The State Of Recruitment in Switzerland

by Etienne Besson on 29 February 2012

in #TruGeneva,My musings,Recruitment

How do the Swiss recruit these days? And how is social media used for recruitment in Switzerland?

I was at #TruLondon last week and Keith Robinson, Director of ECOM Digital and publisher of the Recruitment Buzz and other “Buzz” newsletters, asked me about the state of recruitment in Switzerland.

This was just a couple of hours after I had read an article by Henner Knabenreich asking if Switzerland was a developing country in terms of social recruiting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really disagree with my German neighbor.

So here’s my take on the state of recruitment in Switzerland.

Job ads in newspapers

Not surprisingly, the jobs sections in Swiss newspapers are very thin these days. Hard to imagine that, as Keith mentioned at #TruLondon, some newspapers used to sell 25-30% more copies on days when the jobs section was published.

Job boards

At the moment job boards are still the fastest and cheapest way for publishing job ads.

There has been some recent activity on the job boards market where and seem to be emerging as the two leaders together with their sister and affiliated niche boards.

Unfortunately, ads on job boards are in most cases still not much more than classic newspaper job ads published online. Maybe with a few more colors and a link to the company’s website.

I’m choosing these harsh words on purpose because I believe that job boards still have a tremendous amount of potential for innovation, be it with or without social media. However, there have been some interesting initiatives in trying to link with Xing or in letting recruiters present themselves on a dedicated page.

Recruiting agencies

When corporate recruiters can’t fill a position with job boards, the next step is usually to call back one of the many recruiting agencies. I won’t get into the classic “agency recruiters hate corporate HR” and “corporate HR hates agency recruiters” argument, but based on the many articles I read and frequent discussions with international colleagues, I believe that Switzerland isn’t much different from other countries 😉

The general model seems to be still success based with more and more companies using PSL’s (Preferred Supplier List’s) but not often giving exclusives.

Corporate Recruiters

Considering that more than 99% of Swiss companies are SME’s, it’s safe to assume that even the companies with an HR department (or an HR professional) don’t necessarily employ dedicated recruiters. So with the exception of big companies, most hiring activities are performed by HR generalists and it seems that they don’t always enjoy the recruitment part of their numerous (sub-)responsibilities.

But from casually looking at the job alerts provided by several job boards, I noticed that last year many companies started hiring internal recruiters. This might be a new development in Switzerland.

Social Media

This is obviously what I’m most interested in. About half of the HR professionals I’m talking to (mostly corporate HR professionals and agency recruiters) are interested in the topic, but either don’t know where to start or work for companies that don’t want to use social media.

And this is where I wish I could disagree with Henner Knabenreich. But he’s right. Switzerland is still a developing country in terms of social recruiting.

Now is this a problem? I don’t believe that it is at the moment. But like I mentioned in my previous article, things evolve and it can be dangerous to be left behind.

So here’s a quick and mostly subjective assessment of the current use of social media for recruitment in Switzerland:

Professional social networks

LinkedIn is definitely king. Most people I know have a LinkedIn profile and more and more even have one that looks okay and is more or less up to date.

Xing is still important in the German-speaking regions of Switzerland but I don’t know many people who actively use Viadeo in the Suisse Romande. But then again, that’s maybe because most of my acquaintances work for international companies.

I don’t know anybody in Switzerland (yet) who’s used LinkedIn ads for recruiting, but it seems that job ads generate good results. Contacting people directly also seems to become very popular amongst recruiters, but I also hear from job seekers that it’s often done in a not very targeted and sometimes even unprofessional way.


It might have been more logical to continue with Facebook, but I’m very passionate about Twitter and this topic makes me a bit sad. So lets get it over with.

Twitter is not used by HR professionals in Switzerland.

There are some job boards, recruiting agencies and also individual recruiters who use it for streaming job ads. While I tend to be a social media purist (engagement rules!), I recognize that broadcasting information can be useful. At the same time I can’t believe that it’s very effective the way it’s currently used, except maybe for SEO purposes.

From time to time I like to visit an HR colleague’s LinkedIn profile and then click through to the profiles mentioned under “Viewers of this profile also viewed…”. And then I look for links to Twitter accounts. While writing this I just visited 20 profiles and found 1 Twitter account with 9 tweets.

And this is why it makes me a bit sad: while I know of very active HR Twitter communities in the US, the UK, the Netherlands and also France and Germany, most of my Swiss colleagues don’t use this platform in order to share and engage.

And therefore they don’t benefit from this great communication tool. Or maybe they simply haven’t read my article on how to get started on Twitter yet? 😉


I admit that I didn’t really research Swiss companies using Facebook for recruitment. Occasionally I see a link and visit it. But just like the LinkedIn discussion groups of many Swiss companies, if you look up who commented or liked something, you’ll realize that most activity comes from employees of said company.

However, Henner mentioned 5 Swiss companies who use Facebook fan pages for recruitment. And off the top of my head I simply must add the great people at CERN. They may be an international organization, but their official address is in Switzerland (less than 6 km from where I live) and they even use the .ch TLD.

CERN Jobs has currently more than 4’000 likes on Facebook, use YouTube and Twitter and don’t hesitate to talk to people online. So in my book they’re a (more or less) Swiss company actively engaged in social recruiting.

Innovative online recruitment

At the beginning of this article I said that I “couldn’t really disagree with my German neighbor”. But this is the part where I fully agree with Henner Knabenreich. He mentioned the Baloise Group and the VBZ as interesting examples of Swiss social recruiting. These are just the two companies I mentioned in an interview in December 2011 with Jean-Christophe Anna for (in French).

Baloise Group: they publish YouTube videos with “real employees”, engage with the visitors of their Facebook page and just started their own blog.

The VBZ (Verkehrsbetriebe Zurich – Public Transportation Zurich) are a state-owned company who runs trams and buses for the city of Zurich. Two years ago they also replaced job ads with online videos where it’s actually the line managers who’s applying with candidates.

A few weeks ago they introduced what I call a “next gen job posting”. It’s a job ad because it has the usual “you will do a, b and c” and the “you know I, II, III and have the following experience”. But then they add so much more. Even if you don’t understand German, take a look at a job and just click around.

The VBZ works with Prospective Media, a media agency who is developing innovative recruiting solutions and recently announced a new project for mobile job ads.

Which brings us to the inevitable topic of:


At the moment mobile isn’t a big topic in Switzerland. I often read email job alerts and visit job boards and company career pages on my mobile phone. Unfortunately most aren’t adapted to mobile.

I also get the impression that most companies dream of cool mobile apps instead of making their emails and websites mobile friendly. Which reminds me that it’s about time to do just that with my own blog…

What’s next?

If you’re interested in these topics, then why not join us on the 4th of May 2012 for #TruGeneva (The Recruitment Unconference)?

The website will be up soon, but in the meantime you can subscribe to the HR TweetUp Geneva newsletter in order to get the latest news about #TruGeneva.

And of course your comments are always welcome, especially if you don’t agree with me!


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