Applying for a position in Switzerland may follow procedures different from those in the job-seeker's home country. Here are some tips on how to apply like a Swiss.
Making the right impression when applying for a job can mean the difference between landing the perfect career and settling for something else.
Filing a complete application with the proper documents in Switzerland is just the first step towards wooing a would-be employer.
Documents to include
When applying for a job in Switzerland, generally it is better to send all of your documents at once. If in doubt, ask.
Employers often expect job-seekers to send copies of university diplomas, language/work certificates and references along with the CV and covering letter. (Unlike in Britain and the US, workers in Switzerland receive certificates confirming they held a position at a company.) Keep the certificates down to the relevant ones.
If you’re sending your information electronically, be sure your attachments are not so large as to fill up your potential employer's inbox or take a long time to download.
CVs, cover letters: which language?
If the job advertisement is written in German, CVs and covering letters should be in German. If you can find the advertisement written in two different languages (German/French), you can answer in German or French. If the ad is in English, it’s expected that you send your application material in English. Do not send a CV and cover letter in English for a job advertised in another language.
There are no official rules about the translation of documents, such as diplomas and certificates. It depends on how important the documents are for getting the job and in which language they are written. If a document/certificate is very important and it’s not written in German, French, Italian or English, a professional translation may help. Don’t send originals. Some employers may want copies to be notarised.
You should include personal data, work experience, education, language skills, computer skills and any other vital information that will help an employer. Swiss employers often want you to include a photo of yourself. A snapshot taken at a photo booth probably won’t do if you wish to create a good impression.
The basic rules apply for CVs (or résumés) in Switzerland as they presumably do elsewhere: convey your key experiences and skills in succinct, precise language to impress a recruiter quickly.
In broad terms, the CV and covering letter should be no more than one A4 page each. (Though no one will criticise a US applicant who sends documents on 8.5 x 11 stationery). Be sure to explain any gaps in your chronological history. “Travelled for one year through Asia and the South Pacific” will come across far better than leaving that year blank, which could make an employer wonder whether you had a particularly bad work experience that you’d rather omit.
Manpower.ch has examples of how to write cover letters and CVs.
When to follow up
After sending in your documents, firms will probably acknowledge their receipt. If not, you should wait about two weeks before inquiring by phone. Standard Swiss practice says companies will either call you in for an interview or send your documents back.
If after a month you still have heard or received nothing, you can assume that the company is not following Swiss standard procedure, at which point you should call the company and request your documents be returned.
Job interviews carry basically the same format and importance as in English-speaking countries. Some English speakers, particularly from the United States, are surprised at the nature of some of the questions Swiss employers are allowed to ask. Are you married? Do you have children? Do you plan to have more children? There’s no easy way around these, although they may technically be illegal under Switzerland’s Gender Equality Act.