Recruiting in Switzerland

How to hire top talent in Switzerland

Switzerland is the country many people dream of working in. It’s also a favorite location for headquarters and subsidiaries among businesses from all over the world, and it offers excellent education and training for professionals. Combined, those conditions result in an environment that produces a world-leading workforce.

Discover what makes Switzerland’s talent pool so attractive for companies, why the Basel Area is a favorite and how you can recruit top talent in Switzerland.

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Switzerland has favorable labor laws for businesses.

People in Switzerland are pragmatic in their working relationships. The employer and the employee sit together and discuss the terms of employment. Only a few laws and regulations guide them. 

Employer and employee are mostly free to decide the terms of their working relationship on their own.

If the local employee is Swiss or has a residence and working permit, they can start as soon as both parties sign the contract. That means it’s possible to employ someone in less than an hour.

The working relationship starts with a probation period of one to three months. During this time, both parties can terminate the working relationship with a seven days notice.

Once the probation period ends, the ordinary notice period is usually one to three months. To terminate a position, no reason is required.

But even with those liberal labor laws, it’s not a hire and fire culture. Both sides are looking to build a mutually beneficial relationship. That’s why there are virtually no strikes in Switzerland and an extremely high motivation to work.

On top of that, social contribution costs are among the lowest in Europe and bringing employees from the EU to Switzerland is easy, thanks to bilateral agreements.

The labor laws in Switzerland are highly favorable for businesses: easy hiring conditions, short notice period and probation periods. Yet, we don’t suffer from a hire and fire culture, thanks to the fair working conditions for employers and employees alike.

Daniel MeierDirector Europe at Basel Area

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Discover why these top global companies chose to locate in the Basel Area.

There’s an abundance of great talent here.

There are a variety of reasons why Switzerland has the second-highest GDP per capita in Europe and is among the top 10 in GDP per capita worldwide.

One of them is the abundance of great talent.

Global companies in all sectors find well-qualified, multilingual, motivated and loyal people in Switzerland, from entry-level to senior management.

Since 2013, Switzerland has ranked #1 on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI). This index measures and ranks countries’ ability to grow talent, attract the talent they need and retain those workers who contribute to competitiveness, innovation and growth. 

Here are 5 reasons why Switzerland’s workforce is so strong.

1. The dual education system.

Many people in Switzerland start their career at the age of 15 with an apprenticeship. In this dual education system, they’ll work on the job for three or four days a week and go to a vocational school for one or two days. Once they graduate at 18 or 19, they’re already experts in their jobs. Many choose further education to advance their knowledge.

2. Top-notch academic facilities.

Those who don’t want to go for an apprenticeship will take the academic route. The Swiss education system relies almost entirely on public funds, making schools and universities inexpensive and easily accessible. Swiss universities like ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne rank in several indices among the top 10 universities worldwide. Other universities are highly recognized in specific fields, like the University of Basel for life sciences.

3. Great interdisciplinary collaboration.

A mix of specialists in different disciplines coming together and collaborating improves the ability of everyone. Knowing how others in the value chain work lets the specialists adapt their work and, with it, improve the entire process. It’s ingrained in Swiss culture to find compromises and include everyone.

4. The diversity of the people.

Switzerland is influenced by its five bordering countries and has four national languages. Most Swiss people speak two of them, plus English. Working in Switzerland is a dream for many to-be expats. Expats in Switzerland make up roughly 20% of the national workforce.

5. Companies love to be here.

From an attractive tax framework to a high quality of life and a business-friendly environment: Starting a business in Switzerland has many benefits. In return, every new company pushes the country forward by investing heavily in innovation and bringing in their best people from all over the world.

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We’re the go-to agency for every question or request about launching in or relocating to the Basel Area. Either we know the answer, or we know the people who do. We help you solve questions about real estate but also about hiring or collaboration opportunities with universities.

Fabio MarelliManager Business Affairs at Basel Area Business & Innovation

Where it all comes together: the Basel Area.

In some areas of Switzerland, the characteristics mentioned above are amplified in specific fields. This results in talent pools where companies can cherry-pick top specialists for every role.

When it comes to life sciences, the Basel Area is that place.

Talent covering the whole value chain.

With over 31,000 well-qualified professionals, the life sciences talent pool is the largest and most diversified in Switzerland. You’ll find experts from lab specialists and researchers to executive managers and commercial talents.

A vibrant business ecosystem.

Besides the Fortune 500 companies Roche, Novartis and Coop, many other multinationals are headquartered in the Basel Area. An ever-growing number of small companies and startups complete the picture, making the Basel Area one of Europe’s — if not the world’s — best life sciences clusters.
Curious to learn more? Check out our comprehensive guide to the Switzerland startup ecosystem.

Concentrated academia.

