Tag Archives: Switzerland

This post was first published on LinkedIn.

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Getting a Swiss recruiter’s attention is almost like asking her out on a date. When you write a cover letter you want the other person to like you and find you attractive enough to read your résumé. The cover letter is your appetizer and the résumé is your main course. If you get to the interview stage then that’s like having the dessert on the first date. And after three interviews you might get kissed. I mean you might get the job offer you are longing for.

Don’t spoil the recruiter’s appetite by presenting the main course in the cover letter.

Imagine you are on your first date and your counterpart tells you for half an hour how great he or she is. Rather boring right? You zoom out of the conversation and wish to run away. Same is true if a recruiter reads your whole résumé already in the cover letter.

What could you do to make the conversation more interesting?

Cover letter writing is an art. With modern technology applicants often do not see a need to write a cover letter these days but in my view it is the most artistic part of a good application and in Switzerland it is a MUST.

Many recruiters want to read it. They would like to see you made an effort to get that interview. I receive a number of cover letters and most of them sound like they were copied from a textbook. Only the more personal ones gain my attention. The have to be personal, crisp and show me who you are.

Here are tips for fresh cover letters:

  • Use the correct name of the recruiter instead of Sir or Madam. Make sure you also spell names of references correctly. Be respectful and address recruiters formally.1
  • Make the letter appealing and nice looking by using one font only and adhering to normal letter writing style in the country you are applying to.
  • Speak about the needs of the other party before you speak about your needs.
  • Find a personal connection between either you and the company or you and the recruiter. Maybe you use one of their products or you associate positive feelings with the brand because of a personal story.
  • If you copy and paste (which is not a good idea in general), please check that you did not use the wrong company name or contact person. It helps to read the letter out loud.
  • Use active language and full sentences. When I say active language I ask you to use more verbs than nouns, avoid passive constructs and keep sentences short.
  • If you are not an English native speaker check your translation and let a native speaker review your grammar.
  • Be brief and stick to a maximum of one page. Five paragraphs are sufficient.
  • Add your contact data in the last paragraph especially your phone number and email ID. Make sure your email sounds respectable and the name is memorable.
  • Avoid slang and casual writing style. You are a professional so behave like one! Even if you are from Generation Y or Game, remember that this is a letter and not a chat. The person you want to date might be the age of your parents.
  • I just read a great post by Liz Ryan on LinkedIn about modern companies asking applicants to send them 250 to 300 words to describe their “WHY”. A lot of applications still do not get that this is the whole purpose of the cover letter. I also recommend brainstorming exercises to my clients on why they want to work in the role and the company before they start writing a fresh letter.

Send convincing testimonials

In Switzerland and Germany work certificates, references and testimonials are usually summarized with the word “Zeugnisse“. They are required for any job application. Some employers only request them once you are offered a job, others want to see them when you send your initial application. When a job ad asks you to hand in your complete documentation, then you should include all your work certificates, references and testimonials

Helpful types of work certificates, references and testimonials

1) Work certificates and confirmations 

Show proof from all your previous employments. Here we expect to see a qualitative element in them explaining what you do well and how you performed on your job. If you apply from abroad request a three liner from your previous employer confirming the times you have worked fort hem and a contact person who will give a reference. If you only have names of referees make sure they expect to be called by the potential employer.

2) Certificates of language certifications and seminars

Our assumption is that the more additional training you have undertaken, the better you are at your job. Even if the certification is a bit older it is worthwhile adding it to your file. Make sure all foreign language certifications are translated into English.

3) University and high school diplomas

Usually the last diploma and transcript is required. If your marks do not translate into German try to give an explanation on a separate sheet. Please note that even Switzerland and Germany have completely opposite grading systems so it is always good to explain (1.3 in Germany is excellent, in Switzerland it is a fail).

4) Client testimonials and performance reviews

If you have a chance and it is not against any confidentiality agreements you can add client testimonials and even your performance reviews in your file. It is often more credible to hear words of praise of others than your own. You can ask your former clients and managers to edit and sign a draft that you send to them so they know exactly what you would like them to confirm about you.

How do you arrange your testimonials?

To make it easy for the HR Professional I would advise you sort the testimonials in chronological order and give an overview on a cover page too. Scan all docs in one pdf and make sure that the file size is not more than 2MB as a lot of recruiting platforms won’t accept bigger files. If you do not have all your documents together yet mention on the cover page when you will hand them in.

