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Old 05.06.2012, 16:12
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First interviews in Switzerland

So, I have few interviews lined up. These would be my first interviews in Switzerland. Are any Americans here to tell me if Swiss interviews are drastically different from American ones? I am not nervous when I go to interview here in US since I know exactly what to expect but Switzerland may be whole different story. I am in IT so technical questions I am ready for. But any other curve balls? Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 05.06.2012, 17:17
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

Hi Swissfox,

I'm not American, but I've had a lot of experience and shock at the interview process here. If I understand correctly in the US it is illegal to ask personal questions at interview? In Switzerland it's the complete opposite, you will receive a lot of unexpected, but perfectly valid questions. For the ladies, I know that many if not all are asked at the interview if they plan to have children and your answer will influence their decision. This would be considered biased and unfair in most other countries, but here it is the norm.

You should run a search on the forum, because I'm sure I've seen many people asking similar questions. Everything is different here and the complete opposite of what my home is like, but I like it that way. It's quirky and different.

Hope this helps

***Oh and if you have written that you speak German, regardless of level, expect to be tested on this.

Last edited by cathair; 05.06.2012 at 17:41. Reason: Another point!
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Old 05.06.2012, 19:32
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

@cathair, so personal questions, huh? That is surely different from US. Do I have to answer or something like "I don't feel comfortable answering these questions" will fly? I doubt that, of course, if this is custom in Switzerland. Just something to be ready for. Thanks fo rthe tip!

I am studying for A2 at the moment and companies know about it. So they are well aware that I can only speak pretty basic German. Fluent Russian though.
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Old 05.06.2012, 20:20
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

I've been on both sides of the table, both in the role of interviewee (applying for a job) as well as interviewer (line manager looking to recruit team members).

I could probably write several pages about my various experiences, but the bottom line is ... it depends on the company where you are interviewing, and the person you are interviewing with.

One of the oddest experiences I had was about 15 years ago, when I was interviewing with an IT consulting company. Their offices were "transparent" meaning that all of the walls throughout the building were made of glass, so that you could see across the entire building. Sitting in a meeting room in the middle of this building is in itself intimidating. When the interview got underway, they came with a whole bunch of psycho-analysis questions like "Do you like being in control?", "Do you like having power?" and such. When I left that office, I knew that I never wanted to have anything to do with that company, either as an employee or as a customer.

As an interviewer, I tried to make people feel relaxed - I saw the interview process as a chance to get to know this person and to get them excited about the possibility of working for me -- I tried to lead the interview in a way that I would feel comfortable sitting on the other side of the table. But I have also seen candidates who were "torn apart" by nasty managers who felt the need to demonstrate their dominance even before the candidate had a chance to speak.

My personal opinion is that the interview process gives you a pretty good insight into the company where you have applied. If they play psyco-games with you during the interview process, these will most likely continue when you work there. On the other hand, if you feel that the interviewer (especially your future manager) is genuinely enthusiastic about his/her job and the career opportunities they are offering, this signals that you may have found that diamond in the coal mine.

The interview process for my current job was memorable because everyone around the table was suffering - the interview was on a Saturday morning, just after the company's Christmas party the night before. I too had attended the Christmas party of my company the night before. So everyone around the table was somewhat hungover and tired... it's pretty funny looking back now.
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Old 05.06.2012, 20:41
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

As far as I know (I also have been on both sides of the table) personal questions like religion, sexual orientation, family or the planing of such are NOT allowed.
If they are asked, I very politely wouldn't answer them.
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Old 05.06.2012, 20:49
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

@JamesAG: Totally agree with you. Interview goes both ways. I actually had a phone interview before with one of the Swiss company's. It went very well and they wanted to move forward but I had to turn them down because I just didn't get a good vibe from interviewers. Just something was off.
So, in a way, we too interview the company when we go for interview.
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Old 05.06.2012, 20:53
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

@sarel: someone even told me to be prepared to be asked if I do any sports. Like this will show if I am healthy and will require lots of time off for medical needs.
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Old 05.06.2012, 22:16
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

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@sarel: someone even told me to be prepared to be asked if I do any sports. Like this will show if I am healthy and will require lots of time off for medical needs.
Just because they ask the questions, doesn't mean they are allowed.
Answer the questions you feel comfortable with and if they ask questions you don't like, maybe then it's not your company...

But it's good to talk about something personal like sports because it shows if you and your future boss have the same wavelength.
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Old 05.06.2012, 22:39
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

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So, I have few interviews lined up. These would be my first interviews in Switzerland. Are any Americans here to tell me if Swiss interviews are drastically different from American ones? I am not nervous when I go to interview here in US since I know exactly what to expect but Switzerland may be whole different story. I am in IT so technical questions I am ready for. But any other curve balls? Any advice would be appreciated.
It indeed matters where you are interviewing. A large multinational is likely different from a small local Swiss company.

That said, my experience was with a large MNC and it's fairly similar to US practices, however with more detail. In IT you can expect to be asked technical questions and have to deliver a detailed technical answer. Additionally, they may ask more personal questions, IMHO in an attempt to get to know you a bit better. For women that can include the baby question, but for most its more of a hobbies/sports kind of thing. The Swiss are quite fit compared to the Americans so this is an understandable topic of interest.

I found my interviewers to be warm and friendly, even HR. As one of the other posters said above, that does speak volumes about the culture of the firm and gave me a warm fuzzy that I'd fit well there.

PM me if you have any specific questions. Good luck!
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Old 05.06.2012, 23:29
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

the only real difference for me between US and Swiss interviews is that here I usually got the baby question.

Otherwise the questions and the tone were the same.
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Old 06.06.2012, 00:37
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

@sarel: I am mostly ok with personal questions. If this is custom in Switzerland, so be it. As an old saying goes, when in Rome...
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Old 06.06.2012, 00:42
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

@circe: Surely agree with you that interviews may vary depending on the size of the company. If it is multinational one, my guess would be their questions would be more around skills and more behavioral as this would be pretty standard in most countries.
Kind of even excited to experience something new. If anything, this would be pretty cool experience to have.
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Old 06.06.2012, 00:43
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

@NicoleCZ: Good to know. Better prepared, better outcome.
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Old 09.06.2012, 18:08
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

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As far as I know (I also have been on both sides of the table) personal questions like religion, sexual orientation, family or the planing of such are NOT allowed.
If they are asked, I very politely wouldn't answer them.
Yes, it is illegal. But if you don't answer you will not get the job. It is as easy as that!

The best thing to do, and this is adviced by employment lawyers, is actually to lie. As the questions are illegal this is legal.
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Old 09.06.2012, 18:42
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Re: First interviews in Switzerland

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@sarel: I am mostly ok with personal questions. If this is custom in Switzerland, so be it. As an old saying goes, when in Rome...
They are allowed to asked questions such as if you are married,
whether you have children, how old you are. Other than that,
I have not had that many personal questions.
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