Job searches in the Swiss-Russian context

Russia and Switzerland have always had a lot of common interests between each other. The halo of “made in Switzerland” connected with Swiss watches and further spreading to Swiss cheeses and other sorts of products have led to Russia having a special attitude to Switzerland in many ways as well as when it comes to Swiss people looking for a job in Russia.

In addition, while Russia has done a great job in becoming more economically and physically safe, and the great expat-exodus out of Russia stopped many years ago, the highest chance for foreigners to get employed in Russia exists via international assignment rather than getting employed directly within the market. The Russian market of today is difficult for unemployed job seekers as they encounter employers wanting to minimize salaries as well as employed candidates who are not actively looking for a job and who are considered to be higher quality rather than those without a job.

Today the SRCC is discussing with Roman Chepa of LHH Russia about recruiting Expats for Russian employers. Roman, what is your role and how do you approach it?

I am a career consultant and I lead an international organization which focuses on employee redeployment and career transitions of employees who were let go by their previous employer. Our organization regularly gets international referrals from European job seekers who want to transfer their career transition program from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and other countries to Russia. We work as career coaches and believe in each person’s success and potential. We always spend time assessing why the European candidate would want to relocate to Russia. I will now detail the most frequent challenges for Swiss and European job seekers in Russia and ways of overcoming them.

Point 1: “Why”.

Why does Russia need me? What values do I represent for the Russian market as opposed to the many local English-speaking professionals with sound experience in international companies on the local market and speaking Russian? Every third case we encounter involves a whimsical idea of moving out of European routine into a booming market close to Europe with a unique culture and a high potential in many ways. According to my personal experience in HR with international companies and candidates, such a reason is not enough to be considered for a local job. In case one has proven relations to Russia (except for personal relationships), then it for sure gives us higher chances not to get rejected at least during the initial stages of communications.

Point 2: “What”.

What does a recruiter in the Russian market perceive from my profile? We find that typical recruiters spend from 7 to 12 seconds on a CV, with several additional seconds dedicated to scanning the candidate’s LinkedIn profile. The names of the previous employers as well as the stability of professional experience carry top importance. International brands have higher chances of resonance with the Russian market. However, minding the 12 seconds rule, it is also quite naïve to expect that a recruiter would embark on web searches to discover what exactly the previous employer does, especially if the candidate was not working in a very obvious business unit of the organization. Therefore, the CV and Linkedin should give as many answers as possible while sticking to the 2-3 page CV format acceptable in Russia.

Point 3: “Building bridges”.

All elements of the candidate’s profile, including CV, Linkedin page, and the career progression of the candidate should serve 1 goal – enable thorough understanding as perceived by a Russian of three aspects: the candidate, the candidate’s value for the local market and the uniqueness of the candidate among local competitors. Candidates who apply to companies which are intrinsically different from their previous employer often make the mistake of not adapting their message, achievements and story to the realities of the new employer, which poses the risk that an interviewer will stay with his personal perceptions and understandings. Another frequent challenge is the candidate’s answer to the question “tell us about yourself”. Candidates often proceed to present their life story for about 15-30 minutes, turning the interview into a monologue. Russian recruiters often report that they are fine with a light and clear 7-10 minute presentation of the candidate, after which the recruiter asks questions of the candidate, turning the interview into a dialogue. In other words the candidate’s aim should be to not sound too extraterrestrial. Only when the employer clearly sees how the candidate can help cure the pain of the employer or his client will the doors be flung open. The more the recruiter understands that the non-Russian candidate does not fit into the local realities, the less interest there will be to consider the non-Russian candidate for employment.

Point 4: “Language”.

Typically when it comes to top or N-1 roles in international companies, Russian language skills would not be a critical issue, but, still, they are not a disadvantage. A good starting point is being able to describe your CV and autobiography in simple Russian in about 15 sentences. This tells the recruiter that Russia and the candidate are not random acquaintances but rather represent a long-term relationship, project and plan with serious ideas, intentions and actions.

The Russian market is considered to be an attractive market for expats for a variety of reasons, including culture, standard of living, education of the local population, openness to foreigners as well as the prospect of earning more money than in Europe. However, the biggest prospects in post-covid Russia are local businesses with great business ideas and potential, but which lack international corporate culture. Such companies are indeed willing to hire professionals coming from international companies. However, our experience shows that more than 60% of locally hired expats miss working for international companies and are upset with the culture of local employers. European job seekers must come to grips with this reality and be selective about which companies are to be approached and whether to accept their offers. Covid has created both obstacles and opportunities, one of which being the notion of working from anywhere, which surely multiplies the possibilities for employment in various countries. In this new landscape, proper communications are key for opening the doors to personal and professional success.


Roman Chepa
Head of Business, Russia

LHH Lee Hecht Harrison
4 fl., 2-d Syromyatnicheskiy lane 1
105120 Moscow


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