I hope this post helps you with your job application in Switzerland. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about it.

 

PS: If you feel challenged about finding a job in Switzerland make sure you subscribe here to our newsletter “The Global People Club Sandwich”. We will soon publish “The Global Career Workbook” which should help you with these types of challenges when moving to Switzerland or other countries for your career. 

PPS: One of my favorite blogs about recruiting topics is www.careerrealism.com. You can find helpful resume writing tips there too.

Switzerland, Austria and Germany have changed since the 19th century started.  Not only through the Second World War. Globalization changed our way of working. When my generation went to university we wanted to be “international” but I feel that nowadays this isn’t cool anymore.

Regional identity is trendy. You can see this in political movements from Scotland to Barcelona. You see it in the written expression of dialect versus formal “high“ languages in Spain, the UK, Switzerland and Germany.

I am amused that youth enjoys “Volksmusik” (traditional music) more than rock’n’roll and that the “dirndl” had a revival over the last five years. Even I got one and while it’s ok to be conservative our inner “Heidi” needs to grow up.

Chalet in Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reality is diverse and full of color!

Global companies deal with diversity of their clients and staff. Many diversity and inclusion initiatives are run under affirmative action legislation. In the European Union we discuss quotas for women in leadership roles. We want to avoid gender and cultural bias. We talk about age diversity and feel it’s a solution to the war for talents and lack of skilled labor if we ask our senior worker to stay a few years as consultants after their retirement.

When will we discuss diversity of cultural backgrounds and mention religious diversity in a positive sense? 

In Europe we fought for religious freedom since the enlightenment. So why should we think that religious freedom can only be given to us?

We all believe in Equality, Freedom and Brotherhood. Freedom means that you can chose your religion freely and that you can chose not to believe in anything as well.

We have to develop our collective intercultural sensitivity. We have to drop our assumption that our way to live, work and act is the only correct way in the world.

Intercultural researcher Milton Bennett calls this assumption “ethnocentric”. It comes in a development stage of denial, polarization or minimization. If you take a look at the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity by Milton Bennet you will probably notice that our current public discussion and our media are driven by the denial and polarization stage of intercultural sensitivity. The worldview of “Them” versus “Us” is enforced daily. To me this is propaganda and not very advanced.

Have we not learnt from the past I sometimes ask myself? Do we not understand that the refugees in Europe flee the same terror that we despise? How can we dare to even talk of refugees and terror in the same context?

Watch the media closely. They should know better and be more differentiated. Why would you speak of the percentage of Muslims living in a country as an indicator for the risk of terrorism? That would be like saying: “In Italy we have a high percentage of Catholics. That’s why we believe there is a higher risk for rape of our youth.”

You deduct a behavior from a very small percentage of criminals to the majority with only one common denominator called religion. Have we not learnt statistics? Have we not learnt to be differentiated in our world views?

I think we have to be very careful in our judgements. I condemn terrorism and rape too but I do not relate it to religious or cultural background. 

You might be afraid of what you don’t know and don’t understand. Your parents might have taught you not to talk to strangers and to lock the door. So yes, the first time you see someone who looks different you might be surprised, maybe even a little shocked. Once you get to know the person though did you not notice that they deserve your respect and trust?

With refugees at your doorstep it would be so easy to overcome your fear. Take a first step. Speak to a refugee. Or just speak to a person you don’t know who looks different. Smile at a “foreigner”. Be kind to a person who looks sad.

Open your mind to the endless possibilities of human interaction. Open your heart. Open your home.

Guest post by Martijn Roseboom

Let me start off with introducing myself, I am Martijn Roseboom, 39 years old, married to ‘Bee’, father of a 6 year old girl and 4 year old boy. Since moving to Switzerland I have been a full time stay-at-home dad.

These days most people meet and get married within their social circles. This is the case for us. We met during University where I was studying business economics and my Bee was studying Medicine. I recall discussing for the first time, who would be the breadwinner, as students having some drinks in a bar. When I found out what a doctor is expected to earn and compared this to my own financial prospects, I asked Bee what she planned to do with all of her money. It seemed an awful lot for shopping. The underlying and never questioned assumption underneath was that I would be the breadwinner of the family and take care of all the bills. Bee thought that this was absolutely ridiculous. For me this was one of the core beliefs of what was expected as being a man, and never had imagined otherwise. That was the start of an interesting evening full of (alcohol fueled) heated discussions.