Talents are educated at one of the region’s many high-quality institutions and excellent research facilities. There are 14 universities with about 170,000 enrolled students within a one-hour drive of the Basel Area, spread across three countries. 

Unparalleled collaboration.

The Basel Area has leading experts to collaborate with in:

  • Pharmaceutics, biotechnology, medical technology and digital health
  • Chemical industry, nanotechnology
  • Precision engineering, watchmaking and machine tools
  • Logistics and commerce
  • Creative industries (art, fashion design, architecture)
  • Financial services and ICT
  • Exhibitions, conventions and fairs

This is what makes Basel the place to be for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, according to Jean-Paul Clozel, co-founder of Actelion/Idorsia

It’s an intellectual city where you can find not only scientists but artists. Thinking, drug discovery and innovation are really part of the culture.

Martin and Jean-Paul ClozelCo-founders of Actelion/Idorsia

img. Idorsia

Three central questions about recruiting in Switzerland.

What are normal work hours in Switzerland?

The Swiss are hardworking and proud of it. Their standard workweek is 41 hours, in which they manage to be among the top ten most productive workforces in the world. There are virtually no strikes, thanks to the stable relationships between employees and employers.

How can I bring foreign workers to Switzerland (from EU/EFTA, non-EU/EFTA and the UK)?

The permit your workers need depends on their nationality and type of employment. Citizens of EU/EFTA member states can freely work in Switzerland. They must only apply for residency if their employment is longer than 90 days which will be granted without any problems. All other citizens must apply for work permits, even for short-term employment. Learn what permit is needed for foreigners to work in Switzerland.

What’s the probation period in Switzerland?

Workers can start working immediately upon signing a work contract. They enter a probation period between one to three months. The employer and the employee can agree on the exact duration of the probation period, as long as it’s within those legal confinements.

How to recruit top talent in Switzerland.

Before you set out to recruit, make sure your company is desirable to them. They have many options to choose from.

With COVID, many have grown attached to remote work setups. They’re not willing to give that up. A great deal of flexibility and trust is important to them. They expect fair compensation and a selection of additional benefits to keep a healthy work life balance

This new way of working has been a long time coming. Companies that don’t adapt stay behind and most likely won’t attract the best talent Switzerland has to offer.

Get started with these tips from Daniel Meier, Director Europe Basel Area Business & Innovation, to recruit top talent in Switzerland. You can also get in touch with him personally to learn more. 

Tip #1: Online job platforms.

An ad on major online platforms is enough to cover most jobs. If you’re not searching for specialists in a niche industry, you’ll reach high visibility with a relatively low investment.

Three of the most popular online job platforms in Switzerland are:

Tip #2: Industry-specific job platforms.

There is a job platform for almost any industry. If you’re looking for specialized talent, you might want to post your ad on those platforms first. 

We have carefully evaluated a number of possible locations around Europe and have settled on the Basel area for a number of reasons: Foremost is the concentration of life science companies large and small in the area, forming one of the best clusters in Europe, if not worldwide. In conjunction with the high number of leading universities and research institutions in the area, we feel that we have access to an extensive talent pool for both the senior and junior researcher positions we have to offer.

Rainer Henning, PhD,Chief Science Officer, WORG Pharmaceutical

Tip #3: Recruiting agencies and headhunters.

Outsourcing your recruitment is the easiest way for many companies. Let one of the local recruiting agencies take care of front office duties like finding and convincing the right candidate to apply for your open position. Try GenSearch or Skilled, for example. Both help to recruit talent in the life sciences.

Tip #4: Your network.

Switzerland is a small country. People know each other, especially in their industry. Start connecting with the right people and turn your network into opportunities.

Tip #5: LinkedIn and other social media.

LinkedIn is not only a popular job platform but also a great place to start cultivating your network. You automatically attract talent if you post regularly and interact with your community. Maybe you find your ideal candidate without spending a dime on job adverts.

Tip #6: Regional employment agencies.

Every canton has its regional employment agencies. Depending on the position you’re looking to fill, this might be an easy win. Look up the agency of your canton of choice and follow the procedure they outline on their website.

Tip #7: Events and job fairs.

There’s a wide variety of events, job fairs and talent days in every canton. Soon-to-be graduates love to join those events and see what’s on the market once they finish their degrees. You might have the dream job for them.

As the region’s innovation promotion agency, Basel Area Business & Innovation offers consultation and connections to help companies, entrepreneurs, and startups launch and grow innovative ventures. The DayOne Accelerator, as an example, has expanded its offerings and is supporting startups and companies that specialize in the fields of digital health prevention, diagnostics and treatment, no matter where they are located.

Furthermore, we provide introductions and help you build your network, we host events and workshops, and we help you get access to resources from funding to mentoring, accelerator programs, and collaborative workspaces with the office space essentials you need.

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