how to apply in switzerland

The following information is intended to help you get a job in Switzerland.

The application file

An application file contains

  • A cover letter in which you summarise your skills and indicate why you are applying for the job.
  • A CV containing personal information, education, work experience, etc.
  • A copy of your certificates and diplomas.
  • Reference letters from former employers. (If you don’t have reference letters, you can request them retrospectively.)

If other documents are required, they are normally indicated in the job advertisement. If you are not sure what to attach, you can always call and ask.


Switzerland is a quadrilingual country but not every Swiss person speaks all four languages, and language skills are not required for all jobs. The required languages are generally indicated in the job advertisement. Universities or international companies often publish their job advertisements in English. More nationally oriented companies or institutions often look for employees who speak German, French or Italian, and their job advertisements are often published in one of these languages. Your chances of getting a job in Switzerland may therefore be increased if you speak at least basic German, French or Italian. Language skills are generally rated highly in Switzerland. Therefore, mention your language skills - even if they are basic - in a separate section in your CV.

Typically Swiss?

In Switzerland, it is usual but not mandatory

  • to include a (professional!) photo with your CV.
  • Indicate your family status.
  • if you are not Swiss, you may indicate your residence permit in your CV.
  • It is also common to list hobbies and personal interests at the end of the CV.

In Switzerland, it is not usual

  • to praise the employer / company.
  • to mention your driver’s license (unless it is required by the employer).
  • to use titles.

It is important to adapt!

Your cover letter and CV should be adapted to each job ad. In particular, they will differ depending on whether you are applying for an academic position or a job in industry.

The job interview

  • If an employer is interested in your profile, he/she will invite you for a job interview. This can be a short talk with one person or a long assessment over several hours with several people. Sometimes a decision is made quickly after only one interview, sometimes candidates are invited to several rounds of interviews.

  • The most important thing: Enjoy the job interview. It offers you the opportunity to present your skills and to learn more about your future job. So, don’t be nervous. Even if you don’t get the job, an interview is always good for practice.

  • Inform yourself about the university / company and about the kind of job for which you are applying.

  • How to dress? The dress code depends on the type of job (PhD, junior researcher, manager, etc.) and where (university / industry). If in doubt, overdressed is better than underdressed, so: suit (and tie), no sports shoes, no mini-skirt, no plunging neckline.


  • In Switzerland, it is not usual to indicate the future salary in the job advertisement. This issue will be discussed during the first or second job interview. Usually, the employer asks you about your salary expectations. So be prepared to answer this question and have a salary range in mind. To get an idea about what salary you can expect, look at our salary section.

  • Swiss people don’t speak about their salary and normally don’t know what their colleagues, neighbours or even friends and relatives earn. It is often difficult to obtain such information. Don’t be surprised if nobody wants to answer your salary questions.

  • The salary the employers suggests can always be negotiated.

  • Inform yourself about the tax system and the additional employment benefits you receive: What percent of taxes are deducted from your gross salary? What is the net amount you will receive each month? What is included in the salary (holidays, health insurance, bonuses, etc.)? You can find more information about this in the working section.

  • Also inform yourself about living costs in Switzerland: The salary might at first seem high compared to the income you are used to but not when you consider the high cost of living in Switzerland. Find out what more in the cost-of-living section.

Tips for getting a job

  • Focus your job search: One of the most important steps in any job search is figuring out what you want to do and then identifying companies and career paths that match your interests. Once you identify some fields or companies you are interested in pursuing, find people who work there and talk to them about what they do. Ask your friends, teachers and colleagues. It is also important to build a network.
  • Make your application stand out but keep it relevant: The application is often an employer’s first impression of you, so make sure it doesn’t contain any spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. Find somebody to look at your application file to check for mistakes and make sure that the information makes sense.
  • Do not distort the facts: It is okay to promote yourself but be honest. Too much exaggeration may eliminate you from consideration.
  • Use technology the right way: Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn can help you stay connected but keep in mind that even though these networks can play a role in your job search, they should not replace traditional job search methods. It is relatively common these days for people to have a personal website. By referencing it in your CV, you can direct employers to additional information about you that might reinforce your case. They can include publications, research summaries, and information about other relevant activities that do not fit in your CV. Note: Anything posted on the Internet is public, so be careful what you post and keep it professional.
  • Be well prepared: Prepare for an interview by practising answers to possible interview questions. You should also prepare a list of questions ahead of time to ask at the interview. Employers expect candidates to ask questions.
  • Introverted? Use it to your advantage: Although extroverts are natural communicators, introverts have a strength they may not realise. Introverts are excellent listeners and they can be very perceptive when it comes to body language. Introverts have a great advantage over extroverts in that they are doing an audience analysis all the time. In learning to be more of a performer, they can use this skill to win over the employer during an interview.
  • Send a thank-you note: A simple thank-you note can increase your chances of getting hired. These days, an email thank-you can be just as effective as a handwritten card but make sure you have a clear subject line so that the email does not get overseen or end up in the spam folder.
  • Be patient and persistent: Job hunting is not easy and success does not come overnight. The above-mentioned skills can be applied over and over throughout your career.

Tips when applying by email

  • Indicate the job for which you are applying in the subject line.
  • Add a cover letter to explain exactly why you want the job.
  • Use common formats for attachments (doc, pdf). No ppt and no large attachments.
  • Do not send your application to "info@" addresses but rather to personal email addresses. Ask to which person you should send your application.
  • Do not forget to indicate your postal address and your phone number.


> Article: Hervorragender Arbeitsmarkt für PhDs