Since leaving University and starting work, we always have been competitive (me mostly) about who would earn the most. In practice we agreed that we would both bring in 50% of the income. When moving abroad for our first international assignment, I had to give up my job and we agreed to combine all our income together. As the ‘trailing spouse’ in Singapore, without a job, I could not do anything without my wife’s signature. This led to the practical situation where I ‘adopted’ my wife’s last name and this was also clearly stated on my credit card and all other bills. This was the ultimate reversal of the concept that I had as a man and being the breadwinner. All of this changed again back to ‘normal’ when I found a job in Singapore. However now that we have moved to Switzerland, I find myself in the same situation, except that this time I at least can use my own last name and can prove this with my credit card.

Whilst it is more common to see that nowadays there are more female breadwinners out there, it is something that remains frowned upon. Whilst on a family level, this is clearly the best way forward for all of us, it is still sometimes challenging. The biggest challenge is the stereotype I have that the man needs to be the breadwinner of the house. This leads to not always appreciating the opportunities it brings. The best thing is being an integral part and see the kids growing up. The only thing I miss is more men in the same situation. It remains socially frowned upon for a married man to ask another woman out for a drink. Even if it is coffee and there are kids running around all over the place. Let’s hope this will be a normal way for dad’s to spend their mornings in the future.

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Martijn Roseboom, President Partner Committee International Dual Career Network (IDCN)

LinkedIn: Martijn Roseboom

Even if you’re super excited about the new position or company, moving or relocating is still complicated. Potential obstacles to international assignment success are almost innumerable: tax complications, cultural incompatibility, economic crises, security concerns and political unrest. With all of this, what remains the biggest threat to assignment success? It comes not from external forces, but from within. Study after study shows that family concerns are the leading cause of failure among expatriate employees.

So here you are, settled in Switzerland and ready to start looking for a job. Your spouse, whose international assignment led you here, in the first place, is trying to adjust to his/her new job. The children are feeling comfortable in their new school and your house finally feels like home. Eager to re-establish your professional self, you prep your résumé, send it out and wait for the interview invitations to roll in. After all, you’ve been working in your field for 15 years in a well-known company. So what’s with all the rejection emails you’re getting?
When a dual-career family accepts an international assignment, it’s likely that the trailing spouse will be left with the challenge of finding a new professional identity. In many cases the visa issued to the non-working partner limits the kind of contracted employment they can accept, the type of work that existed back home doesn’t necessarily exist in Switzerland or requires speaking the local language plus one of the other three official languages, and sometimes it’s a simple matter of adapting your résumé to Swiss standards. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable and expected to include your picture, birth date, marital status, citizenship and visa type in your résumé.0010044439P-849x565
An experienced international career consultant can be an essential ingredient to the success of an overseas assignment, helping the accompanying partner to avoid the pitfalls of an interrupted career, even if employment is not an available option. If an organization wants to protect and capitalize on its investment in global assignments, it needs to address the needs of the whole family in its international relocation policy. And in today’s world, this includes offering assistance that addresses the career aspirations of the accompanying partner.
Expat spouses who are in search of new employment, is a common theme for many coaching sessions. Giving up your career for the sake of your partner’s means you’ve lost an important part of yourself and often feel lost. While the assigned partner starts a new career and receives career coaching from his/her company, the non-working partner is on his/her own, feeling alone and depressed. This inevitably leads to frustrations in the relationship.

What can you do, when you are in such a situation?
1. Gather as much information about your host labour market as possible.
2. Take time to get to know your new environment before you decide to get employed.
3. Find professional advice on how to adapt your résumé to the local market.
4. Define your transferrable and global skills.
5. Discuss freelancing with your former employer before you quit.
6. Get a “return ticket” to your former employer.
7. Choose volunteer services that would enhance your resume.
8. If not employed immediately, use the time to further your education or diploma.
9. Discuss with your spouse how your career, not just theirs, will benefit from the move.
10. Agree on a long-term vision of both of your careers and how they will fit in your life plan.

Relocation itself could be one of the most stressful changes in life but these tips and advices will not only help during your time in Switzerland, but also prepare you for the next time you move to a new place.

Tell us about challenges that you’ve faced during your transition!

