Celebrating 20 years at Swisslinx: An interview with Partner Caroline Ruedin

Posting date: 11 February 2020
Swisslinx is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, and to celebrate, we’re speaking to some of the people who’ve helped make Swisslinx become the business it is today.


After moving to Switzerland as a graduate in 1993, Caroline Ruedin worked for boutique recruitment consultancy Interskill. It was here she developed not only a broad set of skills that she would use throughout her career, but also gained an overarching understanding of the recruitment industry in Switzerland. Here’s her story:


Caroline Ruedin
“I started out doing the absolute basics, which gave me a great grounding in recruitment” Throughout her eight years at Interskill (now part of the Adecco Group), Caroline covered many functions in the business. She worked her way through back office, research, account management, sales management and business development roles during her time at Interskill, working with clients all over Europe and attracting international candidates to Switzerland. In those days, relocation was a much more complex process, with work permits and regulations meaning candidate acquisition was complicated. Gaining an in-depth understanding of every aspect of service delivery across candidates and clients, as well as cultural differences when doing business across France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Luxembourg, Caroline was well prepared to take on the next challenge – co-founding Swisslinx. 

“We wanted to set up a business that was profitable but also provided a top-quality service to all stakeholders”


The idea for Swisslinx was born from a desire to establish a recruitment consultancy driven by quality rather than KPIs, targets and profits, one that would focus on providing the best possible service to clients and candidates and grow organically as a result of its service excellence. This focus on service was something that was missing in the Swiss – and arguably the wider European – recruitment sector at the time. Caroline knew there was a gap in the market for the level of specialist service she and the partners wanted to provide and their shared experience in consulting and recruitment meant they had the skills and knowledge required to make it happen. 


“In the early days, our business objective was very streamlined”


The fledgling days of Swisslinx were focused entirely on IT recruitment based in Zurich, which was the biggest business area for the IT market. Focusing on the banking and financial services sector, everything was created from scratch, developing contracts, marketing materials and everything you’d expect from a start-up. With no financial backing, Swisslinx was self-funded, and it was six months before the partners took salaries or any other employees were brought on. Looking back, Caroline says this was an intense period of her life but such a successful one, followed by quick organic growth and development of the internal team. 


“Competing successfully against global brands to become preferred supplier to many organisations is one of my Swisslinx highlights”


In addition to sustained growth over 20 years, Caroline says a company highlight has been becoming preferred supplier to many leading organisations including Roche, UBS and Credit Suisse, competing successfully against large global brands to establish Swisslinx as a key market player. The addition of new service lines has also been a success story, with Swisslinx branching out into non-IT recruitment within finance and business, plus the addition of commodities and natural resources, (re)insurance and healthcare and life science desks. 


“We’ve seen so much industry change in the last 20 years”


Caroline has seen a lot within her 20 years of developing Swisslinx, from how candidates are engaged through to how new business is approached and won. What was once a fairly linear process now looks very different, with more mediums and interfaces used to do business. 


One of the biggest developments has been how candidates seek employment. The previously candidate-driven process is now one where recruiters must actively seek out candidates. This has largely been driven by the arrival of job boards, social media and professional business platforms, giving candidates access to huge numbers of jobs and employers. Market conditions have led to pressure on the recruitment process, and Caroline believes it would be much harder to enter and compete in this market now compared to 20 years ago. There is an expectation for recruitment businesses to reinvent processes and marketing strategies, with much more to consider and a much quicker pace of work than 20 years ago. Caroline points to her dynamic, energetic team as being key to helping to adapt to this change and deliver in a more transactional recruitment culture. 


“I’m so proud of our team’s professional and personal development”


Swisslinx cares about its people and nurtures an environment of trust, confidence and loyalty. Because of this, the team is cohesive and works like a family, with a low level of attrition many members of the team have worked in the company for more than 10 years. Caroline loves seeing Swisslinx team members grow and develop, as well as receiving the positive feedback from clients and candidates that this generates. Swisslinx has built a fantastic reputation and has remained completely independent, one of the few companies of its size in the market to do so.


“Our caring culture guides the way we work with candidates and clients”


The Swisslinx team is expected to treat every individual they work with with respect, care and provide the best possible service. There are high ethical standards in place, with honesty and transparency valued across the business. The training team members go through is very comprehensive, with coaching and mentoring to develop professional skills and ensure all members of staff deliver a consistently high level of service.


“We have an enormous capacity to deliver on every role given to us”


Swisslinx prides itself on its ability to deliver. Whether that’s for clients or candidates, Caroline says the team’s experience, connections and market knowledge means they can fill even the hardest briefs. One of the company’s USPs is being able to source extremely niche skills and requirements, and Caroline says she is confident they can fulfil even the trickiest requests.


