How to get a job in Zurich: 8 steps

28.09.17
10 minute read
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As well as being Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich is regularly voted as being one of the best places to live in the world. Despite being notoriously costly, smart city planning means that Zurich is easy to navigate with enviable facilities for outdoor living, exercise, culture and plain old fun. It’s not surprising that so many foreigners come to Zurich to work and live.

Despite being the birthplace of the Swiss Stock Exchange and the home of Swiss finance, around 80% of people in Zurich are employed in the service industry in some form. There are also large global pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies based in Zurich, and a healthy tourism industry which creates a fair number of jobs for English speakers.

If you’re looking to get hired in Zurich, check out this quick guide to find out how to go about it.

1. Make sure you’re eligible to work in Zurich

Before you start to look for a job in Zurich, you should check if there are any steps you need to take in order to work legally there.

Although Switzerland isn’t a member of the European Union (EU), there are agreements with the EU to make processes for immigration within Europe easier. This means that if you’re a citizen of another EU country, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you can work (or look for work while based in Switzerland) for up to 90 days without a permit. After that, you still need to get a work permit, but this is relatively easy if you’re from the EU.

If you’re from outside of the EU, you’ll need to have a permit to work in Zurich or elsewhere in Switzerland. All of the details are in this quick guide to getting a work visa for Switzerland.

When it comes to Swiss visas for non-EU nationals, including US citizens, you have to contend with a quota system. You’ll only be offered a visa if you fulfil all the requirements, and the quotas haven’t already been reached. Usually, visas are only issued for professional level jobs which come with a higher than average salary. You’ll need to have a job before you can apply for a visa, as your prospective boss will have to show the authorities that you’re the best person for the job. In addition, they must show that nobody from the EU or Switzerland could have been employed instead.

2.  Consider the types of available jobs

Zurich is one of Switzerland’s busiest and most prosperous cities, so there are lots of jobs available. Keep in mind that competition is fierce, so getting to know the market is essential. The Swiss government website has lots of information for a foreigners looking for work in Switzerland, which can easily form the basis of your research.

Banking is huge in Zurich with Credit Suisse, a major player, headquartered there. Also in financial services, whether you’re a recent graduate or an experienced professional, if you’re looking for an insurance job in Zurich check out Zurich Insurance. Covering the globe, the firm are market leaders working in many aspects of insurance, and proud of the professional development offered to their global team.

Outside of banking, if you’re an engineer, you’re sure to have heard of ABB, who have a large office in Zurich. With many of their top management positions based in Switzerland, this is a great place for middle to senior managers looking for Zurich expat jobs in a global engineering business.

Zurich Airport is one of the larger employers in the area, and the busiest airport in Switzerland. They employ over 1,600 people in customer facing, safety and specialist roles, as well as large corporate teams. It’s not all about jobs airside, as additional available jobs include areas like HR, finance, real estate, corporate communications and public affairs.

If you want a part time job while you study, or an internship in Zurich for the holidays, you can find these too. Not only are there commercial opportunities, there are jobs at the University of Zurich too. International students are typically allowed to work around 15 hours a week on a student visa. Check out the full range of University of Zurich jobs and internships online.

Alternative jobs for English speakers, which might be flexible around other study commitments, include teaching English, proofreading and translating. Find opportunities online or through word of mouth, and use social media to market your services.

Finally, you might be considering au pair jobs in Switzerland. It's possible to find a great au pair job in Zurich, but you’ll need to make some relatively complex visa arrangements if you're from America or elsewhere outside the EU. Be prepared for this to take some time.

Of course, you’ll want to know a bit about how the salaries and costs of living in Switzerland can work out, specifically in Zurich. If you have a specific company or role in mind, Glassdoor can be a great way of getting insight into the company culture and likely salary ranges. For the cost of living information compared to your current home, try Numbeo, where you can compare costs of rent, groceries, utilities and so on.

3. Look online

When it comes to job hunting, the internet is your friend. Aside from the most popular job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster, there are lots of local sites to choose from. If you’re applying from abroad make sure you specify when you’ll be arriving in Switzerland, and what your nationality and visa status is, so the recruiter can take that into consideration.

Try these Zurich specific job sites as a starting point:

  • Jobs in Zurich specialises in expat roles aimed at English speakers and US citizens looking for jobs in Switzerland.

  • The job board at the Swiss version of The Local is dedicated to jobs working in English in Zurich and elsewhere in Switzerland.

  • Experis, part of the Manpower recruiting group, offer roles primarily in IT, and are a great source of leads, ideas and advice on who is recruiting IT roles in Zurich right now.

4. Find a recruiter to help with your job hunt

Big international companies are prepared to fight for top talent, and recruitment agencies exist to help them connect with the job seekers that are right for them. Looking online will certainly generate ideas, and give you a sense of the job openings that are out there. Consider talking to an agent to increase your job search opportunities.

Some of the larger and more popular agents in Zurich include:

  • Approach People are an international recruitment consultancy specialising in multilingual clients, and perfect if you’re looking for an expat job in Zurich.

  • If you’re looking for a job in life sciences, engineering or IT then you could try the Stamford Group, an agency working across Zurich with a multilingual team.

  • Huxley is an agency working in banking and financial services in Switzerland and beyond.

  • EMEA Recruitment works across professional service roles.

