High living standards and salaries are the main drawcards for those wanting to work in Switzerland. That said, expats will first have to land a job and wade through the residence permit process.
The Swiss economy is particularly stable, and the unemployment rate has stayed relatively low, even during the Eurozone crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Job market in Switzerland
Popular sources of employment for expats include financial services, IT and biotechnology. However, Switzerland's immigration policy is quota-based, and employers can only hire expats if they can prove that a local can't fill the job – so expats allowed to work in Switzerland are generally highly skilled and educated.
The UN and its respective agencies and missions are prominent employers in the country. NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International also have a strong presence, as do media organisations like the Swiss Press Agency and CSR Newswire.
Emerging sectors such as mechanical and electrical engineering, pharmaceuticals and shipping and logistics are also major industries. Although the tourism industry in Switzerland contributes around 2.9 percent to the country's GDP, the service industry is another sector expats can look into as it employs approximately 4 percent of the population.
Many multinational companies use English as their corporate language, but opportunities are limited for expats who don't speak German, French or Italian.
Finding a job in Switzerland
The path to getting a job in Switzerland can be long and challenging, but the potential rewards are worth the effort.
Good ways to look for openings include online and newspaper job listings, company websites and networking with other expats. Once expats find something to apply for, they will need to bring their CVs in line with local standards and apply in the same language as the job advert. The Swiss are known for being detail oriented, and their CVs reflect this, so hiring a translator might be necessary.
Work culture in Switzerland
The country's work culture is mostly formal and task-focused. The Swiss are famously punctual, and arriving late to a meeting or being unprepared will be seen as disrespectful. It's always best to arrive early and confirm appointments ahead of time.
Hierarchy is important and people receive respect based on their rank, education and achievements. Even though executives make the decisions, they look for a broad consensus. Managers are expected to guide their teams, and cooperation is valued.
Business environments in Switzerland tend to be merit-based, but trust is still important in negotiations. The Swiss like dealing with people they know, and often expect long-term commitments from their associates. Negotiations can be prolonged by the trust-building process and the Swiss eye for detail and respect for procedure.
►For info on Swiss business etiquette, see Doing Business in Switzerland
"The job market here is super competitive. If you’re looking to work in a big organisation, you need to have not only the right degrees, but also speak several languages and have international experience and connections. Most young people start out as interns, usually unpaid. My suggestion would be to brush up on languages and apply to anything that even remotely resembles your profile. After that, it’s all about networking."
For more on the Swiss economic and job climate, read our interview with Melissa.
Are you an expat living in Switzerland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Switzerland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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