceries at Migros or Coop and are ready to go on the job hunt. Computer in place, Google opened, jobs.ch found and (zack) you send out the first five applications before you start discovering Basel, Zurich or Geneva for the weekend.


Worst case: Less than 24 hours later you find a rejection (Email template along the lines of “we have received your documents but we have other candidates matching the profile better”).


Better case: After an instant “we got your documents please be patient” but then you don’t hear anything for two weeks…or three…or four. You call them nervously after three days. The reaction on the other end is less than friendly. “We will get back to you.” Then you get the rejection. Your application might have gone lost or it might have ended up in a pile of candidates the company kept as “back-up solutions”. But calling them and pestering them after less than three weeks they did not like.


Best case: After about three weeks a nice HR person calls you and invites you for an interview which will happen within a time frame of another three weeks.


You stomp your feet, you bite in your desk and you complain to your partner every night.


So you contact headhunters and recruiting companies and hope they will place you but the sheer amount of them overwhelmes you . You tell your story for the seventh time and all you get is a “There are tons of applicants with your profile in the market: I advise you learn German / French first. Then your chances will be higher to land a job.”


Yes, Switzerland has an official unemployment rate below 4% (3.5%) but all the EU job searchers, expat spouses, self-employed, freelancers and Swiss parents with children do not necessarily appear in this statistic. You need to receive unemployment benefit to be counted as “unemployed”.

Let me share the current three filters in the recruiting process

Filter#1: Global companies have split up Human Resources in factory-like process items.  Filter #1 is a computer that looks for key words. This computer does not care about your feelings.

Filter #2 is a very junior HR coordinator somewhere in Bratislava, Pune, Manila or Costa Rica. Outsourcing and offshoring has led to the creation of shared service centres in most global companies. (These are usually the companies you target first.)

Then the last filter #3 is an HR Recruiter who sometimes is also an outsourced service provider sitting in any location in the world responsible for one silo (line of service) of the organisation. The HR Recruiter often works on a mandate basis but does not necessarily know the hiring manager well nor does he or she know the people in the team.

The hiring manager has certain ideas about the “ideal” candidate and often looks for a more junior version of her self or him self. Hiring managers tend to forget that they are unique so that it will be hard to find the “ideal” match. Many candidates therefore do not even get to the hiring manager as the filter #3 HR recruiter does not want to be seen as not being able to select the right candidates not to come up with the right shortlist.

The process breaks down and everyone is frustrated!

The hiring manager starts talking to her or his colleagues about how “HR is wasting time” and colleagues start talking about the vacancies to the team members. They speak to their friends on Facebook and LinkedIn and suddenly by miracle a good candidate appears through the network. The referrer gets a referral fee and the desperate hiring manager is happy to lower the standards he or she earlier had as the position has now been vacant for a few months.

This is not the “War for talents”. It’s just bad recruiting.

We need to improve recruiting again and come up with better standards.

1)   In my opinion recruiting needs to change, processes need to be reviewed in global companies.

2)   Hiring managers need to open up to a wider range of candidates.

3)   Candidates need to expand their network and use various channels to land a good job.

4)   Cooperation and performance is not predictable in a recruiting process. Even though we have two or three step modular processes with tests, case studies and competency-based questioning we can still hire the wrong person.

5)   Headhunters and recruiting firms need to be more open to candidates and support them better through the process.


What is your experience in the Swiss market?

Share and retweet if you want recruiting to improve.

Recently I was in a negotiation for a new position. Usually I do not like to negotiate but I learnt that if you do not negotiate well you will later never be satisfied with your salary or other elements of the job especially if you constantly feel that you are undervalued. I believe that men are a lot better at negotiating the packages they feel they deserve than women which is one of the reasons why experienced and well qualified women are often lower paid than their male counterparts. There might also be an unconscious bias on the part of the person you are negotiating with. My major learning from the last years in Switzerland is though that you should not settle for a bad package. I learnt that compromising on salary and grade eventually lowers your motivation for a certain role even if you love what you do.

We tend to say „money is not everything“ which is basically a rationalization of our failure at reaching the salary and grade level we expect and deserve. I have also heard statements like „We do not care about titles here.“ or “How will your title make a change in how you perform on the job?”

I do not believe this statement especially if it comes from a person who already has achieved a grade which is very high and respected such as a “Director” or “Partner”.

Maybe we (women) have not learnt to negotiate well when we used to have a male breadwinner at home. In the past a women’s salary might have just been an “additional” income but today women like me contribute our share to the cost of living. In some cases we might not expect a man to pay for our home and want to be self-contained.

In my last two roles I worked as a Global Mobility Leader and often got involved in package negotiations of expatriates. These packages can be very comforting especially if the expat is really the only suitable person for the role. I observed that good negotiators do this:

1)   They know exactly what their market value is even if they go to a different host market.

2)   They never accept a lower net salary.

3)   They never accept a lower grade.

4)   They want to understand the details of the role and the package.

