Due to discussions with clients I get the impression that more and more Managers and Executives are struggling with finding a new job, especially those who don’t have connections in Switzerland yet and don’t speak the local language. It is normal that there are much less management roles published because the higher you go up in the career ladder, the less positions are available and the more important relationships become.
Most of the management positions are either filled with people who the hiring manager knows, people who got recommended or through executive search firms. It is very common for executive firms to work exclusively on management positions. Therefore these companies do not publish the positions. This is much more the case than in the technical area. This reduces the amount of these positions available to the public.
Remember that Switzerland is very small. The entire country is about the population of New York. Therefore you should consider relocating throughout Switzerland for the right role. The strongest market places in Switzerland for English speaking jobs are Zurich, Geneva and Basel. Zurich is the biggest but also the one with the most competitors in terms of job seekers.
Note: If you are looking for an extensive list of Technology Companies in Switzerland, check out the 160+ Technology Companies in Switzerland That Hire English Speakers.
Work with a recruiter
If you are a Manager or Executive, it might make sense to work with a recruiter. There are different models. The most common one is free for the candidate. You don’t pay the recruiter because he/she is getting paid when you get hired by the company he/she offers you to.
There is also another model where you pay a fee to the recruiter that works with you. This is not very common but depending on the variety of recruiters in the region you are looking for a job, it might make sence to pay for premium.
Search for a recruiter
If you would like to use a recruiter to help you, not just for a specific position, but by actively hunting for a job for you, only choose the best! Inform yourself first before you send out your resume to 100 recruitment agencies. You don’t want to work with too many agencies, at maximum with 1 or 2. This is because by working with too many recruiters, you have a lot of administrative workload as you need to follow up and keep track of things.
Furthermore you also don’t want your resume sent to the same company by more than one agency, this will make you look very unprofessional. This can happen if you lose track of where your CV has been sent because you work with too many agencies.
So how to find that great recruiter?
Well, you could start by asking your contacts if they have experience with a recruiter who is exceptional. Draft an email and send it to your network asking for recommendations. Ask on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Whatever your preferred way of communication is. When you meet with friends, clients or peers the next time, ask them for recommendations.
If nobody can come up with a recommendation, why not ask google. If you do ask google, try searching for the names of those companies you found and search for recommendations and reviews.
There are a few executive search firms that I know of but I have never used them and therefore can not recommend them personally:
Mercuri Urval – I know they work a lot with Executives but I have never worked with them personally.
Schilling Partners – I know the owner and can highly recommend them especially for Top and C-Level Management as well as board of directors positions.
Selecting a recruiter
Once you found a few executive search firms, make sure to check if they are good. You can do this by typing in the name into google and search for references or reviews about the company. Try asking on LinkedIn if anybody has experience with that company. You can either do this on your status update, in a suitable group or in the questions and answer section.
You can also ask for recommendations or reviews on The English Forum.
If you have a personal contact at the company, search for him/her and connect on LinkedIn and check the references on the profile. The references should preferably be from either happy clients that hired people from this person or from happy candidates.
It is important that you tell the recruiter exactly what you are looking for. The worst case statement is “I’m very open to anything” and the best case is something like “I’m looking for a position as Head of IT in an SME company, an Executive role in Application Development or a Program Management role in Application Management”. The more specific you tell the recruiter what you are looking for, the better chances he has to find what you are looking for.
If you arrive at the airport and your luggage has been lost and the person at the “Lost and Found” counter asks you, “what are you looking for?” Are you replying “A bag” or something more specific? The more specific you are, the easier it is for others to find it for you.
Getting in contact with decision makers
It is very important to connect and talk to the people who make the hiring decisions for your level of the hierarchy. There are several good ways to do that. One of them is to sort of volunteer. You offer yourself as a resource. Let me explain:
1. You search for contacts that could be potential employers for you
You can do this by keywords search on LinkedIn. For example Head of IT or CFO, CTO, Head of HR, Country Manager, Managing Director or whatever area you are looking for. You can also do a company specific search. There will not be thousands of contacts because all of them are very close to the top at the employment pyramid.
Send out a connection request. It is of course easier if you already know that person. However, it is also possible that you never had contact with this person before. It is very important that you never spam and always prepare a custom tailored message that is easy to understand. Let me give you some examples:
To Country Manager of a global HR services company:
I read in the news that your company is expanding further in Switzerland to Basel and Geneva. I have worked in Basel since 5 years and know the marketplace very well. If I can provide you with any market insights or help you in an other way please let me know.
To the Managing Director of an american Pharma company in Basel:
I read in the news that your company is expanding to Switzerland. I know the Pharma market in Switzerland very well. If you think I can be of any help to you with my knowledge or connections I would be glad to help out.
To the CIO of a major telecom provider in Switzerland:
I heard that you launched a new product in the high-speed internet area, congratulations. I have done similar large scale programs in Italy in the past. If I can be of any help to you with my knowledge or contacts I would be glad to assist you.
I guess the last one could be done much better by an expert in the telco area, which I’m clearly not but I still hope you get the big picture of what can be done here.
How to know about these situations
If you carefully follow your industry or expertise news and talk to people in those areas regularly, you should have a good overview of the market and can find out about big changes, reorganizations, expansions or other movements. Ask people about upcoming projects or programs and you will soon know much more than you expected to know.
Offering your knowledge and connections is a fantastic way to get in front of these people by helping them and not begging for a job and come along as desperate. All you want to do here is make sure, they are as successful as possible with their projects due to you.
Don’t ask for a job at this stage, if you provide real value and find common ground (values, interests, passions) with the person you try to work with, opportunities will arise. Find out about their plans and intentions because then the job discussion will come up eventually.
A more general approach
If you are not yet comfortable to get in contact with these people directly you can provide value by asking and answering questions on LinkedIn.
If you do it this way instead of getting in contact with people directly, please be aware that it works but it will take much longer to become an authority in your field. It is also much less specific to any location as most of the people in the Q&A section on LinkedIn are based in the US.
Events are always a great way to connect with other people. There is a big section in the Job Search Academy about how to effectively leverage events. To get in contact with C-Level contacts or Top Management you must attend the right events. On many occasions at these events, the C-Level or Top Management person will be the speaker. Here are some places to check regarding events of high quality:
Other than that I suggest you search for news sites in your industry or expertise. Many of those send out information about specific events or even have a list of events online.
If you are a Manager or Executive and need more help to find a job in Switzerland, get in contact with me!