Once you understand how to adapt your application strategy to Switzerland you might feel frustrated by the amount of rejections you have received to date. Many of my clients are very eager in the beginning of their job search and after about two months reality of the Swiss job market hits them. My advice to clients in this case is to focus on two to three applications per week. However, make them count.

 

1) Stand out of the crowd by using your network

Use your network to follow up on your application or to support your application. Many HR processes in Switzerland are very standardized. It is usually necessary that you apply through a website first. However, you can ask your contacts in the company to follow up and support your application. This way the recruiter will be more inclined to take a closer look.

 

2) Have a perfectly branded motivation letter and résumé

I advise to seek a coach or consultant if you are not sure how to brand yourself. Most of my clients cannot tell me who they are professionally. We usually work that out within the first month of our cooperation. Once you know what you are good at, you still need to brand it in a way that is understood by your wider audience (not only by peers or similar professionals). This is not so easy but it can be done.

 

3) Less is more

Only apply to roles where you fulfil 70% of the criteria. Be honest to yourself. Then write on a piece of paper what you like about the company. On a second piece of paper note why you would like to work in this role. Based on these notes write a new motivation letter from scratch. This way you will avoid the copy and paste taste many motivation letters have.

 

4) Patience is key

The recruiters are under a lot of pressure to make the right choice so be patient and nice with them. If you follow up wait for two weeks before doing so. If you follow up over the phone ensure they have time to understand who you are. Try to connect with the person by being friendly and professional.

Tips GPT_7

Understand the recruiting market

Unlike other countries in the Swiss cultural norm is to be transactional and sequential. That means that many professional do not like to be disturbed in their way of handling a process (one candidate at a time). Even Swiss HR colleagues tell me that recruiting has become really low in standard.

 

A fast turnaround and response time used to be considered market relevant when I was hired in 1997 for the first time. Within 10 days of handing in my applications I had been to an assessment of two days and been given an offer within less than three weeks (as a graduate).

 

Nowadays, HR has hardly any decision making power in the recruiting process. Often the recruiter has to wait for feedback from the line manager for days. Also, most line managers increase the minimum requirements for candidates on a daily basis. Often they change their initial search as they are basically looking for a mini-version of themselves.

 

Another issue is the time component. Professionals and especially Line Managers have such an overbooked agenda that it is very hard to block interview times in their schedules.

 

I know: These challenges exist across the globe but you must not forget that here the recruiters hire for about 50 roles at the same time. Switzerland is still growing in many business areas. So be patient and kind and show a bit of understanding.

 

Again, the advantage is that the Swiss like to work with perfection. The least you can expect is a professional interview process and a personalized feedback once you made it to the interview stage.

Discrimination Issues

 

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 and validity, postal address.

You may be discriminated purely on this basis.

Increasingly Swiss role descriptions demand “Swiss German” (which is a dialect not a language) and knowledge of the Swiss market.

Other reasons why you might end up in the rejection pile that are not really related to your professional experience:

  • Salary expectations: Switzerland has a very high salary level. Still, if your expectations do not match the budget of the position you could instantly be selected for the “rejection” pile.
  • Resignation period: You might have a non-negotiable resignation period. Usually staff is needed yesterday and most companies are not organized enough to hire a candidate before the current position holder runs off.
  • Children: Your young children cause concern about your availability.
  • Woman in their 30ies: Your age and gender causes concern about you having children.
  • Number of moves: Your annual job changes indicate you are a troublemaker
  • Social Media: Your Facebook pictures indicate you are partying to hard or likely to cause trouble.
  • Lack of German or French: Your lack of language skills is interpreted as a lack of respect for the Swiss culture.
  • Longer periods of unemployment or education periods.
  • The missing “rote Faden”: The most prominent cultural tendency in this country is “Uncertainty Avoidance” (check out G. Hofstede’s definition). Basically, you will need to fit into a shoe like Cinderella. If that shoe is too big (or goodness you have the same amount as Imelda Marcos) the recruiter might think you are not an “earnest professional” but a “Hans Dampf in allen Gassen”.

 

Most of my clients hate it when I tell them that they have to brand themselves in one area, which might narrow their “shoe” to Cinderella’s size. It is not against you. Just painful experience and understanding the market a bit longer. I talk to headhunters and HR recruiters. Their band with for your multitalented selves is limited. Make it easier for them to work with you and keep 60% of your talents in the drawer for later use. If you need someone to tell you what a wonderful person you are you can always email me.