Employers prefer Norwegian speakers

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Foreigners applying for jobs in Norway are often overlooked, no matter how qualified or highly educated they may be, if they can’t communicate in Norwegian. Recruiters report that many employers simply think it’s easier to hire a Norwegian, even when a foreign candidate is more experienced or has the special skills needed.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported recently that analysis, public relations and media companies systematically eliminate candidates who can’t speak or understand Norwegian because hiring them “will create too much fuss,” according to a leading recruitment firm.

Outside the comfort zone
Mediabemanning, which helped client companies fill 150 positions last year, reported that only three of the jobs went to candidates who didn’t speak Norwegian, Swedish or Danish. Ole Janszo, a partner in the firm, claims the number should have been at least 10 times as high.

“We always ask at the beginning of the hiring process whether the clients will be willing to hire people with a foreign language background,” Janszo told DN. “At that point, around half of them are positive to that. But when we get to the end of the recruitment process, hardly anyone dares (to hire foreigners). Then the Norwegians will be hired instead.”

Janszo said the hiring decisions are not based on the candidates’ actual qualifications but rather on small details. “Often we can suspect that (the decisions) are based on things like concerns over whether hiring a foreign worker will adversely affect chatter around the lunch table, or a company’s desire to maintain Norwegian as the form of internal communication,” Janzso said, adding that decisions often seem to rest on “matters of convenience” or what’s most comfortable for management.

“Conducting a job interview in English can also appear to be a challenge,” he continued, “and it’s also more time-consuming to have to check the candidate’s credentials.”

Risk losing the best candidates
The danger for Norwegian companies needing skilled and creative workers is that they risk passing over better-qualified workers than those found among the ranks of the Norwegians. “When you reject foreign candidates so that the conversation in the company canteen can flow more easily, they’re at the very least not being evaluated on an objective basis,” Janzso said. “Neither we nor they can be certain that the best qualified candidate for the job was  chosen.”

DN has earlier reported on the lack of advanced competence within information technology in Norway. A new report from consulting company Damvad, conducted for the government ministry in charge of municipal affairs and modernization, shows that around 10,500 positions will lack qualified workers to fill them by 2030. Companies will need to attract foreign specialists to fill the gap, at the same time that economic unrest in large parts of Europe makes Norway attractive.

‘Second-class citizens’
“We have marketing directors, middle managers and some very clever immigrants arriving in Norway from large, well-known companies abroad,” Janzso told DN. “But then they can find themselves in a second-class ranking in the job market, where they experience little recognition of their skills and experience.”

In the end, Janzso and other global talent experts have claimed, Norwegian companies lose out if they don’t recognize foreign talent. Ruben Søgaard, managing director of a media firm with 70 employees where only two aren’t Norwegian, admits it demands extra effort to include foreign speakers in a firm. Other companies with multi-national staffing view it as a strength. The digital division of appliance retailer Elkjøp, for example, has workers from Sweden, Russia, Serbia and Finland, for example.

“It’s absurd to disqualify someone because of their language or cultural background,” Filip Elverhøy, digital director at Elkjøp, told DN. “For us, it’s all about getting the best people.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • Doug Schwark

    Given that, Norway will always be mediocre. If that’s acceptable, that’s fine.

  • Morgana le Fay

    Spot on Doug. All the skilled educated foreigners I know are leaving this country. No future here for us.

  • inquisitor

    Language is the most used excuse for bigotry in hiring educated and skilled foreigners.

  • frenk

    The ‘top guns’ are not going to come and work in Norway……why…when they can make a lot more money elsewhere, have a much higher quality of life, pay less tax…..etc. etc……
    Norwegians…why would they hire someone who is much better educated….and has more life/work experience….probably from a much more competitive working environment/culture…etc. etc..

    • RC

      It’s not always about money; it’s far more about recognition and fairness. I moved to Norway in 2009, happily accepting a 40% pay cut. Despite being more experienced, having great results and top appraisals I could never progress up the ladder. All to often, native Norwegians were put into management roles which I was far more qualified for.

      After 3 years of banging my head against a glass ceiling I moved back to London and never looked back as my career has taken off since.

      The sad thing is I still really miss working there and dearly miss my old colleagues; Norwegians are in my experience by far the nicest bunch to work with. There were so many talented foreigners coming over when the NOK was stronger, Norway lost a fantastic opportunity to harvest some of the best talent in Europe. It will never happen again. Those few that remain, frequently dumb themselves down as there is little reward for excellence and focus on non-work pursuits.

      The worst part of it is, I genuinely don’t think native Norwegian corporations realise what they are doing. They are so blinkered they can’t see it happening in front of their eyes.

  • Monti34

    This is absolutely true, or at least in my fours years experience here it is. Working methods and politics are very different from that of the UK, I would certainly agree that in many companies being Norwegian is the 1st qualification employers seek out. What I would say though is we do expect everyone to speak English in Britain, how many Norwegian speakers would get a job working in the UK? not many..