For members


11 ways to optimise your search for a job in Sweden, even if you’re overseas

Dreaming of a move to Sweden, but not sure how to start the job-hunt from overseas? Non-EU workers usually require a job offer before they can relocate to Sweden for work, and EU citizens might also prefer to have a job contract before uprooting their lives. It can be daunting to look for a job from abroad, but it's not an insurmountable obstacle: here are 11 tips for improving your chances.

11 ways to optimise your search for a job in Sweden, even if you're overseas
Being far away from Sweden doesn't have to be a barrier in your job hunt. File photo: Eugene Chystiakov/Pexels

Do your research on Sweden

If you’ve never been to Sweden, you may want to make sure it’s the country for you, and be able to demonstrate this to potential employers. This might mean visiting the country, but you can learn a lot online, using resources such as online forums, blogs, news sites like The Local, and industry publications to find out about Swedish companies in your field as well as the working culture and lifestyle in general.

As the Swedes love to say, it’s a very long country, so all aspects of life from work opportunities to weather are completely different depending on whether you’re in the north or south, a small town or a big city. And even those big cities may feel extremely slow-paced if you’re used to a more hectic metropolis.

Once you’re confident about the move, be prepared to answer the ‘Why Sweden?’ question from recruiters. They may be more ready to take a chance on a new hire who has clearly done their homework on the country and culture rather than risk hiring someone unprepared for the reality of Sweden who will leave after a short time. If your primary reason for the relocation is personal or family-related, you can certainly mention that (it shows you have a strong tie to the country) but if possible, it’s great to try to show your knowledge of Swedish culture, or of how your industry works in Sweden.

You may also want to consider adding a line to your CV or introductory emails to state your current location and estimated date of relocation, to highlight how serious you are about Sweden. 

READ ALSO: The questions you need to ask before moving to Sweden

Start learning Swedish

On a similar note, even very basic Swedish language skills will set you apart from other international candidates.
If a job has been advertised in English, it’s definitely possible that you won’t need any Swedish at all, and companies that work with English-speaking markets and clients may need native English employees. But it’s no secret that knowing the local language will be a big advantage – even if you wouldn’t use it at all for work correspondence, it’s a way of signalling to potential employers that you’re committed to integrating, and shows that you’d be able to chat to colleagues in their native language, for example.
The good news is that it’s very simple to get your Swedish up to a basic level without spending any time in the country. Try smartphone apps such as Duolingo and Memrise, the free Learning Swedish course provided by the Swedish Institute, The Local’s Swedish Language section, or find Swedish language books, YouTube videos, podcasts and films.

Optimise your CV for Sweden

Yes, if you’re applying for a job without any Swedish language requirement, it should be fine to submit a CV in English. But different countries have different conventions around CVs and cover letters, so make sure yours isn’t too focused on your home market.

This can be about small details, such as including the countries you’ve worked in next to each company (previous international experience, or a work history in a country that’s a key market for a certain company, could make you an attractive candidate), but it’s also about the bigger picture and overall tone.

As a rule, Swedes favour humble attitudes and teamwork over an individualistic approach. That doesn’t mean you can’t highlight your strengths, but focus on provable facts and results over buzzwords. For example, pick examples of times you managed a team rather than saying you have ‘excellent leadership skills’, or outline a project you’re especially proud of rather than bulking up your cover letter with descriptive adjectives.

READ ALSO: How to write the perfect Swedish CV and cover letter

Have key qualifications translated

Do you work in a profession that requires a licence or a specific qualification? If so, you’ll need to look into whether you can work in Sweden using your existing qualification, or whether you’ll need to have that translated to Swedish or even re-qualify under the Swedish system. 

Teaching is a regulated profession, but teachers can work without a Swedish teaching qualification – this just means they are subject to different rules around contract length and employment conditions. For doctors, however, you cannot work in Sweden without the Swedish medical licence (which requires Swedish language skills). Both teachers and doctors with foreign qualifications can also undertake ‘fast-track’ training in Sweden, so it’s not a case of starting all over from scratch.

The European Union’s website has information on regulated professions which should be a good starting point if you qualified or have worked long-term in an EU/EEA country. And the Swedish Council for Higher Education has extensive advice on the regulated professions in Sweden (there are over 70). They may also be able to provide you with a written statement relating to your foreign qualifications, which helps Swedish employers assess your level. This can be useful even in non-regulated professions, if you have a qualification that makes you an attractive hire. 


