The pitfalls of hiring international staff

by Zurich Expats on February 24, 2017

Relocation to Zurich
The transfer of an employee into a new working and living environment has some hurdles and risks for the company as well as for the individual employee and his family. Therefore, the investment in a good planning and implementation of the relocation is in any case worth it.

The pitfalls of hiring international staff

For over 6 months, the HR manager of an internationally active company was looking for a suitable candidate for a vacancy. She finally found a candidate abroad and Mr. Mayer was hired after hard negotiations. He moved to Switzerland along with his family. The company bears the costs of transporting furniture and renting temporary accommodation. After a short time, Mr. Mayer leaves the company and travels back home with his family. What went wrong?

Relocation to Zurich






Weather conditions and legal risks - you do not leave your foreign staff to fate. Graphic: Schmid Relocation GmbH/Urs Freitag 

Unfortunately, the constructed story is far too often a reality: Companies often spend enormous sums on the search and hiring of foreign workers. The fact that such an employment requires special measures to achieve success is obvious. This is why the social expression of the HR process plays an important role for international employees, taking into account the different cultures, living and working habits as well as the integration of the accompanying family.

In addition to adhering to the necessary deployment guidelines, it is important to have the employment process examined by an experienced Global Mobility Manager or a relocation agency. Individual employment should be closely monitored and particular attention paid to the social aspects, because these often determine the successful integration of the new worker and his family.

The following "checklist", which is certainly not conclusive, can be used as a first guideline for the successful recruitment of foreign workers for HR managers.

Selection of the candidate

According to the Swiss legal system, companies have to fill their vacancies whenever possible by nationals. A foreign employee may only be employed due to lack of specialist personnel on the local labour market.

Orientation tour

A guided orientation tour should be organized prior to the negotiation of the employment conditions. The investment required for this can prevent the hiring process from being performed hastily and

an employee leaves the country just before or immediately after the start of work. A successful orientation tour sensitizes the employee to additional details, which he incorporates into the overall package of the job offer. It enlightens the employee about unknown customs and circumstances and prepares him/her for a possible life in Switzerland.

Temporary accommodation

Once the employee is hired, he will first live mostly in a temporary apartment at the begening until a fixed solution can be found for him and if necessary, the accompanying family. He will gain further impressions of life and work in Switzerland especially during this phase (probationary period). It is therefore important that he feels well at this stage and has a competent contact person and even a small network at his disposal which gives him the feeling of being welcome in Switzerland.

Furniture transport

The transport procedure is a separate process, which should be carried out by specialists. Companies rarely talk about the budget that is available to the employee. The organization of transportation is thus often the responsibility of the worker.

Legal issues

With the move to a new country, the employee faces many legal challenges. It is important that he gets to know the laws and customs of his country of destination and is given support on access to offices, in the conclusion of insurance and independent contracts, which protect him against unpleasant stumbling blocks in handling contracts and overcome language barriers. With professional support, the employee can focus much more on the major challenges of his new position.

Documents and checklists

The employer should initiate the effective relocation process as early as possible because the challenges are high. The early preparation of checklists as well as any possible contact between the local relocation partner and the employee provide room for planning security. For example, the problem of missing documents often occurs! The early and professional application of residence visas, Swiss drivers licenses, birth and marriage certificates, employment contractsetc. significantly facilitate the first days of the new employee after his arrival because the mere filing of an official application is impossible without certain documents. Bank accounts cannot be opened and insurance cannot be concluded.

Apartment search and integration of the family

The search for accommodation as well as the selection of international schools is certainly one of the most time-consuming aspect of the transfer. In order to solve this task efficiently, the planning and implementation is done by experts who perfectly master the interaction between the individual tasks. The search for accommodation should be accompanied at all times, since the impression of the administration is often a factor in the inspection of an apartment whereby, Swiss-German communication can be valuable.

Signing of the lease agreement and takeover

If a suitable apartment has been found and the submitted application accepted, it is important to clarify and understand many details in the lease agreement. A guided apartment acquisition and the translation of the contracts and acceptance reports protects the interests of the tenant who is not familiar with local conditions and regulations.


The transfer of an employee into a new working and living environment as in our example of the Mayer family, has some hurdles and risks for the company as well as for the individual employee and his family. Therefore, the investment in a good planning and implementation of the relocation is in any case worth it.

The detailed checklist for HR's and employees can be found at the following link:

Relocation Agent Zurich






Text: Katharina Kägi

Katharina Kägi runs the company Schmid Relocation GmbH ( and with her team, she manages the HR departments of international companies and especially their international staff in the successful immigration to Switzerland. Thanks to the focus on the social aspects of relocation, she wins the employees for Switzerland as well as for the company.

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