‘Be more humble’: Top tips on how to ace your Swedish 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.

‘Be more humble’: Top tips on how to ace your Swedish 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.

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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

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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…

Member comments

  1. What?!? That’s a pretty disgusting picture, isn’t it?!? Surely there was a better way. Oh wait, I forgot, it’s still a man’s world we’re all living in… YUCK.

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IN DATA: Why have so many of Sweden’s Afghan child refugees got jobs?

A recent report from Statistics Sweden found that eight out of ten young men who came to Sweden as child refugees in 2015 now have jobs, a higher employment rate than people of their age born in Sweden. What's behind this success and has it come at a price?

IN DATA: Why have so many of Sweden's Afghan child refugees got jobs?

Some 35,000 unaccompanied child refugees came to Sweden during the refugee crisis of 2015, the overwhelming majority of whom were teenage boys from Afghanistan’s oppressed Hazara minority. Only 2,847 were girls, and 22,806 of the 32,522 boys were from Afghanistan. 

According to the Statistics Sweden report, around 13,000 of them were then given residency as unaccompanied child refugees, with a further 7,000 given residency under the so-called “Gymnasium Law” or gymnasielagen.

This was an amnesty law which gave those whose asylum claims were rejected temporary residency in Sweden to complete their studies at upper secondary school, after which they had six months to get a job. 

A poor welcome

On arrival in Sweden, the group were often dismissed as skäggbarn, or “bearded children”, with claims that many had lied about their age to take advantage of more lenient asylum rules. The Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine was tasked with carrying out controversial examinations to check their ages. 

The group were blamed for harassing girls at music festivals, and there were also reports of their being drawn into heroin use and crime.   

Most have jobs

Six years on, though, the statistics show a more positive picture. 

Of those born in 1999, the most common age for the group, 82 percent of the young men were described as sysselsatta or “employed” in November 2022, when the snapshot was taken, a number that rises to 85 percent for men who received residency under the Gymnasium Law.  

This compares to about 66 percent for young men born in Sweden in 1999, and about 74 percent for young refugees who came to Sweden with their parents in 2015. 

According to the study, 71 percent of those with residency under the Gymnasium Law and 67 percent of those with residency as unaccompanied child refugees have an income of at least 222,900 kronor year, or about 18,575 kronor a month, which was more than both young men born in Sweden (48 percent) and refugees who came with their parents (46 percent). 

In a sense, the high employment rate among those who gained residency under the Gymnasium Law is not surprising, given that they were given six months to get a job or risk being deported. 

“The explanation is usually that they are dependent on themselves for support, so they more or less have to get a job to be able to take care of themselves,” Karin Lundström, the demographer at Statistics Sweden who led work on the report, told The Local. 

Muhammed Ali, Chair of Sweden’s Association of Unaccompanied Child Refugees, told the broadcaster TV4 that the findings were expected. 

“This report is nothing that surprises us, because both we ourselves and those who support us know how well it’s going for us,” he said. 

But he said that the group’s success had come despite the often harsh treatment they have received in Sweden. 

“We’ve been struggling over these years. We’ve been treated extremely badly and brutally. We have never been a priority for the authorities, but we have also managed to create a network,” he said.   

Most work in elderly and healthcare

The study found that the most common job for the group was health and elderly care or social care, with 38 percent of men who got residency as child refugees employed in these roles and 34 percent who got residency under the Gymnasium Law. This compares to just five percent of men born in Sweden. 

“We can see that a larger share of those with [residency under] the Gymnasium Law are working in healthcare, which is a profession where there’s a lot of need for for people,” Lundström explained. “So we can see that they have chosen a profession and education which matches the jobs in demand. 

The next biggest roles were “business services” or företagstjänster, a broad term which can cover everything from high-level IT services to janitorial work, which employed 14 percent of those those given residency as unaccompanied child refugees and 12 percent of those who got residency under the Gymnasium Law, manufacturing and recycling, retail, hotel and restaurant, and the building industry – which all employed around 10 percent.

Very few are studying, and many didn’t graduate from upper secondary

The downside of the Gymnasium Law was that it forced those given residency under it to go directly into the workforce after completing upper secondary education, as going into higher education did not count as grounds for extended residency. 

Only 3 percent of men who got residency as unaccompanied child refugees were studying in November 2022, compared to 17 percent of those born in Sweden and nearly 11 percent of those who came with their parents. 

For women born in 1999 who came as child refugees, it was 7 percent, while for those born in Sweden or who arrived as refugees with their parents, the share studying was 20 percent.    

Some 55 percent of men who got residency as child refugees have studied to gymnasium level, and fully 75 percent of those who got residency under the Gymnasium Law, but only about 4 percent of male child refugees have studied to a higher level, and only 2 percent of men who received residency under the Gymnasium Law. 

Almost all of those who studied chose a vocational line: 80 percent of child refugees, and fully 94 percent of men who got residency under the Gymnasium Law.  

Only 6 percent of those who got residency under the Gymnasium Law studied a programme at upper secondary school which counts as preparation for further education.

For men who got residency as child refugees, only 15 percent studied a programme expected to lead to further education, while for women the share was 18 percent. 

Of those born in Sweden, fully 44 percent studied courses leading to further education, and for those who came with their parents, 40 percent did.

Lundström said she expected that this might change in future as more decided to improve their skills through study. 

“It’s not been that long since they finished upper secondary school and got their first jobs, so maybe if we were to look at this group in another five or 10 years, it would be a little bit different and a higher share of them would have started and finished higher studies.” 

Many have very low salaries

According to the report, more than 70 percent of men who gained residency under the Gymnasium Law have an income of at least three “income base payments” or inkomstbasbelopp.

As an income base payment was set at 71,000 kronor in 2022, this constitutes an income of 213,000 kronor, or 17,750 kronor a month. 

Around 30 percent of those with residency under the Gymnasium Law earned even less than this, and with those with residency as child refugees the number is more like 35 percent. 

There is no information in the study on how many of those earning “at least 17,750 a month” earned 26 700 kronor, which was the average salary for a care home assistant in 2022.

Lundström warned that the figures could be misleading here as many of those in the study would not have worked a full year by November 2022. 

Even in November 2022, she said, about 50 percent of those studied had an annual income corresponding to about 25,000 kronor per month.