The guide to working in Sweden: from job hunt to salary talks
Moving to a new country is scary enough. Finding a job in a new country is a whole other ball game – and the many pandemic-related restrictions on life in recent times have hardly made it easier.
Swedish work culture is different to that of other countries. If you're working in an office, stepping away from the desk and taking actual coffee breaks (accompanied with cake) is the norm, as is a casual dress code and flexible working hours. If you're working remotely, there are still important points of difference to consider, such as Sweden's flatter hierarchies.
Still, there are things you should remember when looking for a job and preparing for the interview. Here are our top tips.
Job hunting: CV and cover letter
When you do find your dream job, tailor your CV accordingly. Yes, it was lovely of you to volunteer at that farm all those years ago, but what does it add to your professional personality? Keep things relevant!
Other peculiarities to bear in mind with Swedish CVs is that it’s common to include a photo of yourself. You’re not required to – but it’s frequently appreciated. Your next task is your cover letter. Skip the “Dear Mr. So and So”. Address the person by his or her first name, or not at all; just dive in with a powerful statement. Then proceed to outline your relevant experience, why you like the company, and why you are suited to the role.
So they like your CV … well done! Now it’s interview time.
Don’t freak yourself out over the interview, but do take it seriously. It’s the final hurdle (or two or three) between you and blissful employment so you’ll only kick yourself if you don’t prep sufficiently!
Research the company, particularly its recent history. Come up with questions. All this will show an eagerness to learn, but also that you know what you’re signing up for and you’re not just winging it.
A big no-no is turning up in casual gear. Yes, Swedish workplaces tend to be pretty relaxed in terms of dress code – even CEOs will be dressed in jeans and trainers. But you don’t have the job yet! Dress smartly. It gives a good impression and you can always dress more comfortably once you’ve been hired.
Lastly, before your interview, plan your journey! There’s nothing worse than the stress of cutting it fine, or indeed, running late. Swedes are extremely punctual people – you should really plan on being ten minutes early and just waiting there for your interview to begin.
If you do end up late, and it’s unavoidable, call ahead and warn them – call at least ten minutes before the scheduled time, but as early as possible.
During the interview(s)
So you’ve arrived, you’ve met whoever will be interviewing you, and chances are, you’ve been offered a drink. Take it! Even if it’s just water (though it will probably be coffee).
Swedes like it when you accept their offers. Plus it may give you a couple of minutes to talk outside of the interview context, which, if you feel nervous, will surely calm you down.
Once you begin the interview, treat it as a dialogue. Like we said, have questions and do your research. That way, you can turn the interview into a conversation, which is far less daunting than having to answer a series of questions.
Remember to be honest and modest. Americans may be used to having to “sell themselves” at interviews, but exaggerating all your accomplishments and saying you’re simply the best won’t help you here.
It’s likely that there’ll be a number of rounds of interviews. Keep in mind appropriate questions to ask at each round. For example, in the first round you might ask what the work culture is like, whereas in the second round (getting serious!), you might want to find out things such as whether the company has kollektivavtal – a collective agreement with a union.
Preparing for the best: money, money, money
So you got the job? Congratulations!
In some cases you will already have discussed salary (perhaps in the second or third round of interviews). But sometimes the salary isn’t brought up until you’ve received the offer. Either way, it’s important to be ready with a number.
Luckily, it’s easy to look up appropriate salaries for various jobs in Sweden. Check out www.lonestatistik.se, where you can search by job type, county, age, and level of experience to see what the normal range is.
Be confident with your salary request (löneanspråk), and be prepared to offer reasons why you deserve that salary. Don’t be afraid to reference the market rate. Swedes are rational people. Keep in mind that you will usually land a couple of thousand kronor below your request – so aim a bit on the high end.
Preparing for the worst: unemployment
Now, you may be very good at your job, and the company you work at may be great. But sometimes, things don’t work out.
Even when you do get the job, many positions in Sweden are temporary – for instance summer ‘vikarie’ (substitute) jobs or other substitute positions while a regular employee is on parental leave.
Make sure you sign up to Akademikernas a-kassa, so you’re covered when you’re in between jobs or if you should for some reason suddenly become unemployed. It’s a sort of unemployment insurance that, if you were to lose your job, pays you up to 80 percent of that salary to tide you over until you secure a new job.
Working in Sweden is great for a whole host of reasons, and Akademikernas a-kassa is one of them.
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