Tips on how to find work in Zurich, including information on Zurich’s current job market and vacancies, Swiss work permits, and where to find jobs in Zurich.
If you’re looking to work in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, you’ll find many jobs particularly for highly skilled workers and those in the financial sector. Foreigners from a country inside the European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) can come freely to Zurich and look for work. Everyone else, however, must have an employment contract first and there are strict quotas, even for highly skilled professionals.
Overview of jobs in Zurich
Zurich is regarded as Switzerland’s economic powerhouse and is one of the world’s most important financial centres. According to the City of Zurich’s official portal, the financial sector generates about a third of the wealth and a quarter of the jobs in the city but there are other industries in the Greater Zurich Area, which employ around 1.5 million multilingual and international workers in 150,000 companies. Biotech, life sciences, aerospace, automotive supply, creative economy and tourism are all expanding sectors.
Studies by Credit Suisse and UBS found that Zurich is the second most attractive place in Switzerland (after Zug) for international companies to set up businesses. It’s attractive for employees, too; besides offering a high quality of life, the USB survey (2012) of 72 cities around the world showed that Zurich and Geneva offered some of the highest net salaries. EURES estimates that about 230,000 employees in the region are foreign nationals.
For general information on working in Switzerland, including country-wide job portals and agencies, work opportunities, visas, and work permits and getting qualifications recognized, see Expatica’s guide to finding jobs in Switzerland. To get started on your search for a job in Zurich, this guide includes specific information on what jobs are available in Zurich and advice on where to find them.
Work in Zurich
The job market and available jobs in Zurich
Most jobs for expats are in the finance sector, such as banking, accountancy, tax consultancy, business consultancy, and wealth management, although this sector has seen job losses in recent years. You can check the career pages of big financial names in the city such as Crédit Suisse, Swiss Life, Swiss Re, the Zurich Insurance Group, UBS, and AXA Winterthur.
The presence of Zurich University, the ETH Zurich and nearby University of St Gallen all have an impact on the growth of medical technology, microtech, nanotech, and IT industries in the Greater Zurich Area. There are also various multinationals in Zurich such as Google, IBM, Microsoft, Bayer, Pfizer, PWC, BMW, Fiat, Renault, and Volvo; click to see their career pages.
Other important sectors include architecture, engineering, the media, health, wholesale trade (especially data processing equipment and industrial machines), commerce, shipping, and education.
Zurich work environment and culture
The work environment in Zurich tends to be formal and conservative. Working hours are between 40 and 44 hours per week but can be up to 50 hours a week. Strictly speaking, overtime is limited to two extra hours a day with 25 percent overtime pay or time off in lieu but many people work more than this for no extra pay. There are 20 days annual leave plus Swiss national holidays and Zurich’s own two extra public holidays. Read more in Expatica’s guide to management culture in Switzerland.
Visas and work permits
Most citizens from countries in the EU or EFTA (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) can come to Zurich without a visa, look for work for up to 90 days, and work without the need for a work permit. After 90 days, EU/EFTA citizens must prove financial solvency (for example, by having an employment contract) and register for a residence permit here. There are restrictions on Croatians, Bulgarians, and Romanian citizens coming to work in Zurich at present.
For everyone else, there are strict quotas; permits are typically limited to managers, specialists, and the highly qualified. Employers have to prove the job cannot be done by a local and apply for a permit on your behalf. For more information, see Expatica’s guide to Swiss work permits.
The official language of Zurich is Swiss German although English and French are widely spoken. Many of the IT, computing, banking, and engineering companies in Zurich will employ non-German speaking staff for skilled jobs that don’t involve Swiss customer services. If you can speak and write German you will greatly increase your chances of getting a job.
Finding jobs in Zurich
Jobs for EU/EFTA citizens
If you are from the EU/EFTA, and are in Switzerland and looking for a job in Zurich, you can register at the regional employment office through the Zurich cantonal authority. EU citizens can also look for work via EURES (the European Job Mobility Portal).
Job websites in Zurich
General job websites in Zurich:
- NZZ Executive
Specialist job websites in Zurich:
- Euraxess Researchers in Motion – researchers
- experteer.ch – managers
- medTalents – healthcare
- ICT Career – IT jobs
- Robert Walters – business, finance, accounting
- Sozjobs – for jobs in heath care and social services
- University of Zurich job portal – academic
Jobs for English speakers in Zurich:
- JobsinZurich – for English speaking professionals
Recruitment agencies and headhunters in Zurich
Click here for a list of employment agencies in Zurich.
Newspapers and other publications in Zurich
Contacting companies in Zurich
You can visit company websites for job vacancies or contact companies directly with speculative applications. Check on the website beforehand to see if they accept unsolicited applications, as not all do. Address your application to the person responsible for recruitment, such as the head of the human resources department (personalabteilungsleite).
Teaching English in Zurich
There’s not a huge demand for teaching English in Zurich; most residents already have a good understanding of English. However, there are opportunities to teach in a business setting, privately or in one of Zurich’s language schools; for the latter, you’ll need a degree and a TEFL, TESL or CELTA qualification plus a few years’ experience. Schools include LSI, The Cambridge Institute, and Berlitz. You can also look for jobs teaching English (or other languages) on the general job websites.
Working as an au pair or nanny in Zurich
If you want to come to Zurich to work as an au pair, citizens of EU/EFTA countries do not need to go through agencies but can organize placements themselves. If you are from a country outside of the EU/EFTA, you must go through a licensed Swiss au pair placement agency.
The agency will submit the application (and visa) through the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the canton’s Office of Economy and Labour (Amt für Wirtschaft und Arbeit or AWA). Here are some au pair agencies licensed by the Swiss government that send au pairs to Zurich: Pro Filia, My Happy Family, The Perfect Way, and Au Pair Link.
Networking in Zurich
Contact the various foreign chamber of commerce of your home country in Switzerland, as they sometimes have a database of job vacancies. Professional networking groups in Zurich include:
- Professional Women’s Network (PWN) Zug & Zurich,
- Professional Women’s Club of Zurich (PAWZ)
- Young & Professional (careers in finance and consulting).
You can also find like-minded people in the Zurich Networking Group or through Zurich Professional Networking Meetup group. There are lots of different groups on Meetup but if you don’t see a group that’s right for you, start your own.
Applying for a job in Zurich
For more detailed information, see Expatica’s guide to applying for a job in Switzerland. To start you off, here are some tips:
- Send in a comprehensive, professional-looking application dossier tailored to the specific job, containing your CV, a covering motivational letter, and copies of educational certificates and employment references. If applying online, attach everything logically and label files clearly.
- Keep your CV to no more than two pages, with information laid out in reverse order, any gaps explained, and highlighting language ability/qualifications with internationally recognized levels.
- Include a good, business-like photograph with your CV.
- The covering letter should be formal and concise outlining your current job, your qualifications for the new post, why you’re qualified for it, and what you can bring to the role.
- Check that grammar and spelling are correct.
- It’s important to be punctual for interviews.
- If you’re not in Zurich, initial interviews may be via Skype or FaceTime.