When we moved to Gothenburg, my biggest mission was to find a job. At the time, I was still working remotely for a startup company based in Singapore and India, but I knew I wanted to start working in a Sweden-based company as soon as possible. I finally got a job after what felt like a looong time, but the road there was bumpy.
I started looking for jobs and prepared myself even before arriving here. I read many, many articles written by people who struggled (and some succeeded) to find a job after moving to Sweden. To be honest, what I read wasn’t encouraging at all. Finding a job in Sweden seemed extremely hard, especially when you came from outside of the country.
The main (and most common) challenges of finding a job in Sweden are:
- Most jobs require some level of Swedish, unless it’s engineering or IT jobs
- Most job vacancies aren’t advertised — most positions are filled through connections and referrals
- Employers value work experience with Sweden-based or Swedish companies
These got me disheartened before I even started, because: 1) I was looking for a job in marketing, 2) I had no friends and connections in Sweden, 3) I had no work experience with a Swedish company. And to make things worse, I had no formal education in marketing, something that was often required in the jobs I was looking for.
But I was determined. I prepared myself for months of applying for jobs and even internships to get myself in the Swedish job market. I started learning Swedish but knew it would be a long way to reach a professional level, so I focused on jobs that didn’t require Swedish. I went to a lot of meetups and gatherings over the summer, and made friends along the way.
Tips to Get A Job in Sweden
Make friends and connections
I can’t stress the importance of this. Not only for the sake of your job hunt, but also for you. Moving to a new place can be difficult, and it’s often a lonely and isolating time in the beginning. Making friends not only make you feel less alone and more welcomed, but it also helps for your job search. You learn more about companies that are hiring, available positions, and even Swedish work culture.
What to do: Go to events and meetups in your city. I was lucky that Gothenburg is very dynamic with lots of international people. Over the summer, I went to expats events and hang out with new friends. There were lots of events arranged on meetup.com, and it was one of the best things I did in my first few months here.
Spruce up your CV (to match their standards) and LinkedIn
I went to a CV workshop by Move to Gothenburg, and learned that the UK format didn’t work well here. Previously, I had a one-page CV with no photo, and I only listed interests that were related to the jobs I applied for.
In the workshop, I talked with a staff from Move to Gothenburg that had years of experience in HR, and an employee of Arbetsförmedlingen (The Swedish Public Employment Service). Both stated that a CV with a photo was better than the one without (‘It’s like LinkedIn profile. It’s better and more interesting if you put your photo there,’ they said). A two-page CV was not a problem (but still make sure it’s concise and relevant), and so was listing a variety of interests, even if it’s not related to the job you’re applying for. Apparently, CV is also the way employers try to get to you personally (and professionally, of course), so it’s completely okay if you put, say, cooking and dancing as your interests when you’re applying for a marketing job.
LinkedIn is used a lot here (and by a lot, I mean A LOT). Make sure your profile is up-to-date, and stay active on LinkedIn. It’s also worth it to get a premium account — it gives a bit of a boost to your profile when recruiters are looking for something that’s relevant to your profile. You can read detailed tips in this LinkedIn tips for job seekers.
P.S. Apart from LinkedIn, I also checked Arbetsförmedlingen‘s website every day for job vacancies. At that time, I felt like there were not that many people who checked there compared to LinkedIn, so you might have a better chance there.
Network like crazy, online and offline
I read somewhere that 70% of positions are filled by referrals or connections, and only 30% are advertised. While I’m not sure these figures are exactly on point, it is true that most positions are filled through referrals, and a reference from someone within the company can be your highway.
It was hard since I only knew 2 people when moving to Sweden, but I spent a lot of time networking offline (see point #1) and online. I opened discussions and networked with people who worked in the companies that I targeted on LinkedIn, and I tried even harder to connect with people from the digital marketing industry (the area that I’m working in).
Don’t dismiss job vacancies in Swedish
Most of the vacancies are written in Swedish, but unless it specifically says that the position requires Swedish, I’d encourage you to keep trying. In the beginning, I easily dismissed every vacancy in Swedish as I thought I’d better focus my energy on something that I had a chance on, until my friend encouraged me to keep an open mind. After that, I always sent an email to the job poster/contact person to ask if the job required Swedish (and added the note that I just started learning Swedish and was willing to improve, and that I was also really interested in the job).
It worked. In fact, my current job now was posted in Swedish, and I sent an email to the job poster (my boss now) to ask if I could still apply. He said yes and encouraged me to apply, and I got the job! 🙂
Make a connection before sending your application
In my experience, I was more likely to get a reply when I’d made a contact prior to sending an application. This happens when I asked the job posters if Swedish was required or when I asked something else about the company. I guess that way, I got in their radar, and when my application landed in their inbox, they noticed me.
I’d strongly encourage you to make a connection before sending your application. Ask questions (but obviously, don’t ask something that’s been stated in the ad or something that you can google easily) and make yourself stand out among the other applicants.
Amp up your Swedish
Even when the job doesn’t require Swedish, it always helps to show your Swedish and your willingness to improve it. In my correspondence and interviews, I always tried to say something in Swedish, even if it was as simple as ‘trevligt att träffas‘ or ‘tack for din tid‘. At that time, I’d only been learning Swedish for less than 4 months, but I wanted to show them that I was willing and going to improve.
Give yourself a break when you need it
Job hunting is a grueling process, and it was also a vicious cycle for me. I wanted to get a job ASAP so I kept pushing myself to apply apply apply, even when I was physically and emotionally drained. I would take a quick break and feel guilty about it, and went back to my applications again when I wasn’t fully refreshed or rested. Soon I’d feel tired and hopeless again, and so the cycle went. It was bad.
So my most important advice is to take the break you need and not feel guilty about it.
Other tips I haven’t tried
These are the things that my friends suggested which I was going to try before I got the job.
Register as a job seeker in Arbetsförmedlingen
After signing up, you will have an interview with an employee about your education, work experience, and professional details, and later on you will work out a plan for your job search. I’ve read mixed reviews about this, but I think there’s no harm in registering as a job seeker.
Do a job-coaching
A friend of mine got a free job coaching from a recruitment agency (paid by the state) as she was registered as a job seeker in Arbetsförmedlingen. She told me that she received valuable tips about finding a job in Sweden, and some of the materials were useful.
Hope these tips can help you a bit. I know it can be hard and frustrating, but don’t be discouraged! Getting a job in Sweden is possible, even if you read many negative things about it. If you have any questions or just want to chat, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with me on LinkedIn.