5)   They do not accept the first written offer but come back with suggestions.

6)   They have a back-up plan and don’t lay all their eggs in one basket.

7)   They have defined some limits where they are not willing to compromise.

8)   They actually read the whole contract and attachments and raise questions on misleading provisions.

9)   They do not take all risks involved in an international assignment (such as tax risk, social security and health coverage risks, immigration risks).

So once I understood the details of my new role, I was very committed to doing this job. There were some disadvantages in comparison to my former role. I might not be sleeping at home every night of the week in order to meet clients abroad. I was happy to be flexible because I saw a lot of learning opportunities and the company is a well-respected leader in my field.  I was also happy to start on a very short notice (less than two weeks) and shuffle all my personal commitments around.

I understood (as so many times before) that it was critical that I was on the job fast to take over from another person or to pick up the shambles of the predecessor, who had already left (which happened to me most of the times).

I was getting concerned when we started to negotiate my salary. I thought I had build up a good picture earlier of my salary, bonus and title expectations. Sometimes circumstances can change but my view is that if the interviewers think that you are the best candidate for the role should they not meet your expectations especially if there had been discussions on these earlier on the process? Suddenly it seemed that all my flexibility was taken for granted while some of the basic discussion package points (salary and title) were offered lower than expected.

I am usually a hard worker and my former managers were happy to have me on their teams because I know what I am doing and I can be left running on a long leech. Now, I was wondering that if my future manager starts reducing my value already before I start the job is this a good basis for cooperation?  When I put myself into the shoes of a hiring manager I understand that there might be budget constraints but should you not discuss these with your recruiters before they start their search? Should you not brief your recruiters on what is a must have and where you see this role in the organizational hierarchy?

In negotiations you get to know your counterpart well. I have had cases where because of a bonus figure assignees did not accept a job in the last minute and I have seen people resigning and leaving their employer because they got frustrated about the negotiation process for an international assignment. Also many talented staff resigns, when for the second or third time they expected a promotion and did not get it. At the end of the day we do not just want to deliver we also want to get compensated fairly.  In my case I turned down a great job because in the last minute I found out that the grade for the role was lower than originally communicated. Call me superficial but for me the status that comes with a title is important especially in an international context and when you build up your network from scratch. Once your client, superiors and peers know you, the title might not be important but in the beginning of a new role a title helps people to find orientation. When you start on a higher level than in your last role usually it is expected that you were headhunted for this role. You gain credit. If you accept a lower grade it takes at least one or two years until you have built up the credentials and supporters for a promotion. I was not willing to compromise on title. So once in a while you might have to decline an offer and tell yourself that the next negotiation you will start at an even higher level.

Should the “war for talents” become really serious companies might also have to learn to negotiate better with female candidates because at the end of the day women often have more of a choice to decline an offer and they listen to their gut feeling.

Tips GPT_1Have you thought about relocating to Switzerland, the land of chalets. cheese and chocolate? My series “How to find a job in Switzerland” is offering you (mainly honest) advice. If you still cannot find a job you can always contact me for costly professional support:

  1. Discrimination: In Switzerland (unlike most other countries in the world) it is very common to add a picture and all of your most personal details on your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). This includes but is not limited to your date and place of birth, marital status, names and birth dates of your children, work permit type (L or B), postal address. Some employers even ask you for the birth certificate of your grandfather.
  2. Brand yourself: As an HR person I usually like to see a short “pitch” in the beginning of the resume. Tell me in three bullets who you are and what differentiates you from others.
  3. Experience: Overwhelm the reader with your great experiences and projects. You will probably not get a response or an instant rejection. Limit the explanation of your last three jobs to five bullets. Try to limit one bullet to one line. Concise writing helps!
  4. References: In Switzerland references are official certificates and written testimonials of your former employer. It is not enough to give references upon request. (see my next blog post on testimonials)
  5. Work Permit: Scan your credentials and keep them in an electronic folder (such as dropbox).  You will need your university records and proof of all your jobs for the work permit application.
  6. Networking: Switzerland is a relationship-based culture. Unlike other countries it is very important here to be personally introduced and endorsed if you want to get an apartment, a job or even a good household support. It is also good for you to join a few networks right now. A free networking site is www.glocals.com for example.
  7. Spousal support: If you come to Switzerland with your spouse who is assigned to Switzerland by a large company check their spousal support program. You might get a lump sum for job coaching or free access to good networks.
  8. Industry-specific portals: You may want to start browsing www.jobs.ch, LinkedIn, XING, experteer.ch and alpha.ch for jobs in your area of expertise.
  9. Location: For many Swiss HR people location is really important. It is a small country so there might be a different HR person responsible for a job in Basel if you applied in Zurich, let alone the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Try to find out first who is responsible and direct your application to the right HR contact.
  10. Salary level: Switzerland has a very high salary level. Your expectations might be too low so seek my advice before communicating your expectations to a potential employer.

All the best for your job search in Switzerland.