Be wary of scams, or people who say they can deliver extraordinary results. It’s a good idea to check out the credentials of any agency you choose to use, and you shouldn’t hand over any cash to simply be put in touch with an employer. Some agents offer a range of additional services like helping you to polish your CV, write a cover letter or get a visa. Make sure you’re very clear about what you’re paying for if you decide to include any extra services. If in doubt, move on to a different agency you can trust.

5. Do some networking

A huge number of jobs are filled through word of mouth, meaning your network is your most important tool when you’re looking for a new position. This can feel like a challenge when you’re also moving to a new city, but don’t panic. Start by building your network online and joining groups active in your field on professional sites like LinkedIn.

Depending on your work area, you might also benefit from joining a local chamber of commerce or business networking group. Check out sites like Meetup that specialise in bringing like-minded people together for ideas.

If you’re looking for a career in finance in Zurich, there are several business networking clubs operating in the sector. Get to know others and get an insight into what’s new in the industry.

For those seeking IT jobs in Switzerland, there is a networking club especially for you. And if you’re a US citizen in Zurich, (or indeed from elsewhere in the English speaking world) you’ll be pleased to find that all the relevant detail is available in English for an expat audience.

Finally, if you’re a professional woman working in Switzerland in any field, the Professional Women’s Group of Zurich hosts regular networking and update events. You can get in touch even before you come to Zurich for ideas and information, as well as building your local contact book.

6. Get your CV Zurich ready

Having an impressive CV is crucial when you’re looking for a new job. Make sure it’s up to date, error free and easy to read, or busy recruiters will likely put you to the bottom of their call pile. This is especially important in the Swiss context, as recruiters take an extremely dim view of spelling or grammar errors. Getting a job in Zurich is likely to be a competitive affair, so make sure you invest the time upfront.

The document you need to submit is usually known as a CV in Europe, but is different to that known as a curriculum vitae or CV in America. In the US your CV should be no more than two to three pages. It should provide a concise summary of your work, education and extracurricular activities and how they relate to the job you’re applying for.

If you're preparing a CV for the European market from scratch, check out Europass' CV and cover letter templates and advice. You can download a standard template there which includes all the relevant information for CVs in Europe. For more specialist ideas about the Switzerland labour market, try online sites like Jobera. JobERA's Switzerland CV Writing Guide is another beneficial tool to check out. You may also consider hiring a local CV consultant who can help tailor your documents for the roles you’re seeking.

In general, your CV should not be more than three pages long, and ideally stick to two, unless you have an extremely long working history to describe. In most cases you should submit your CV in the same language that the job ad appears in. It’s generally expected that you’ll speak a little of the local language in order to get by in the office. Make sure you’re clear on your application about what your levels of ability are in different languages.

It’s usual to include a photo in your ‘personal’ details section, although naturally this must be professional.

You can use a bullet point format for your CV, to draw out the most important and relevant skills and experiences you have - similar to a CV used elsewhere in Europe, or an American resume document. However, Swiss culture is modest, so don’t brag, and be prepared to back up claims about your skills by including details of qualifications and certificates, such as stating which language or professional development courses you have completed. It’s not unusual to be asked to send in copies or scans of your certificates, along with references or testimonials from previous managers or clients - be prepared.

7. Be prepared for your job interview

Job interviews can be pretty stressful, and even more so if your prospective employer is on the other side of the globe. When recruiting long distance, you might find that the first interviews are held over the phone or on a video call. This approach throws up a whole set of different challenges to a face to face meeting, so think about how to build rapport with your interviewer while you’re not even in the same room. Asking relevant questions, using humour and even smiling while you speak can make for a friendly conversation, which can help you get through to the next round.

Assuming you’re invited for a face to face interview, you’re likely to meet your prospective boss, and possibly reps from the HR department and other interested parties. Take along paper copies of your CV and any documents, such as testimonials or certificates, that you’ve sent in. These might form the basis of some of your conversation, so it pays to be organised.

Swiss interviews are formal affairs, so dress accordingly and make sure you use the correct forms of address. For example, using formal titles and the polite form of address if you’re talking in French or German. In a country famous for their timekeeping, it should go without saying that punctuality is a valued trait. Arrive to your interview with time to spare.

After your interview, it’s normal to send a thank you note to the interviewer, either by email or a traditional letter. This confirms your genuine interest in the role with the interviewer, so it's well worth the effort.

8. Get ready to move

Canton of Zurich's guide to living and working in Zurich has a lot of helpful information for foreigners moving to Zurich. The guide is downloadable and answers practical concerns to help you settle into your new life.

Ch.ch's handy online portal provides details about paying Swiss taxes and other administrative tasks, including making applications for state services. SWI swissinfo.ch provides up to date news about everything Swiss in 10 different languages. You’ll feel like Zurich is home in no time at all.

You’re going to need some cash to get you started in Switzerland, so you may be wondering how to go about converting your money to the local currency. If you plan to open a bank account in Switzerland, or know someone with an account there, consider using TransferWise to send your money to and from Zurich’s currency, Swiss Franc. There’s a small transparent fee, and the real exchange rate is applied to convert from one currency to another - the same one you can find on Google. In addition to that, TransferWise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally, which saves you even more money by eliminating international transfer fees. Once your visas and currency exchange are in order, you’re ready to move to Zurich!

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

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