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The job interview in Sweden

You did it! You have been called for a job interview! It is a thrilling moment but you start getting nervous: will you be able to make it?

Get prepared to a job interview is the next logical step of your search strategy. You have 2 stages to consider:

  • A technical one which involves linking your capacities and competences to what is asked in the job offer
  • A human one during which your work will be to make the recruiter trust you.

Here is a quick reminder of how to prepare the technical stages:

  • Collect all data you may find on the company you apply in: what is its mission, values and goals, who are the experts and the spokespeople?
  • Be ready to tell concrete examples that show how your capacities and competences will help you do the job
  • Think about the reserves and objections the recruiter may raise and prepare your answers, once again factual and concrete

Let’s focus now on the interview and the trustworthy relationship you need to start building.

Tailor your relationship with the recruiter

Job Interview: build a relationship with the recruiter - CrossRoads Intelligence

Recruiters you will have to talk to and sell yourself have, as anyone else, a unique way of seeing and understanding the world around. They will have behaviours they will be comfortable with and others that will annoy them, often without any awareness or clear explanation. They have their personal understanding of company goals and needs and how the job they interview you for will help the company achieve those objectives.

Collect information about the person you meet:

  • Who is he/she? Where does he/she come from (studies, previous jobs)? What are his/her hobbies? You do not need him/her to become a friend of yours but to synchronize with him/her, establish a collaboration and make him/her feel that he/she can trust you.
  • He/she is a sport person? You may use sport words to emphasize the examples you give. You have a diploma from the same school or university? Have the same hobbies? Link your examples to those areas. It will mean something to him/her as he/she will be able to relate it to his/her personal experiences.

Your goal in this interview is to manage to have a discussion and not just answer questions. Be proactive. Show your expertise and skills and allow them to benefit from them from interview 1: what would you do as a member of the team? This discussion and the questions you will raise will prove how you are engaged and how you will fit in the team, thanks to your capacities and competencies.

Be yourself, do not over-adapt

“It won’t work, I do not speak any Swedish”, “I do need to behave like a Swede”. What means “behave like a Swede”? I have heard “stay quiet on my chair”, “not to talk using my hands or too loudly”, “not to show off”. Still, most, even if they followed those rules, failed to get the job they wanted.

Job Interview: Be yourself, do not overadapt - CrossRoads Intelligence

We all agree that innovation and creativity are boosted thanks to diversity in teams. But are we all aware that we need to be bold to dare welcoming diversity? Indeed if badly handled, it may cost a lot to a company and its employees. It may explain why recruiters give priorities to people who look like the ones that are already working at the company. Risks are lower.

Of course, you won’t be able to intrude on them if there is too much anxiety but you may make them listen to you. How? Do not try to change who you are but adapt your speech to the codes and norms your counterpart understands.

Adapt your communication to make it be heard and understood

Culture is built thanks to all norms, codes and behaviours settled in a group to make its members live along well with each other. It makes us share a way of understanding the world and to know implicitly how to behave. The trap is that we are unaware of it most of the time. Take a break and think every time you say “It is the way it is!”.

6 dimensions allow us to have a closer look to cultures*: power distance, individualism, assertiveness, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation, indulgence.

Without giving too many details, here are some tips that can be useful for your future interviews. As I do not know where you are from, I will take France and Sweden as references. Think about your own country and culture and do not hesitate to share your thoughts with us

French and Swedish visions of how to manage hierarchy are completely different. In France, the boss must be the decision maker, the leader and be responsible for the team’s performance. In Sweden, hierarchy is there for convenience. Control is not much appreciated, power is decentralized and employees want to have a role to play in the decision process.

As a French person, you would think giving examples showing your autonomy and commitment to do the job as the Swedish recruiter may think that you will just wait for people to tell you what to do.

Be aware that work hours do not have the same meaning or expectations. Overtime hours would show your commitment in France whereas in Sweden it may mean that you do not manage your time properly or will just be a result of a periodic rush.

French culture may be less assertive that the American one but it is more result-oriented than in Sweden. Performance, competition, expertise are French key words; Swedish culture prefers human relationships, “lagom” and equality among individuals.

Stay away from examples in which you would appear as a lonesome hero. Play the team. Give examples in which the team achieved a result and the teammate you were.

Emotions are handled differently as well: you should master emotional control in Sweden whereas in France, you may express them openly.

You cannot control your emotions. Are you anxious of being overwhelmed by your passion or your commitment and thus speak loudly or with your hands? Say it! You will show that you are perfectly aware of how you behave and that it may disturb the people you talk to.

Get also prepared to talk about failures, conflicts that happened previously. Explain what you learned, using what you know about the Swedish norms and codes.

We ARE NOT our culture. Each human being is unique and the way we interfere with cultures, our own or others, differ from one person to another. Anyway, we cannot totally forget values that we have been taught from our childhood. Cultural awareness will therefore help you to understand these codes you and your counterparts follow.

Ask questions

Job interview: Ask Questions - CrossRoads IntelligenceAsk questions about the company’s culture: is it local, global, professional? Which is the culture that dominates inside the company?

Furthermore, ask about global values. What makes employees come to work every morning? What makes them proud of being a part of this organisation?

Find contacts inside the company, start building your network. Once again, it will show how determined you are to join the team. Furthermore, you will be able to evaluate if this company fits your values and wishes.

Anxious or stressed out not to be Swedish? The recruiter you will meet knows you are not a Swede. He/She has been aware of it since he/she first red your application. He/She called you anyway!
Breathe and go for it!

*Hofstede model

Published on Le Petit Journal, Stockholm Edition