Applying for a Swiss job – CV and interview tips
When looking for jobs in Switzerland, learn how to write a Swiss-style CV and cover letter, plus information and tips on what to expect in a Swiss job interview.
Once you find a job in Switzerland, you can increase your chances of getting hired by adapting your CV and interview style to the expectations of Swiss employers. Don’t just send the company the same CV you’ve used for jobs in your home country, but give yourself the best chance of getting a job in Switzerland by producing a Swiss-style CV and accompanying cover letter. You’ll also need to know what to expect if you are invited to a Swiss job interview, to help avoid any cultural blunders.
Your Swiss job application
A Swiss job application usually consists of a CV, a cover letter and copies of all your educational certificates and references or testimonials. If you’re sending the application in by post, then print everything on quality paper and make sure the presentation is as good as possible – this has value in Switzerland.
If you’re sending the application electronically, in addition to thinking about layout and presentation, make sure you have a specific address, not ‘info@’, and use common formats (eg. PDF) for attachments – don’t send large attachments which will take a long time to download and irritate the recipient.
When you’re thinking about what information to include in the CV and cover letter, don’t forget any relevant activities, skills and achievements outside of your formal employment history or education. High-level educational qualifications are becoming more commonplace, so Swiss employers will look carefully at any work experience (including apprenticeships) and extra-curricular activities when considering applications. Think about how soft skills acquired elsewhere can be transferred to the position for which you’re applying.
A study conducted by Wichita State University scored the following letter-types as most 'trustworthy and appropriate': Calibri, Corbel, Candara, Cambria, Verdana, Arial, Times New Roman, Constantia, Georgia, Century, and Gothic.
Which language should you apply in?
If possible, write the CV and covering letter in the language of the job advert or in the language of the company, if you’re applying speculatively. If the advert is in French or German but it asks for an application in English, then send in the CV and covering letter in each language. Don’t apply in English if the job is advertised in another language. If you’re writing in a foreign language, ask a native speaker to check your application for grammar and spelling errors before sending it in. You may need to have any testimonials and references translated too.
Preparing a Swiss-style CV
Your Swiss-style CV can be up to three sides of A4 but ideally two sides, depending on how long you’ve been working or how much (relevant) experience you have. If you can't fit all your professional experience, you might consider linking to a personal business webpage or LinkeIn profile.
Make sure the grammar and spelling are perfect – the Swiss attach a lot of importance to a well-written CV.
In terms of structure, a Swiss CV is similar to that of a British CV or American résumé, in which information is provided in chronological or reverse chronological order, under the following headings:
- Name and contact details, including nationality/residency permit and a professional email address.
- A professional profile – your current job, career goal and main strengths.
- Work/professional experience, listing job title, details of company, dates and key responsibilities and achievements. Swiss recruiters put a lot of emphasis on work experience so make sure you include everything – both paid work and unpaid/voluntary work – that’s relevant to the position.
- Education (put education first if you are applying for your first job), with name of the university, course, dates and attainment level.
- Languages, with level of proficiency (even if only basic), and certificates awarded.
- Computer skills, listing software you can use and level of proficiency.
- Non-work related activities and personal interests – be specific, rather than just listing ‘reading’ or ‘travel’, and highlight any skills related to the job for which you’re applying.
Be precise and concise, using bullet-pointed lists where appropriate. Provide an explanation for any gaps.
It is not unusual in Switzerland to include personal details, such as a photo, marital status and age, but not always required so it can be a personal choice. If you are asked to send a photo, choose a recent, professional-looking one.
Resist the urge to brag or lie about your experience or qualifications. Swiss culture tends to be modest, so avoid coming across as boastful when describing – whether on paper or verbally – your achievements and professional successes.
You can do an internet search to find examples of Swiss-style CVs; office.microsoft.com provides a range of general templates, while manpower.ch and cursiveq.com are just two resources that offer downloads of Swiss-centric CVs but there are many available, so select wisely.
Swiss-style covering letter
Your cover letter is important and should be well-structured, formal and short: ideally no more than one side of A4, with specific information relevant to the job.
Put your own name and address top left, followed by the name of the person you’re writing to and the company name and address, the place and date. Then, in bold, the position you’re applying for and where you saw the advert.
Then you can begin the letter. The aim is to convince the person reading the letter that you’re the perfect match for the job, in a brief but convincing way, emphasising your skills and experience, and highlighting how you can use them to help the company. You should only write the letter by hand if the company has requested it. Don’t forget to give it a final check for spelling and grammar errors.
Swiss job interviews and the selection procedure
In Switzerland, the person you’ll be working for – your prospective boss – will usually be present at your interview. Do your homework beforehand and be prepared to answer questions about the company and your motivation for the job. You may be asked to take psychological and psychometrical tests. You might be asked about your salary expectations at the interview stage, as the salary is not always included in Swiss job adverts. Have a salary range in mind (bearing in mind taxes and the high cost of living in Switzerland) and be prepared to negotiate if you’re offered the job.
- Dress conservatively and formally – no jeans or trainers.
- Be punctual.
- When you meet the interviewers, greet them with a firm handshake and maintain good eye contact.
- Don’t sit until you’re invited to do so.
- Use last names and the formal Sie/Vous/Lei during the interview.
- Provide examples to illustrate your achievements.
- Ask questions to show your interest in the job and the company.
- Emphasise how your past experience relates to the job and equips you with the skills to take on the job.
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question.
- Don’t criticise former employers.
- Don’t exaggerate – stick to the facts.
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