FIND A JOB: Browse thousands of English-language jobs in Sweden

How to write the perfect Swedish CV and cover letter
Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

Long-distance networking

A huge proportion of job vacancies in Sweden are filled through personal networks. This might be disheartening to applicants based outside the country, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier.

Do you have friends of friends with work experience in Sweden, or could you post a message on a Facebook group for international professionals? Try The Local’s English Language Jobs in Sweden group for starters. The international community is close-knit in Sweden, so you might well find other foreigners are happy to offer you advice and maybe even put you in touch with personal connections.

“Social media groups are excellent places to share and find knowledge,” one The Local reader told us. “I posted that my partner was looking for a teaching job and got lots of excellent suggestions, people saying there were vacancies at their local school and other useful links, which led to him getting a job directly!”

“Use your network [in your home country] because some people do move here that you might already know,” reader Paul Flynn advised. “LinkedIn is a good place to hunt down roles. Ring and offer to meet hiring managers and try to cluster interviews in a single trip.”

Typically flatter hierarchies mean there’s less stigma linked to reaching out to someone you don’t know, even if they’re senior to you. For example, have a look at conferences and events linked to your industry in Sweden, and if you see that someone is giving a talk on a topic you’re interested in, why not send a friendly email to ask if they could send you the slides? 

Just make sure to be respectful of people’s time and always say thank you for any help. And be careful not to overstate your connection to someone who has offered helpful advice: if they gave that advice in good faith, you could burn bridges if you present yourself as being closely connected with and vouched for by them.

READ ALSO: How to network in Sweden and make valuable professional connections

Photo: Rawpixel/Pexels

Read up on visas and permits

This is most crucial for non-EU citizens, since EU citizens are able to work anywhere with the Union.

As a non-EU worker, you’ll almost always need a work permit in order to work in Sweden (the exception is if you already qualify for residency under another permit, for example if you’re moving to Sweden to join a Swedish partner, or if you’re moving with a partner who already has a work permit). You need to have a job offer in order to be granted a work permit, and the requirements are listed by the Swedish Migration Agency here. A few occupations and countries have specific, different rules, and you can find out about these here.

You don’t want to waste your time interviewing for a job at a company which doesn’t have the possibility of sponsoring your visa. Look out for job ads with the small print: ‘Applicants must have the right to reside and work within the EU’ or similar. Britons can keep up-to-date with the latest post-Brexit rules here.

READ ALSO: What’s it really like working in Sweden?

Work out your salary expectation

Once you’re getting to the interview stage with possible employers, it’s time to work out your salary expectation, in case you’re either asked to name a figure or they make you an offer and you need to know whether to accept or negotiate.

You should do research into your expected cost of living, by looking into typical rental or mortgage costs as well as other figures: public transport passes and/or petrol, utilities, groceries, gym memberships or other activities, and so on. Don’t forget to add a buffer of at least five to ten percent for any unexpected expenses or changes that crop up!

“Be very measured in your approach to salary expectations. Swedish salaries can be surprisingly low, but they contain a lot of hidden benefits that aren’t reflected in the monthly salary level, for example work pensions, shorter working hours, and bonuses,” advised one The Local reader working in the automotive industry. 

Then factor in taxes and benefits. Many internationals get nervous about Sweden’s infamous high tax rates, but you might be in for a pleasant surprise. Higher earners pay higher taxes, but starting salaries are higher than in many other countries with a low tax rate. Sweden’s welfare state means you’ll often get plenty of benefits in return for that tax money, such as heavily subsidised childcare for parents and subsidised healthcare. And some highly qualified internationals may be eligible for a 25 percent tax relief as ‘key personnel’.

As well as working out your personal salary requirements, you need to have a good idea of the market rate for your industry, which might differ from the going rate in other countries. Check sites such as LönestatistikAlla Studier, SCB, or Jusek, or get in touch with a relevant trade union who may be able to offer advice. 

Another trick not all internationals may be aware of is that how much a person pays in tax is public information in Sweden, so if you know who the previous person who held your role was, you could call the Swedish Tax Agency and ask for their taxable income.

READ ALSO: These are the most future-proof jobs for the next five years in Sweden

These are the most future-proof jobs for the next five years in Sweden
Photo: Berit Roald/NTB scanpix/TT

Discuss relocation packages

Moving overseas is no easy task, and many companies will be prepared to help you with the logistics.

But it’s not just about money. Find out if they offer housing assistance and what kind (for example, some relocation agencies may only be able to show you a limited number of apartments). Will they provide help and time off during your first few weeks to arrange your personnummer and insurance? What kind of social events do they offer?

