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.
“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.”