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Jobs in Sweden: How to nail your digital job interview

We might be heading back to something approaching post-Covid normality, as Swedish employees are told that they can head back to the office. But, even after the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, the Swedish workplace model has been changed forever.

Jobs in Sweden: How to nail your digital job interview
Don't be too relaxed when interviewing from home. Photo: Getty Images

Increasing numbers of employers are offering full- and part-time remote working options to their employees. And, furthermore, if you’re invited to an interview with a prospective employer, there’s a very good chance it will still be conducted remotely.

The genie is out of the bottle: Swedish hiring managers have discovered the benefits of digital interviews. They save on travel costs and facilitate the kind of early screening that just wasn’t possible over the phone.

Remote interviewing presents something of a different proposition and The Local and its readers have teamed up with Akademikernas akassa, the unemployment insurance provider for university graduates, to offer our guide to success with remote digital interviewing.

Some things don’t change

Do your homework. Check the employer’s website. Google recent stories about them. Have they just launched a new product or service? Look for any social media activity – what do their customers think about them? Get a sense of the corporate culture: how can you personify that tone during your interview? Being properly prepared will pay off.

Are you a university graduate? Learn more about protecting your income by joining Akademikernas akassa

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Sure, you don’t have to wear a suit and tie or that killer outfit you wore to your cousin’s wedding, but don’t go too far the other way. If you truly think that interviewing in your pyjamas is appropriate just because you’re being interviewed at home, don’t be surprised if the employer might not consider you best suited to that client-facing role.

Remember those famous words by Roxette: get dressed for success! Most Swedes think they are reasonably fashionable and like to bring a little style and personality to proceedings – even in a corporate setting, but nothing over the top or too formal – so your interviewers will equally have made an effort for you. When we asked The Local’s readers for their views on this topic, Vishal Kulkarni, a mechanical design engineer at Scania, was quite forthright. “Be presentable, be on time, and keep smiling.”

Test the tech

Making sure you have a flawless internet connection might seem like a given, but it’s worth repeating. And The Local’s readers were unanimous on this one. “Make sure you are using a computer or laptop with a stable internet connection and good video and audio quality. Do not use your phone for video interviews,” said Islombek Karimov, who’s lived in Stockholm for three years since moving from Kyrgyzstan.

Barbara Majsa, a Hungarian who now lives in Stockholm, was more specific. “Use good headphones because sometimes the interviewer may hear some echo if you don’t. The last thing an already-nervous interviewee needs are problems with their connections or devices.” 

Vishal concurred and also came up with a good tip. “As much as you invest in interview clothes, they’re only as good as your camera. If your laptop has a bad camera there are apps that can convert an old smartphone into a good webcam.”

Digital interviews give everyone a fair chance to present their skills. Photo: Getty Images

Take a step towards job stability and security in uncertain times, by joining Akademikernas akassa

Set the scene

Get the setting right. Consider everything the camera will see during your online interview. Place your camera somewhere that is insulated from background noise and away from visual distractions.

Lighting just above and behind the camera is the most flattering. If the room you’re using is your family’s storage (or disused toy) room, use a background that’s already been created, or just blur your background.

Ensure your account includes a professional-looking headshot, rather than one of you that time you dressed up as a scary clown for Halloween, and your full name, as it appears on your resume. They’ll both appear when you join the call. They’re an integral element of your first impression.

You should also try to reproduce the same face-to-face interview feeling by being the same distance from the camera as you would be from the interviewer in real life. Preferably, the interviewer should be able to see your facial expressions and hand gestures but not so close that they can count the hairs in your nostrils.

Your Swedish digital job interview

There are some obvious cultural differences between Swedish interviewers and those from other countries. For those new to Sweden, Islombek’s tip for dealing with a Swedish interview is to not focus too much on trying to impress Swedish employers. “Be more humble,” he said.

“Swedish employers prefer to get to know you, not just for what you can do, but also – and this is very important – to learn what kind of a person you are. When you’re asked to ‘tell us about yourself’, don’t just talk about the qualifications relevant for the position but tell the interviewer a bit about your life, such as hobbies, where you live, family, pets, etc. Interviews in Sweden are generally a little informal and virtual interviews are even more informal.”

Barbara has a useful little nugget of information about digital Swedish interviews.

