Who holds the power with recruitment in Switzerland
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Who holds the power with recruitment in Switzerland

Did you know there are bears in Italy? Most people don't know, unless they are Italian like me. Bears tend to shy away from humans.

25 August 2021

Did you know there are bears in Italy? Most people don't know, unless they are Italian like me. Bears tend to shy away from humans. They're scared of us despite being formidable predators who are physically more powerful than us. This reminds me of the recruitment market in Switzerland. Candidates often underestimate their strength.

I say this with a heavy heart because it really shouldn't be like this. I ran a poll last week on LinkedIn and I was surprised by the results. I asked the question "What do you think? Who holds the power in recruitment in Switzerland?"

The response was mixed.

What do you think? Who holds the power in recruitment in Switzerland?

Source: LinkedIn

From the 355 people who participated, 43% believed the employer does, while 38% thought the candidate did, and the remaining 19% thought both had no influence. The result was inconclusive but tipped slightly in the employer's favour.

It’s interesting because nearly every recruiter in Switzerland knows that candidates hold power and have done for quite some time. Ironically, neither candidates nor employers realise this. Subsequently, there's often a mismatch in expectations during the recruitment process from both sides.

In most countries, this power struggle shifts and changes depending on the economic environment. Typically, during periods of recession the employer holds the power as there are fewer jobs to offer and plenty of redundant candidates to choose from. By contrast, during periods of economic stability and growth, there is usually a shortage of talent, which gives candidates the power to negotiate.

The difference is that in Switzerland there has always been a shortage of talent. Regardless of whether Switzerland is in a recession or not, candidates have always held the power. This is because Switzerland is a country that is small yet hosts world-class companies in many different sectors. These companies need to hire talent in order to remain competitive and are prepared to pay the price needed to secure talent.

This misunderstanding could actually cost both candidates and employers for a number of reasons. Let's go through some of them.

1. Candidates miss out on opportunities for career advancement

This is one of the most serious issues that I've seen, especially in the post-pandemic world that we are now entering. Candidates are foregoing opportunities because they are afraid of leaving their own job. Their fear is driven by concern that moving to a new company poses a risk. If it doesn't work out early on, they could be left unemployed.

To compound matters, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic continues to linger, putting candidates off from applying for new jobs. Some candidates are choosing to stay where they are because it is comfortable and they can already work flexibly on good terms. Subsequently, they are choosing to remain comfortable rather than pursuing career advancement.

2. Companies can fail to attract the talent they want

I've heard this complaint from hiring managers so many times. They tell me that the candidates they meet seemed uninterested or unimpressed with the role that is being offered. What they expect is a pile of CVs from candidates who are desperate to work for them.

They mistakenly think that they hold the power and assume that candidates want to work for them because they are well known. It's a classic case where the hiring manager confuses having a strong corporate brand with an employer brand, which are entirely different things. These days candidates are thinking very carefully about the type of employer they want to work for. This has become especially true post-pandemic.

3. Companies completely misinterpret the situation

We are already seeing this happen now. Google has announced for instance that employees based in the same office before the pandemic, could receive a pay cut if they work from home permanently.

Frankly, I've never heard of anything so ridiculous. Nearly every candidate I speak to enquires about flexible working. This is no longer seen as a perk, but a mandatory part of an employment package. Moreover, companies will save an enormous amount of money by having a remote workforce because they can save on office space and other expenses.

The other issue I have is that these employees are working at the same levels of productivity as they did in the office. In some cases, they are more productive as they are not distracted by office politics that you often get in the office.

So, what’s the issue?

In a job market where neither the candidate nor the employer understands who holds the power, there is a greater chance of miscommunication and misunderstandings.

Candidates underestimate their ability to gain employment or seek opportunities, which means they may stay in the same job for too long because they feel it's the more secure option. They may also fail to negotiate well when joining a new company.

Employers, by contrast might struggle to hire talent because they overestimate their position of power when interviewing candidates. They can also act too slowly and overcomplicate the recruitment process. The risk here is that candidates either get cold feet or are hired by a competitor.

Either way, understanding that the candidate has the power in Switzerland is absolutely crucial on both sides to a successful recruitment process.

Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

Follow Luca on LinkedIn