“I’m looking forward to continued growth and development”


With 20 years under her belt, Caroline is looking forward to the future at Swisslinx and anticipates consistent growth in terms of both the business and the development of her team.


Read more about Swisslinx’s strong history here, or meet other members of the team.

How is Switzerland responding to Covid-19?

Covid-19 continues to have a stronghold over much of the world, creating uncertainty and change in many markets, not to mention economies and lives. The virus has impacted all of us in one way or another, yet the response to it varies from person to person, country to country. The government has categorised the Swiss situation as “extraordinary”, with a raft of measures put in place to contain the coronavirus as well as protect people, businesses and the nation. So how exactly are the Swiss handling it? An extraordinary situation with extraordinary measures Because of the “extraordinary situation” label given to Switzerland’s Covid-19, authorities have been able to take over specific powers from the nation’s cantons and impose measures to restrict conditions in the country. This is the first time these legal provisions have been applied in Switzerland, with new conditions including a ban on all private and public events, and the closure of restaurants, bars, cultural spaces, sporting facilities and schools. Business providing essential services – such as grocery and food stores, pharmacies, post offices and banks – remain open and serving the public.Recommendations and restrictions While stopping short of some of the stricter enforcement measures other countries are imposing on its people, Switzerland has issued very clear guidelines to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. These include a recommendation to all citizens to stay at home unless necessary, particularly those who are sick or aged 65 and older, as well as announcing a nationwide ban on gatherings of more than five people. Some individual cantons have taken this further, forbidding over-65-year-olds from leaving their homers outside of specific circumstances. Borders are closed and the message is clear: stay home and be sensible. Economic support Switzerland has been a world leader when it comes to supporting its businesses, announcing a CHF20 billion package of emergency loans to support small businesses on March 25 and disbursing more than CHF15 billion to just over 76,000 companies within the first week, prompting Bern to double the initial package. This will provide relief to companies with liquidity problems, allowing those hit by the crisis to defer payment of social insurance contributions temporarily. The measures also apply to the self-employed. The scheme has been viewed to be so successful in terms of efficiency and speed that Swiss banks and government have been liaising with European counterparts to share information on the scheme’s structure. In many cases, business loans have been granted and money made available within 24 hours of completing the simple online application, a level of efficiency that was been widely applauded by the business community. Like other nations in Europe and worldwide, Switzerland has responded to the economic implications of Covid-19 by offering support to companies whose employees are facing reduced hours due to a lack of work. Currently one quarter of Switzerland’s workers are on reduced hours (short-time working) in a bid for businesses to save costs without making redundancies. Employees are compensated 80% for the loss of income caused by this, with an unemployment insurance fund helping to cover the shortfall. More testing, earlier While the rate of cases in Switzerland is high, the nation is proving to be one of the world’s most successful countries in dealing with the pandemic’s later stages. Authorities started in February by testing people who had travelled from high risk areas or had come into contact with an infected person, but this approach intensified as the virus spread. The population is now being tested at a higher rate than any other country and potential cases are being tested earlier, with a strong focus on high-risk groups. This is a more comprehensive strategy than what is being seen in the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world.Public sentiment The vast majority of people in Switzerland are following the government measures, according to a Swiss Broadcasting Corporation survey, with the nation’s sense of civic responsibility ensuring people take the social isolation guidelines seriously. Just under 70% of survey respondents say they are optimistic that Swiss hospitals can cope with the number of patients, with 40% of respondents in favour of relaxing the Government-imposed restrictions. With these restrictions currently extended until April 26, time will tell what other developments will unfold this month and over the course of the year. Supporting our candidates and clients While it is too early to say how the coronavirus situation will impact recruitment in Switzerland long-term, we are already feeling some ripples. Contract workers have already been impacted by Switzerland’s closed borders, with some who were preparing to take up contracts in the country now shut out due to not having the required permits. This has led to more recruitment from within the Swiss market, with predictions that permits will be limited post-Covid-19 as a response to increased unemployment.  Swisslinx has been able to facilitate workers starting on a remote basis under the border closure situation changes, while the Swiss authorities are providing flexibility around the rules applicable to remote workers by allowing them to stay on CH contracts despite working abroad. Some of Swisslinx’s key clients have offered solutions to ensure workers are paid in full. These include encouraging flexibility for remote work, compensating part of the employer costs in cases of short-time working compensation, and honouring contracts and finding solutions to enable these. There has been a natural slowdown in recruitment activity in some markets while others are thriving, and the rise of virtual interview tools and techniques has helped to ensure candidates and companies can continue to be active in their search. Meanwhile, as workers around the country adopt to new working-from-home measures, we might see new ways of doing business emerge from this pandemic, bringing new meaning to flexible working. At Swisslinx, our team is hard at work to ensure our candidates and clients can continue to make contact and work together. For us, it’s business as usual – albeit from home – and we’re always looking to hear from anyone considering their next steps. Contact us here to start a conversation about how we can help.