“If you mention in your CV that you speak Swedish, be prepared for an interview in Swedish, even if the corporate language of the organisation is English. You can always ask the contact person about the language before the interview and some interviewers may even ask you which language you prefer.”

But above all remember this

Nidz Illman, a recruitment specialist from Stockholm, shared a valuable insight into the way recruiters regard the digital interview process in contrast to those employers who recruit directly. “As a recruiter, I think virtual interviews give everyone a fair chance to present their skills. Recruiters aren’t really concerned with what you wear or your body language. Instead, all our attention is focused on your drive, innovative mindset and communication skills.”

And when you get the job, be sure to register with Akademikernas akassa, so that your income is protected no matter what happens…

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

IN NUMBERS: How freelance profits in Sweden compare to actual salaries

Employers in Sweden pay taxes and pension payments for each employee, so if you go freelance, you end up having to pay them yourself. The accountancy firm Frivision has estimated for The Local how profits from a solo company correspond to a salary as an employed person.

Woman working on laptop from sofa
Freelancing has plenty of perks, but make sure you've done your sums right or you could get a nasty shock when tax season comes. Photo: Margareta Bloom Sandebäck/imagebank.sweden.se

Tobias Ryberg, director of Frivision, says that people who decide to go freelance or work as a self-employed consultant can be tempted to see the payments that come in from clients as earnings. But this can cause problems if they haven’t budgeted for the taxes and social fees that they’ll need to pay later, either at the end of the month, quarterly or yearly. 

“It’s easy to think that everything you earn is your income,” he told The Local.

“But in fact, you have a lot of taxes, so in the worst case, people end up spending all the money they’ve made, and then they are behind with taxes, sometimes forever, so that’s a potential trap.”

Employees in Sweden are required to make a seven percent contribution to unemployment insurance, pensions, family benefits, and health insurance, while employers contribute 31.42 percent. 

When you go freelance, whether you set up a one-person company or register for “F-skatt”, Sweden’s sole trader tax system, you have to pay these contributions yourself (albeit at a slightly reduced rate). 

This means, Ryberg estimates, that you need to make a net profit of 500,000 a year at your company to have the same effective salary as an employee earning 31,705 a month (or 380,460 kronor a year). 

Here are Frivision’s numbers: 

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So what should foreigners bear in mind before going freelance or setting up a one-person business? 

"First, you need to know what your cost base is and if you need some materials. For example, if you're a photographer you need expensive cameras and to budget for travel costs," Ryberg said. 

"Then if you want to make, say, 30,000 kronor a month in salary, you need to know that the company must bring in about 40,000 kronor in net profit, because you will pay all these additional taxes and welfare payments."

It's also important to note that the above figures don't take holiday into account. While employees in Sweden get at least 25 days of paid annual leave, plus public holidays, freelancers and self-employed people need to budget for this themselves. 

And if you're comparing with a specific salary, for example when judging whether it's worth quitting a job to go freelance or weighing up a job offer and a freelance agreement, remember to look at the entire compensation package. With many jobs in Sweden, this will include an employee pension and possible extra perks such as a contribution to fitness and wellness expenses (frikshetsbidrag) which you'll need to cover using your profits as a self-employed person. Of course, as a self-employed person there are some tax deductions you can make yourself as well.

Another tip from Ryberg is to have at least one reliable customer when starting out, if you can, to maintain some level of regular recurring income.

"If you're a freelance journalist, you for example know that 'I will work with this newspaper', so you have a customer base." 

And finally, it is probably a good idea to save up a cash buffer so that you can survive any lean months that come your way. 

"What do you do if you don't get any revenue next month? You need to make some kind of appropriate security planning according to your level of comfort. Some people are okay not to know, but others might want to have a good buffer tougher to feel safe and secure." 

And should you set up your own company or pay F-skatt? 

Ryberg generally recommends that clients set up their own company. This means if the business goes bankrupt, they are protected. It can also be more tax-efficient, particularly for high earners such as computer programmers and consultants. And, it also means you can avail yourself of government schemes, like the support packages for businesses introduced during the pandemic. 

For those on lower incomes, the total tax take can be slightly lower for someone on F-skatt, but he believes that the advantages above generally outweigh this. If you're unsure, it may be worth seeking personalised advice from an accountant.

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