Get Your CV Ready for the Swiss Job Market

“I am very passionate about a full fridge” is what a friend of mine once said with a cynical tone, when I asked her how the job interview she just had had went. It was the answer she wanted to give the HR lady that had asked her about the reasons why she wanted to work as a waitress in a small cafe. Of course, she did not say that. Instead, she came up with sweet white lies: “I want to work as a waitress in your cafe because I really like the atmosphere of the place. Moreover, I absolutely enjoy working with people. The fact that the work schedule is so flexible makes it easy for me to combine studying and working.”

The truth? “I couldn’t find a better job till now and I am desperate enough to be ok with getting paid minimum wage without knowing how much money I’ll actually earn each month because, let’s face it: The flexibility of the work schedule goes one way, the way of the employer, not the employee.”

If you are one of those that get easily stressed during a job interview, these tips might help. (Photo credit: Unsplash)

So why am I telling you this story? Because it indicates that it is worth putting effort into your job application, but not the same effort in all of them. If it is a job that solely pays your bills, just do as little as possible and as much as needed.

This whole process starts with the documents you are preparing, with the CV being the most important file. Is it a job like the one mentioned above? Then prepare a CV that looks professional, but list skills that fit similar jobs in different companies as well so you don’t have to adjust the CV for each and every company.

Write Your CV the Swiss Way

The structure of a Swiss CV is mostly like this:
Photo and personal details at the beginning of your CV, followed by:

  1. Work experience
  2. Education
  3. Skills
  4. References

Luckily, even in Switzerland we have reached a time where you can also use a layout different from the one mentioned above and still make the recruiter happy. The most important thing is, that the CV is structured properly, which means coherent and clear. A professional summary, like you’d see on CVs in the UK for example, is still not very common in Switzerland. So give it a try! Or have you ever heard of someone getting a job because she/he/they did everything like everyone else?

You want to write a professional summary but don’t know where to start? Start here.             (Photo credit: Unsplash)

In the US, the UK and Ireland a photo on your CV is a no-go.  In Switzerland, on the contrary, your CV is likely to land on the stack of applications where the replies start with “We are sorry to inform you that…” if it does not have a photo. So make sure you include a photo, best would be a headshot that looks professional and fits the job you are applying for. If you don’t know how to do that make use of one of the many professional photo studios in Switzerland. At select photostudios for example, a photo for your CV costs around 50 Swiss Francs.

When it comes to personal details, you will have to state your marital status, date of birth, address, and phone number as well as your e-mail address. Moreover, you should state your nationality, which work permit you hold as well as your hobbies. The latter will help the recruiter to find out whether you’d fit the job and the company or not, so stir away from general hobbies such as “travel” and “sports”. Pretty much everyone likes to travel, no? And sports can be anything from chess to marathon. So be precise, make yourself interesting.

Work Experience, Education and References

No matter where you place skills and personal details on your CV – the order of work experience and education is always the same: it starts with work experience, which you list counter chronological. So the job you had last at the top, followed by the second last one and so on. Per position that you have had, list maximum five bullet points with your main responsibilities that could also be interesting for your future employer.

If you have gaps in your CV make sure they are explained. It is better to write “sabbatical” or “travelled the world” than leaving the recruiter without an explanation.

When it comes to education, don’t list all the schools you have been to starting from elementary school, start with your bachelor’s degree or vocational training. The order of education on your CV is counter chronological, just like it is for work experience. If you did additional courses, decide ad hoc whether you want to list them or not. In my time as a recruiter I have seen people listing courses that lasted one day. The result? A whole bunch of courses that, in the end, say nothing but that you apparently don’t know how to prioritize properly. So choose carefully!
You can add references to your CV but it is also accepted to write “references upon request”.

Adjust Your CV According to The Company You Are Applying For

When I first applied for jobs after completing my bachelor’s degree I adjusted my CV each and every time I applied for a job. This means: I used the same font for titles as the company did for theirs. I used the same colors for the layout as the company did for their brand and, if possible, I used the slogan of the company and adjusted it for my CV. So take Zermatt Tourismus as an example. The slogan there is: Zermatt. No matter what. If I’d apply for a job there, I would simply write “Désirée goes Zermatt. No matter what”. If the job you are applying for has been published in German, write the CV in German.

Another thing I did was using a professional photo where I wore a plain, white shirt and photoshopped the company logo of my future employer on it. Every time. Effort? Yes. Worth it? Yes!

Winner CV in Switzerland – Key Take Aways

  • Add a professional photo to your CV.
  • The personal details on Swiss CVs usually include your nationality, work permit,
    date of birth, your marital status and hobbies, although this is not cast in stone.
  • List work experience and education counter chronological.
  • Add a professional summary at the top that catches the attention of the recruiter. Everyone is “young, dynamic and enthusiastic” – be different!
  • Adjust your CV according to your future employer (style, colors, skills, bullet points in the section “work experience”, professional summary and so on.)
  • Recruiters don’t read your CV, they scan it. So ,ake sure important info stands out.
  • Write your CV in the language the job has been advertised in.
  • Double-check for grammar and spelling mistakes before you send it (together with all the other documents as one PDF).

Want to know more about Job Hunting in Switzerland?
Check out some of my other posts:

Want to know more about the author or the campaign?
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Désirée Klarer

Hello there! I am Désirée Klarer, journalist by profession and recruiter by passion. Being surrounded by people from different countries with various professional backgrounds, it has always been my pleasure to help them finding the right career path in Switzerland. May it be a job where you don't need German that simply pays your bills while you study or finding your dream-job - I am happy to help.

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7 thoughts on “Get Your CV Ready for the Swiss Job Market

  1. Amazing story-telling Désirée! The beginning is really catchy and I couldn’t stop reading. Also very informative, many things I didn’t even know being a swiss native. Great job. I will definitely save that one to be ready when it comes down to my CV.
    P.s. I love the “Désirée goes Zermatt. No matter what” so creative and humorous! 👏

    1. Dear Lea,

      Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 Yes I think you have to be creative to stand out from the rest. Even more so, if the job you are applying for is a creative one. I think the most important thing with a CV really is consistency and, in the case of the Swiss CV, including a photo!

    2. Hi Desiree
      Very nice article – I appreciate that you share it from a perspective of a recruiter. Do you know also, how far recruiters are reading the cover letters before the first interview? Or generally, at all?

      1. Dear Jana. To answer you question: Talking from experience (I used to work as a recruiter), I would say the bigger the company, the less likely it is for them to “properly” read your cover letter, at least not in the first stage.

        In the first stage, Most of them would briefly go through the applications in the following order: CV, completion of documents, cover letter. If the CV is a match, the next step would be to double check whether all the degrees and certificates mentioned have been attached. It is only the third stage, where the cover letter will be read. After this, the first “we are sorry to inform you that…” mails will be sent out.

        So having a CV that speaks for itself is key! But I could imagine that, in smaller companies, they might pay more attention to the cover letter even in the early stage.Moreover, when it comes down to two candidates, the cover letter plays an important role too. Did you just rephrase what the recruiter already knows from your CV? Or did you give him/her/them more information about you, that differs from the CV? I once got denied a job I really wanted because I had two spelling mistakes in my cover letter. Surely, this example is a bit extreme, but I hope you get the point.

  2. Great post Desire! I didn’t know that the Swiss way is a bit different from what I knew. Thanks for the great info!

  3. Thank you for your valuable advice! All of them are important! It is actually kind of sad that CVs get scanned…

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