The reader in the automotive industry advised: “Make sure to consider asking for moving expenses to be covered, in addition to Swedish language tutoring. I was able to negotiate both, which made the transition a lot easier.”

“And to close, I’m not sure there’s that much I would have done differently. My mother-in-law is Swedish and works in HR. She helped me a lot to navigate this, so I was able to do it with a lot more confidence and perhaps clarity than others might have.”

It’s also worth looking at any penalties you would incur if the move doesn’t work out. It’s common for companies to ask you to pay back the relocation costs if you leave the job within 12 months. Even if that seems inconcievable now, it could be smart to check all the small print – for example, would they waive those costs if you had to leave the job for a personal or family emergency?

READ ALSO: Ten things Sweden should do to make life better for international talent?

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Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

Be patient

Have you already heard of the Swedish lagom lifestyle? It’s a cliche that Swedes are relaxed and take life at a slower pace, but a cliche with its roots in reality. In particular, hiring processes can often take a long time.

This is partly because in Sweden it’s expensive to hire someone and can be very difficult to let an employee go if it doesn’t work out, so employers tend to prefer taking their time over finding the right person rather than rushing into any decisions.

MY SWEDISH CAREER: Read inspiring interviews with international professionals in Sweden

Consider an alternative route

If you’re finding it tough standing out to Swedish employers from overseas, another possible route is to look for companies in your current country that would offer the option of relocation. If you are happy in your current job but are set on a move to Sweden, it could be worth speaking with your manager about options such as remote working or relocating to a Sweden office.

“I found a job in the UK that had a Scandinavian business focus and was located in Stockholm,” said The Local reader Jordan Leaphard. “I joined them on the condition that I would relocate. I started working for them in the UK last September and I’ve now lived in Stockholm since January.”

Other alternatives could include looking into freelance or vikarie (temporary substitution) opportunities to start with; it might be easier to find long-term work later on, once you have a few connections and references in Sweden. 

READ ALSO: Ten jobs for internationals in Sweden you may not have thought of

Know your rights

As mentioned above, employees in Sweden have excellent rights in general. But there’s one big caveat. Most of the time, your employment will start with a six-month probation period, during which your employer can choose to make you redundant with just one week’s notice without even giving a reason.

If you’re an extremely attractive hire with a proven track record, they might waive this probation period, but if not, make sure you have a plan B. That might mean not moving your family over to Sweden until after those initial six months, or if you’re set on the move, you may want to ensure you have an emergency fund and a plan to start networking once you arrive in Sweden to make sure you’d have a headstart if you needed to begin the job-hunt from scratch.

And if you are lucky enough to be offered a permanent position with no probation period, be aware this will probably require even more patience since the employer will want to be certain you’re the right pick. Don’t be surprised if the job hunt takes several months, and use the time to make sure you’re pursuing a job you’re truly interested in.

NOW READ: Everything you need to know about annual leave in Sweden

Member comments

  1. Sweden only gives good jobs to those who have Swedish Surnames and look Swedish . They are the most Racist Employers in Europe . I say that after seeing it time and time again , and I thanks God I had a lot of money because my MBA from the Wharton School of Business , and Law Degree meant nothing to Swedish employers nor did Eton College . I repeat they keep the best for themselves ask the next Taxi Driver what his qualification is and you will hear Engineer , Doctor , Pilot all well educated but not typical Swedes .

  2. With regards to Swedish resumes – I’ve heard the old saw about how Swedes don’t like to boast on their resumes, and they should be factual – for years. Yet, I’ve reviewed hundreds of Swedish resumes. I’ve never seen more braggadocious resumes or self descriptions – anywhere else. They always talk about being a “top this” or “excellent” at that, and I rarely see the associate facts. Furthermore, I’ve reviewed resumes self descriptions saying how “humble” the person is (isn’t that subjective, and bragging?).
    So – I think this article is filled with good advice. Unfortunately, it is rarely followed in Sweden, at least not by the native born population, and it also applies pretty much universal and is far from unique to Sweden.

  3. Be very careful in Sweden working for smaller companies. Labor laws for companies under 10 employees are very different than for larger ones. Under 10 and they can “restructure” pretty much at will. There doesn’t need to be any legitimate business cause for the restructure, it can just be at the whim of management. And it allows them to pretty much lay off at will with minimal severance. Also, whatever job you get, make sure you get a good contract. Don’t rely on Swedish labor law to save you. Your contract will guide your working terms, and any termination terms. I say this as a manager who was recently forced by ownership to lay off half my staff. They were on 40% permittering and ownership threatened to fire anyone not willing to work 100%.

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For members


Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”