Here’s the secret to landing your first Swedish job

If you moved to Sweden without a job, the hunt for work can be exhausting. Annapoorna Kailasam, from India, became “emotionally drained” – no surprise given that she made 500 unsuccessful applications.

Here's the secret to landing your first Swedish job
Photo: Ahmad Saadeha

For Ahmad Saadeha, a Syrian-born Palestinian, the process left him feeling “a little bit desperate”. But today both have full-time work and are happily planning their future careers in Sweden.

They tell The Local how signing up to Sweden’s nationwide internship programme, Jobbsprånget, can totally transform your career prospects. Internships with Jobbsprånget, a government-backed programme, last four months – and 60 percent of people who complete one find employment (the figure was 70 percent before the pandemic).

Find your dream Swedish job: applications to join Jobbsprånget are open from July 16th to August 16th

500 job applications but no offers

Annapoorna moved to Sweden five years ago with her husband after he was offered a job in Helsingborg. She had worked in communications for a decade in India and had studied and worked in English all her life.

While her first priority was settling into Sweden with her young daughter, she had no idea what she’d face when she did begin hunting for jobs after six months.

I was under the assumption that it would work as it does in India, where things can happen pretty fast,” she says. But soon automated rejection messages were filling her inbox. She was also told that her basic Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) certification might not be sufficient for finding work.

As she dedicated her time to applications, networking and learning Swedish, the challenges began to take a toll. “I started questioning myself on the confidence level,” she says. “Emotionally, I was getting a bit drained. It’s not easy to become fluent in Swedish when you’ve been so comfortable speaking English. Even now I can manage very well but fluency will come over the years.” 

Across several years of job hunting, Annapoorna made 500 applications, from which she gained 20 interviews but no offers.

Wanted: English-speaking university graduates 

Fortunately, you don’t need to speak Swedish to apply to Jobbsprånget as the programme is run in English. You do, however, need to be registered at Arbetsförmedlingen, Sweden’s Public Employment Service.

You must also have a degree in engineering, architecture, science or business/finance. English-speaking graduates who were born outside Europe and are looking for work in Sweden are a priority group

After learning about and registering with Arbetsförmedlingen, Annapoorna was told by a job coach that Jobbsprånget was “the best option for people with a strong background in English”.

Didn’t know about Jobbsprånget? Find out more about how to apply before the next deadline on August 16th 

This proved wise advice. In October 2020, she began an internship in a communications role at Heimstaden, a property management company. She admits she had some initial inhibitions about Swedish work culture, but says they soon melted away. She has since secured a full-time role at Heimstaden as a Talent Development Officer. 

It was a very open and friendly work culture,” she says. “From the beginning, I was given lots of responsibilities and lots of support, even when I was working from home.”

Annapoorna advises job hunters to remember 3Ps: patience, perseverance and participation in networking. Perhaps, even more important is one J: “Everybody should definitely apply for Jobbsprånget.”

Photo: Annapoorna Kailasam

From desperation to a dream job

Ahmad lives in Gothenburg and has now been working in the city for four years as an IT business analyst at Volvo Group. Such a life seemed a distant prospect when he arrived in Sweden in 2016, knowing nothing about the job market.

“I was looking at international companies that didn’t require Swedish skills and I was a little bit desperate due to not getting any responses,” he recalls.

His life changed in 2017 when he was surprised to be contacted by a Jobbsprånget employee who had seen his LinkedIn profile and felt he had the skills to make a good candidate.

He began applying for English-speaking internships through the programme and was soon offered an interview and then an internship at Volvo.

There was just one significant problem: he was living in a village almost 200km from Gothenburg. “I had to ask myself ‘Are you willing to travel almost five hours per day to take this chance?’” The answer was yes. From February to June 2017, he left home in the early morning on his bike, arriving at Volvo’s offices two-and-a-half hours later after two bus rides and a train journey. “It was really difficult for me but it was a big opportunity,” says Ahmad. “Looking back, I didn’t imagine I would be so well-established in this period of time. I’ve now got everything I dreamed about from my employer.”

Ahmad, who has previously lived in Damascus, Bangkok, Dubai and Doha, has no intention of leaving the job or Gothenburg and says he has even turned down offers from abroad. 

Applications are now open

Now that they know Swedish working culture from the inside, both Annapoorna and Ahmad find much to admire about it. “There’s a lot of emphasis on trust and how a person fits into an organisation,” says Annapoorna. “I feel very confident about continuing my career path in Sweden.”

Ahmad says he has been given opportunities to stretch himself since talking openly with managers about his role. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! And as these two international workers can testify, where better to start than by asking to join Jobbsprånget?

Jobbsprånget has just two application periods per year: apply by August 16th to make sure you don’t miss out on this round

Member comments

  1. Unfortunately, this very promoted program Jobbsprånget is only made available for people who have degrees in the science and business.

    1. The anti-virus running on my notebook does not like the links to clickmetertracking dot com this article uses throughout. Why not simply link directly to jobbspranget dot se ?

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For members


How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years.