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How to get your first executive job

It’s widely reported that more than 50% of jobs aren’t advertised, and this proportion stretches much higher when it comes to executive roles. Therefore, landing your first executive job will be an entirely different process from any other job you’ve gone after. With fewer executive roles on the market, securing one of these coveted positions can be a highly competitive process. You need to strategise how you will distinguish yourself and position yourself on executive recruiters’ radars. Here’s our advice on getting your first executive job, right from the point of personal development up to preparing for your interview: Develop your personal brand  45% of executives agree that a CEO’s reputation will directly impact the reputation of the company. So it will come as no surprise that an executive’s reputation – or personal brand – comes under serious consideration during the hiring process. Just as it’s important for any company’s success to have a strong brand, your personal brand is a powerful way of showing hiring managers why you’re a good fit for the role. When portrayed correctly your brand will highlight your ROI and specifically how you will add value to the organisation if you get the job. Since many professionals at this level work with Personal Branding Strategists and Career Coaches you can’t afford to leave your reputation as just an afterthought. Your personal brand should be crafted so that it accurately reflects not just who you are but how you solve problems, your authority areas and ultimately what your unique positioning is. Though this may seem a daunting process, Blue Step’s Global Guide to Personal Branding for Executives offers helpful advice, starting with the question “What do you want to be known for?”. Start by asking yourself this and the rest of your approach should come easily. Get personal with an executive search firm On average it takes 71 days to place a C-suite candidate, which is considerably longer than the 43 days spent filling the average role. But for the job seeker, finding an executive role can sometimes take six months – or longer - because these senior positions aren’t as common as the jobs you’ve searched for before. So you need to position yourself on executive recruiters’ radars and you want them to know you on a personal level. One way of doing this is to share your career goals with these expert recruiters. As they’re in the business of finding candidates for executive roles they can provide insight as to whether you have the right skill set or experience. If they advise that you need more time to hone your leadership skills, don’t despair - you now have that contact at an executive search firm to reach out to once you’ve hit the necessary experience level. These recruiters have seen thousands of CVs and applications so you can trust their verdict. Remember that it’s about nurturing these relationships with executive recruiters. You won’t land a job in a few weeks, it can take months to find the right executive role so you need to stay in touch with them. Get networking  The Executive Career Brand reports that only 10% of executives are hired from job board advertisements. This supports the notion that your chance of getting an executive job is heavily reliant on networking and a great place to begin is by developing a strong online presence. It’s no new information that your LinkedIn profile is a powerful tool in the job-hunting process but have you considered optimising yours for search engines? To improve your LinkedIn profile’s visibility you need to include targeted skills and keywords, set your location and industry, and use all the characters available in each section. This will ensure executive recruiters find your profile and will help you make connections in your field of work. Consider upping your game and establish yourself as a thought leader on LinkedIn by posting and sharing articles on topics in your industry. Beyond the digital world, you should be attending industry conferences and reaching out to old contacts. After all, networking isn’t always about making new connections. Time for the interview You’ve put a lot of time into your personal development and nurturing connections – the next step is impressing at the interview stage. A good executive recruiter will only put forward a very small number of candidates for roles at this level, most of which will have exclusivity, so if you make it to interview stage you have a strong chance of securing the role. Now all that’s left to do is show the company how serious you are about working for them and improving their bottom line. Beyond a deep understanding of the organisation's verticals, the current state of the market and opportunities for you to add value, you should also research the business's financial status and their current challenges. Some businesses will have an investor relations tab on their website which will tell you a lot about how they are performing. To delve a little further, search their company filings and public financial statements - and if the company you’re interviewing for is private you can get a good picture of their status from news releases and articles. As for the competitors, beyond knowing who they are you need to search how the company is performing compared to them and what they have in the pipeline. Having this knowledge for the interview will show that you’re invested in the company and will allow you to have a genuine conversation about what you plan to do within your first three months. Think of this research as background information to create your 90-day plan.Take your next career step with Swisslinx Want more advice on finding your first executive job? As a market-leading recruitment firm in Switzerland, our expert consultants can offer valuable guidance when looking for your next senior-level position. Whether you’re job searching in financial services, digital and technology, or healthcare and life sciences we’ve got two decades of insight to help you.

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