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Some Background:

I would like to help a cousin of mine. Originally she was living in Switzerland, then she moved to Scotland and was living and working there for about 10 years. Now she is returning to Switzerland.

In Switzerland, the working culture heavily relies on testimonials from all your employers. So if you apply for a job, you write a letter of motivation, a curriculum vitae and for each of your earlier workplace, you add a testimonial. In these testimonials, your former employers describe in detail their view about what you have done in the company, and how you behaved in your profession and personally.

Now if I understand correctly, in the Scottish working culture are no such testimonials (or they are rare). So my cousin is returning to Switzerland with 10 years of working experience added, but she seems unable to document this in a way that is credible in Switzerland. Amongst other places, she worked in an IT department at a manufacturer of special components used in the oil industry. I mean, there is serious and good work experience.

Question:

What is the best way to be credible to Swiss employers in this situation? Does somebody have experience with this this cultural gap?

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  • A few questions. Does she have references at least? And if not, is she willing to contact her former managers to solicit testimonials? Also, do you think LinkedIn testimonials would work in a place like Switzerland? Jul 31 at 22:31
  • @StephanBranczyk I will discuss these options with her, thank you. I was not aware that Linkedin testimonials are a serious value. Jul 31 at 22:38
  • If you do suggest those ideas to her, make sure she sends a description of what she did to her former supervisors. Even if they're willing to write testimonials, it's not a bad idea to jog their memory as well. This is especially important if she had more than one boss at anyone time, because some managers don't really know the work that their underlings did for other managers. Aug 1 at 0:02
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    There may be confusion because of the term used - I've had bosses in the UK write me a "letter of reference" that I'd copy and include with my resume. A testimonial would be for something more formal like an award.
    – HorusKol
    Aug 1 at 3:34
  • @HorusKol I am not native and I may well have mixed up words. I am talking about what iin German is called “Arbeitszeugnis”. This not an award but a detailed information that is partially regulated by law. Aug 1 at 6:16
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What is the best way to be credible to Swiss employers in this situation?

Any Swiss employer who hires people from outside the DACH region will be familiar with the situation. The German "Arbeitszeugnis" is fairly formal but highly codified reference. It's useless if it's issued by an entity that's not familiar with the code and it's unreasonable from an employer to expect one.

Rules & common practices for references vary greatly among countries and even among companies. For example: to minimize legal exposure risk, many US companies restrict references to only date of employment and job title(s).

I would simply ignore it for now. Put in your cover letter or resume that Arbeitszeugnis are not issued by Scottish employers and that you are happy to provide references on request. This means "let's talk about what you need and how we can best satisfy that need". Most employers will be fine with this for candidates with an international job record.

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