Thursday, April 12, 2012

My experience finding an IT job in Switzerland

Some random notes on how I managed to change jobs in Switzerland. For starters it was harder than expected, everyone says and thinks that there's a shortage of IT people in Switzerland and the general perception is that I should easily find a new job.

I prepared myself reading a lot of material. The books about resume/CV writing and interview handling are very interesting indeed, although many of them are focused on the US job market and there's a bunch of things that are actually done completely different in Switzerland. The most useful stuff is to be found in web sites written in German, but it's only helpful for people with a good level reading in that language.

First, things move veeery slowly here. Back in my home land I was able to apply for a job and start working there the same week. That's never going to happen here. It's not like dating, but rather more like match making for marriage, the companies are always trying to stretch the process as much as possible to make sure that the guy they choose is the best for the position, no matter how many interviews or weeks it takes.

During my many different selection processes I saw all kind of weird behaviors during the interviews:

  • People who does not respond to your application, no matter how urgent they seem to need to hire someone
  • Agencies that call you minutes after you have submitted your application just to get your information and add it to their database of human bodies. 
  • Companies that seem  to ignore your application and then call weeks or months after to ask if you are still interested
  • Companies that are just teasing the work market to know how to negotiate when it comes the time to get people. They are generally a waste of time, they will even make you sacrifice a day off to go to an in place office just to squeeze information from you, specially salary expectations
  • Companies that invite you for an on site interview where they beat the sh*t out of you with tough behavioral and technical interviews, tell you that you are performing very well, just to end up saying that somebody else showed up that better matches the position
My advice is to give the best on each interview and move on, they may or may not call you back, so don't wait for them, if you really want to get a job keep sending applications until you sign a contract.

What seemed to work for me is to try to network and follow up. In general my counterparts were positively surprised when I called up to ask about the status of application. Practice worked too, I performed really bad on the first interviews, but the last ones were a bit easier because I already knew the answer to common hardball questions, so don't interview first at your dream work, do it on jobs from which you don't mind to be rejected.

On the technical side I was required to answer very specific questions, to prepare programming assignments, to elaborate documents explaining in detail my work experience (beyond the CV), to solve programming problems from Codility, write proposals to solve real life problems. It's noteworthy to mention that they often will ask for samples of your work: source code, diagrams, documents, posts, articles, commits on open source projects, designs, portfolio. Programming puzzles, blackboard programming or complexity related questions where almost not asked.

Recommended reading: 
What color is your parachute?
Books on preparing behavioral job interviews
Books on Resume/CV preparation

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