SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

JOBS

‘It’s competitive’: Essential advice for finding a job in Zurich

Looking for work in Zurich or contemplating a change? Before diving head first into your job search, here's some valuable information and advice from experts and readers who have managed to land a job in Switzerland's biggest jobs market.

A computer next to a pad and a cup of coffee on a wooden table
If you are looking for a job in Zurich, you will need these tools - along with The Local's Zurich job guide. Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Living and working in Zurich offers many draw cards from high salaries, a favourable work-life balance and international working environment.

Yet the process of landing a job as a foreigner in Switzerland’s largest canton can be time-consuming and overwhelming when starting out.

READ MORE: Five insider tips to find a job in Switzerland

The labour market in Zurich

Switzerland runs a quota system for foreign labour, meaning there’s an annual cap on the number of permits issued to foreign workers per year.

The Office for Economy and Labour for canton Zurich (AWA) says they issued 5317 work permits in total to third-country nationals in 2021.

This included permit renewals, those already living in Switzerland (for example students) and workers who were only staying for a short time.

In 2022, the canton of Zurich has 393 short-stay L permits and 246 residence B permits for third-country workers in its reserve (although the canton can request for more at the federal level if this runs out).

As Switzerland operates a dual system, the permits are first screened by the canton before being reviewed by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). 

READ MORE: How much do university graduates earn in Switzerland – and who earns the most?

Compared to other cantons, Zurich has more permits at its disposal.

That’s because the canton is the biggest economic driver contributing over 20 percent to the national GDP.

It employs a fifth of the country’s workers and is home to 116,000 companies such as Google, ABB, Microsoft, AXA and Swiss Re.

The AWA declined to name the companies that hired the largest number of foreign workers. However, they did acknowledge that one third of work permits issued in Zurich go toward the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

READ MORE: Why finding a job in Switzerland is set to become easier

Generally speaking though, the most employable sector is still healthcare with the highest number of employees at 55,200. Other notable sectors include education – thanks to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and the University of Zurich – and financial services.

A third of all Swiss banks are situated in the Zurich region including UBS, Credit Suisse and Julius Baer and it is estimated that 9 percent of workers in canton Zurich are employed in the industry. 

For those who may be sitting on the fence about working in Zurich, it may be a good time to take the plunge now. Michael Page found a 38 percent jump in the number of advertised jobs from January to December 2021.

The most sought after roles were: IT specialists, engineers, B2B sales professionals and business administrators.

The Swiss city of Zurich. Photo by Tobias A. Müller on Unsplash

The Swiss city of Zurich. Photo by Tobias A. Müller on Unsplash

What the experts say

One of the questions that inevitably arises is: how much does German matter? Nikolaus Schönecker, Senior Team Lead at Hays in Zurich specialises in filling permanent roles in the IT sector.

“The amount of roles not requiring German or Swiss German is increasing, since many companies are realising this is the only way to challenge the shortage of experts,” he says. Nevertheless, having even rudimentary language skills can set you apart from other foreign candidates.

Working remotely from Switzerland: What are the rules for foreigners?

“Show your willingness to learn German. If you aim to be able to follow business meetings in German at a B1 level and reply in English, the barriers will be lower.” 

Stephan Surber, Senior Partner at Page Executive Switzerland, advises job-hunters to connect with the local expat community as well as country-related networking organisations such as the Chambers of Commerce.

Most of these groups including AmCham, Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Swedish-Swiss Chamber of Commerce also publish a list of its members online, which may be a good guide to finding international firms based in Zurich.

He also suggests jobseekers to target expert networks such as the CFA or ACCA community for financial analysts and accountants. 

EXPLAINED: Which Swiss cantons have a minimum wage?

There are many English-language job portals on hand such as jobsinzurich.com, LinkedIn and The Local’s own job platform. But experts we spoke to said that recruitment agencies or headhunters could prove useful in finding hidden opportunities that are not yet on the market.

They can also provide feedback on interviews and ask their clients questions that a direct candidate would not usually get to ask. 

And if you eventually find yourself across an interviewer, aim to be modest and genuine. “Although self-confidence can surely help in most jobs, most Swiss people dislike bragging and overstating,” reminds Schönecker. “So try to show your best side in a realistic way.” 

What our readers advise

Amadej Kristjan Kocbek moved to Zurich and began working as a Data Engineer at AI services company Unit8 in August 2021. “Based on the lower response rates I got, I could feel that the job market is more competitive in Switzerland than in surrounding countries, but not prohibitively so.”

Originally from Slovenia, Kocbek found his current job through SwissDevJobs, a job portal which focuses on the IT industry. Although he used German with half the companies he interviewed with, most of them did not see it as mandatory.

He recommends people to come with at least a year of relevant experience, to send in job applications in the same language as the advertisement and ultimately, to have persistence for the entire process. “If you only send a few dozen applications and land a job, that’s already very successful.”

Meanwhile, Leeor Groen from Australia began working as an Advisory Assistant Manager at the audit and advisory firm PwC after completing his studies at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Freelancing in Switzerland: What foreign nationals need to know

The process was lengthy; his start date was postponed several months as he waited for the approval of his short-term L permit abroad in Tel Aviv. He eventually transferred to a B permit after 11 months.

“It’s hard to break into the job market without a residency permit and language skills especially for early stage graduate positions,” says Groen who is now in the process of applying for permanent residency. “You’re basically relying on your network.”

Groen was most recently a Partner at Blockchain Valley Ventures and says he was brought on as the first employee only after getting in touch with its CEO. 

A survey among our readers echoed these sentiments. Many said that cultivating a strong professional network is key to the job search and agreed that speaking German was at least beneficial to very important.

Other advice we received included having reference letters ready, to be patient with the process (which can stretch over a month), and to avoid overselling oneself.  

To stay on the job market in Switzerland, stay tuned to The Local and check out our Jobs board. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here

SHOW COMMENTS