Soo…How Did You End Up in Sweden?

I’ve done my fair share of interviews in Stockholm. It is especially fun because as a foreigner, you are usually the “interesting” one. And being the interesting one, means being asked lots of questions.

As Americans, we’re prepared for zillions of interview questions and situations. Swedish interviews are much more relaxed and more about personality than Mensa brain game questions. Here is small cheat sheet on job interview tips in Sweden if you are new to the game.

There is also that list of questions that are illegal (or highly inappropriate) to ask in an American job interview. Never fear, being Sweden, no one cares, interviewers ask them anyway. As of yet, I have not figured if these interview questions are illegal in Sweden as well, but since most interviewers asked me, they must be at least appropriate.

  • Are you married, divorced, separated, engaged, widowed, etc?
  • What is your nationality?
  • Where were you born?
  • What is your mother tongue?
  • How did you acquire the ability to speak, read or write a foreign language? Hahaha, I think everyone here asks “how did you learn Swedish?”
  • How did you acquire familiarity with a foreign country?
  • What language is spoken in your home?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • Do you live in town?
  • With whom do you live?
  • Are you a citizen of Sweden?

In Sweden, as a foreigner in an interview, these questions seem innocuous. In the United States they would be illegal to ask. Even on the Swedish CV, you provide information that you normally would not in the United States (e.g. photo, gender, citizenship status, birthday).

If you are asked any of these questions in Sweden, smile, you are in sweden!

17 thoughts on “Soo…How Did You End Up in Sweden?”

  1. I’ve also heard it’s legal to ask about family plans!

    EG: How many kids do you have? How many do you want? How soon will you start a family?

    Could you imagine in the states if an employer asked “So, how soon will you and your significant other start a family?” That would have so many lawyers jumping all over that like a fat-kid over a donut!

  2. Why is it illegal?

    (I can think of a few reasons myself, but I’m curious to see if they are the same as the american ones.)

  3. Yeah. Anything that can be used against (or for) the person in any fashion is grounds for discrimination.

    If you attach a photo, age, family status, nationality, citizenship, etc. they will automatically disqualify you from the position. As I’m in IT, they only want technical perspectives, as in, can you do the job. This removes bias.

    I’ve even heard stories of names being removed on resumes with recruitment firms and people are addressed as number 1, 2, 3 etc through the process until the interview to ensure its fair and balanced.

  4. Yes, these questions are illegal because of discrimination laws and/or invasion of privacy in the US

  5. Wow! I had no idea that (to me) such basic questions would be considered illegal in a country. These are very standard questions asked here in The Netherlands as well. Right down to what hobbies you have! In The Netherlands once you have given someone a permanent position in a company, it is virtually impossible to get rid of them. Even if they do not do their jobs properly; so companies want to know that the person they are wanting to hire is going to be with the company long enough to justify the amount of time and money that is spent in training that person. Also that the person will fit in with the department they will be working in.

  6. I’ve read these questions and I think they’re natural on the overall work climate in Sweden where working in a team is essential. You need to know your co-workers and your employees. The boss is supposed to be a guiding force and lead you to grow as a person.

    Personally for me they questions can feel quite intrusive for me but I see the positive in it, you need to get under the shell to really know a person. I think it’s a compliment that someone hires me to ensure my future based on the person I am.

  7. Personally, I finding having an more organic, open dialoge with someone vs directly asking questions can be a lot more effective when trying to get to know someone. You can lead the conversation around to cover areas without directly asking “so, how soon do you think you’ll start a family and then take leave?”.

  8. There’s that and then there’s this, it all depends on who’s interviewing you, if he/she has more experience you normally have a more organic and giving discussion. I’ve had both even though I haven’t been to many interviews.

  9. @ Andrew – I understand what you mean. I think that some of the interviews were conducted on that basis, even though they did land up asking these questions. Although I also haven’t been to too many interviews! Also, I am quite a direct person, not rude or anything. I am just not very adept at hinting around to what I want to ask, I just come straight out and ask it…. So having an organic interview is something I would not be good at :-(

  10. It’s important to realize that NOT asking these questions does not mean you cannot ‘get to know’ a candidate during an interview.

    You can always ask about hobbies (what do you like to do?) to history (tell me about yourself).

    I myself am very uncomfortable answering questions like: “do you have a swedish boyfriend?” I understand the interviewer is figuring out how I ended up in Sweden. Instead, ask “do you enjoy sweden?”

    There are just some questions that are personal and have nothing to with the job and nothing to do with “getting to know someone better.” And those questions, are off-limits.

  11. Hmm, I have never been asked about my boyfriend, but you do have to include your marital status in your cv. I am just used to being asked such questions that I had never stopped to think how they would be perceived by others.

  12. I know what you mean about these forbidden questions. I’m a Swede living in the states, and interviewers here always seem to be fishing for answers to these questions. I’ve found that telling them without them asking leads to a much better connection with the interviewer, in other words, a Swedish interview in the U.S.. I have no problem telling them about my girlfriend etc…

  13. Its interesting to see that things that we take for granted can seem so odd to someone from a different culture. Most strange regulations occur as a result of some pretty egregious abuses that have occurred, but here in America we have a tendency to mask symptoms rather than get to the root of the problem, though a lot of us won’t admit that.

    Our employers have a huge amount of power over us. Who we work for determines our health insurance and much of our retirement. And if you lose a good job, it can be very hard to replace. In the past some companies have discriminated against people based on the assumption that a family will compete for your time, so our solution is to forbid those questions in interviews. Sort of pretending to look out for the little guy, but not really.

  14. WHAAAAT!!! I’m shocked they ask those questions in interviews. I’m glad you wrote about this, otherwise I could have ended up reacting off guard during an interview at the gall of the interviewer to ask me what I thought were illegal questions.

  15. Oh, God! I thought being asked about my plans at night clubs was inappropriate. look what I have to deal with when applying for a job! Gonna be fun :)

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