Hunted Worldwide: Zurich

In this article from Hunted Worldwide we direct our focus to Zurich, Switzerland. We explore the recruitment market, the culture of the city and some handy tips if The Land of Milk and Honey is a destination of interest for you.

We asked Tom Oloughlin, Executive Director of Nicoll Curtin’s Zurich division, to give us his knowledge about all things Swiss.

1 Market Overview

Switzerland has been a major financial epicentre for decades, with large companies and their employees alike all eager to flock there. Now the country also ranks top for innovation and investment in ‘Digitalisation’ and has spawned a booming Start-up and Fintech economy.

In fact, Zurich is in the top 10 financial markets in the world. Further afield there are huge companies operating in sectors such as Life Sciences, Engineering and Manufacturing. The general recruitment market is smaller than London, but typically very buoyant. 

Tom’s seen year on year growth in the region, and against the backdrop of some difficult times. Brexit has meant that UK citizens are keen to take further advantage of the country’s lower tax and higher salaries.

2 Contract Vs Perm

The contract market in Zurich and Switzerland is established and a great way of bringing skills and expertise to the area. For Recruitment agencies working with existing companies, ‘contract’ remains the higher ratio of deals done. One of the reasons for this is the strength of internal recruitment teams offering extremely capable permanent solutions, for many.

If your only focus is on Switzerland, you’re likely to do less deals, but the margin on each will probably bridge the deficit. Less established and smaller clients may well offer more permanent roles, if their internal team isn’t strong. So while a ‘growth area’ contract placements are likely to be in vogue for some time yet.

3 Professional Community

Switzerland has an international atmosphere and as with many smaller populations, networking is absolutely priceless. As Tom himself points out, the first introduction and ‘getting in’ to the community can be difficult. Once you’re in however it’s a great place to be. Coffee is the currency of the community, and attendance at various networking events can make all the difference.

Like most communities, there’s an incestuous nature to interaction.


4 Business Culture

There’s a UK-centric mentality recruiters may need to adjust if moving from the UK to Switzerland. The pace and flow of the recruitment process in Switzerland is very different, and it can do more harm than good to try and rush clients and ‘put the cart before the horse.’

Best practice will denote there’s a plan, and you stick to it. No matter how much time that process takes. That’s not to say the process will be long or slow. Just that if there’s a schedule, you’re best to stick to it.

5 Language

Zurich is a mostly Swiss-German, German and English speaking city. Home to a large expat community, it’s a multicultural, multinational city. 31% of people living and working there are non-Swiss nationals, and this is well represented in businesses too. Being able to speak the language will never do you any harm, but equally English will usually get you by.

A photo by Joshua Earle.

6 Business Development

The difficulty of ‘Business Development’ is one of the biggest barriers to entry in the Swiss market. Very rarely will you be picking up a raft of jobs with your first months client interaction. Relationships take a long time to forge, and are built to last. 

Companies and hiring managers are looking for lasting relationships with capable recruiters. Not just an individual chancing their arm and moving on swiftly. So while it can mean a period of 12 months plus before any noticeable traction, it may be it’s worth the wait.

7 The CBD

Centred around the Paradeplatz, Zurich’s Central Business District is one of the most significant financial hot spots in the world. Known as “Kreis 1”, the CBD stretches from Zurich Central Station over to Bahnhofstrasse and up to Burkliplatz. Over a third of all banks in Switzerland are headquartered within the Zurich Economic Zone. 

8 Dress

Generally speaking the business dressin Zurich is more casual than in London. As ever this depends on the clients you’re dealing with. ‘Dress for the occasion’. Turning up to a meeting with a client who’s in shorts and a t-shirt will make you look a tad silly if you’re suited and booted.

It gets cold in Zurich in the winter. So remember your coat for the stroll between meetings.

Swiss Snow

9 Travel

Switzerland is well known for having the easiest, most reliable public transport in Europe and is well connected with trains, trams, boats and cable cars. It’s incredibly easy to get between cities and further afield too. The clichés about Swiss trains run on efficiency are all true. They’re also a fraction of the price of the UK.

For Tom’s office, no one lives more than half an hours commute from the office!

Life in the city:

1 Weather

Weather in Switzerland is seasonal and generally pretty good. April to September form the warmer months with temperatures hovering between 25 and 35 degrees with a lot of sun. December brings with it the colder winter months and opportunities to ski and snowboard in the surrounding 5 resorts.

2 Housing

Renting is the cheapest way to get accommodation in Zurich and it’s generally quite easy to do. Buying is very expensive and unattainable for many people. The standard of accommodation is similarly very high though, so you’ll new getting more value for money across the board.

The good news is the high prices don’t look to be increasing too much, with the government keen to cool the ‘overheated property market.

A small  apartment in a central location will set you back approximately £1000 per month, and this website’s a great place to start.

3 Food

Given the close proximity to alternative influences from the swiss border, the variation and choice of dining options in Zurich is mouth watering. There are some amazing restaurants to be found and choice may equal that of much larger cities, even if on a smaller scale.

Our friends at Timeout offer, as ever, the best place for up to the minute hotspots in Zurich.

Swiss Mountain

4 Outdoor Space

The outdoors is one of the reasons you’ll be blown away by this city and Switzerland in general and it’s one of the biggest draws to living there. The summer means lakes, hikes, mountain biking and exploring the countryside while the winter offers an opportunity to ski and snowboard at one of the five resorts within an hour and a half travelling time.

If you love breathtaking scenery and the freshest air all within a short travelling time from your home, it’s safe to say you’ll love Zurich!

5 Social Scene

With a population of just under 380,000 Zurich’s smaller than a lot of cities. That’s not to say it’s quiet. There are plenty of options for nightlife, and at the weekends, almost half the country come to Zurich to take it all in.

The main nightlife areas are the streets around Langstrasse, Niederdorf, and Zurich West. There are festivals and larger events running throughout the year. Street Parade, the biggest, sees over 1m people partying every summer.

Swiss Festival

6 Family

Childcare can be expensive in Switzerland but the country and specifically Zurich is very family friendly. The high standard of schooling is world renowned while remaining low in cost.

 7 Cost of Living

Socialising is generally expensive in Zurich, however travel is cheaper and salaries are much higher. With lower tax than a lot of countries even though the general cost of living is higher you’ll likely see more money in your bank account at the end of the month.

8 Tax

As advertised, the tax is low there. Ex-patriots will pay something called ‘Quellensteuer’, meaning they are taxed at source, every month. If you don’t wish to pay ‘Church Tax’, make sure you state the “no religion” option when first entering the country. 

9 Visas

Generally speaking, if you’re entering Switzerland from an EU country, you won’t have any problem working and living in Switzerland – which at time to press still includes the UK. For non-EU citizens there may be difficulties however, depending on the country of origin.

There’s more information here, and it’s worth finding out the level of difficulty before booking that flight.

If you’re looking to set up, or recruit in Switzerland, you’ll need a licence to do so. This process can also be quite difficult and long-winded so as always, check with your new employer.Swiss house

10 International Travel

Flights back to the UK are regular and cheap at about £150. Being based in the centre of Europe means if you’re looking to explore you’ll be in the perfect spot. Bordered by Austria and Liechtenstein to the east, France to the west, Italy to the south and Germany to the north, you’re not short of options! 

You can take a glass roofed train through the Alps to Italy or maybe pop over to neighbouring country for a long lunch. The possibilities that living in Zurich opens is nothing short of amazing. If you live there, you owe it to yourself to go on an adventure.

With thanks to Tom from Nicoll Curtin whose profile is here. Check out the opportunities they have live currently.