Get a job in Sweden – things you need to know

Get a job in Sweden

Small companies, flat organisations and a not so formal recruiting processes… The Swedish labor market differs quite substantially from many other countries.

Maybe you are in your new home country, wondering about what you should do in the coming years: what do I want to work with? How do I find available positions and what is the smoothest way to employment?

Before you start your job search there are a whole lot you need to know about the Swedish labor market in order to increase your chances. The culture that is evident in the Swedish working environment is in many ways different from that in many other countries.

  • Small organisations. In Sweden many people are employed at small or very small companies. Over 45% work in companies with less than 50 employees. Almost 65% work in companies with less than 250 employees. And since Sweden is a relatively small country, the large organisations are not very large, measured by international standards. In addition, only the largest organisations are represented at trade fairs and advertise job vacancies – therefore only a fraction of the labor market comes into contact with these types of channels. Seven out of ten jobs are not advertised in a traditional way and therefore you need to choose other paths to increase your chances of getting a job. Use the contacts that you have, but also look for organisations that you are interested in, and contact them directly.
  • Informal recruiting processes. Since most of the organisations are small, the recruiting processes are also considerably less formalised than in many other countries and doesn’t always follow established routines. It doesn’t mean that the company isn’t serious – maybe too many years have passed since they last recruited someone and therefore does not have any proper routines and especially not when it comes to recruiting processes.
  • Well educated population. A very large proportion of the Swedes have a high level of education. The consequences are that it’s not enough to have a bachelor’s degree and other nice merits to be recruited. You need to stand out in some other way and show what makes you unique – as a person or through your specific skills.
  • Flat organisations. The Swedish labor market is not hierarchical. Be respectful to people, but not just because people have a higher position than yourself. The flat organisational form that characterises Swedish companies also means that you can contact a company’s CEO directly, for example through LinkedIn. You may not get an answer, or be referred further, but your contact attempt is not something that is frowned upon but is in fact something completely normal.
  • Well-being is important. In Swedish workplaces, you strive to have a team that works well socially – you simply want it to be nice and cozy (or mysigt as we say) at work. Therefore, adopting a completely business attitude and fully entering the professional role at work is therefore unusual. For example, it is not a good idea to skip the joint coffee break every day, even if you feel it is unproductive to sit down and have a “fika”. You shouldn’t be surprised if a colleague brings the dog to work for a day or if someone’s child shows up on occasion. Think about this even in the recruitment process – let go of the formal and be more relaxed and natural.
  • Bragging – a deadly sin. No, Swedes don’t restrain themselves – but they don’t brag either. To brag is a deadly sin (google or ask a swede about “jantelagen”, and you will see why). In Sweden, you have a much more humble approach than in many other countries. For example, if you compare a Swedish and an American job application, the difference is miles wide. In the United States, it’s natural to exaggerate all the fantastic achievements that you have accomplished, which in Sweden can be perceived as boastful. In other countries, for example in eastern Europe, you often promote yourself by name dropping others: “I studied with the honourable professor …” or “I went to the very prestigious college of …”. For a Swedish employer, this is completely uninteresting information. It is more likely that the recruiter will think you have nothing more to show because you talk more about others than yourself.
  • Initiative is norm. In Sweden you show off simply through making suggestions and showing initiative. Unlike many other countries – such as France where it may even be perceived as disloyal to come up with your own initiatives if you are an subordinate – initiative is something that is expected of you in a Swedish workplace. It’s more important to have the business best in mind, than to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes.
  • Personal – but not private. In Sweden, you are very personal but not always so private. This is something to keep in mind when you look for a job. You need to talk about yourself, what drives you, what motivates you and what you are interested in, but skip going into detail about your family and your hobbies. If you talk too much about what your partner does or what your children are called and how old they are, that information will soon be perceived as irrelevant and even a little strange.
  • Ask questions. It’s always okay to ask questions i Sweden. Especially during a recruitment process. This doesn’t only apply during the actual job interview – feel free to call and ask questions before, even before you apply for a job. It’s not strange if you suggest a coffee with someone at a company you are interested in. You will not be perceived as ignorant or rebellious – but instead as eager and seriously interested.
  • Informal references. When it comes to taking references, it is usually way more formal in other countries than in Sweden. In the US, for example, those who submit a reference may be sued because of the content in the reference. In Sweden, a reference can basically say anything, there is no legal framework around them.
  • Collective agreement. In Sweden there are no such thing as minimum wages. Essentially, you and your employer decide together what should apply. At the same time, we have a very strong trade union movement in Sweden, almost 70 percent of all employees are connected to one. Many workplaces are therefore linked to collective agreements, which have been concluded with the various trade unions. The collective agreements have a big impact and when you negotiate with your employer you also negotiate with the collective agreement that is in place at your workplace (if there is one). This means that a lot is regulated, but that there is also room for negotiation.