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Is getting a job “without referral” possible in Stockholm?

Is getting a job “without referral” possible in Stockholm?

“Looks like there is no way to get a job in Stockholm without referral. I have been applying for more than 100 jobs without a single response.”

This is a frequently heard emotion within the job applying communities of Stockholm especially from International talents. Before discussing the possibility of getting a job without referral, lets first state the obvious.

Referral is the most preferred way of recruiting and it does have shades of favoritism and bias in it unfortunately.

Why are referral candidates preferred in a recruitment?

A recruiter’s goal is to close a recruitment with a skilled candidate at a

1) Low cost

2) Low risk

3) High compatibility

I. Low cost would mean reducing the cost of,

1) Writing the job ad — copywriting efforts of drafting a job ad,

2) Marketing the job ad — in free and paid social media (eg: LinkedIn job ads)

3) Sourcing — identifying potential candidates online and headhunting them

4) Evaluating the candidates — First, second, third interviews, skill tests, case solving, personality tests, compatibility evaluations, etc.

5) Negotiation — ensuring successful offer within the budget available for the role thereby not bringing candidates to the final round who fail in negotiation

II. Low risk can be translated as, “how do I know someone is relevant for my company with minimal evaluation efforts?”

Now technically, if the whole recruitment process is executed end-to-end, with an open-minded job ad, inclusive marketing, attracting diverse applicants followed by a thorough evaluation process that gives equal and fair opportunity to all applied candidates without bias, it would be an ideal world.

But in reality, such a process could be extremely time consuming and expensive to execute from the company’s side for every recruitment. So, if referral brings in a candidate who’s skilled and trust-worthy from the network, the above process is shortened to one or two interviews followed by a negotiation thereby closing the recruitment in less than a week compared to 6 to 12-week traditional process.

High Compatibility is straight forward. ‘How do I know we’re compatible in values, vision and company culture?’.

I don’t have anyone to refer me. What do I do?

As a candidate, the key element from our side is submitting a job application. We apply for jobs with our resume, cover letter and some optional email/messages.

Now, as I stated before, the recruiter’s goal is to close a recruitment with,

Low cost — shortening the recruitment process as much and not having to run entire process

Low risk — looking at a job application feel a minimum guarantee of skill and relevance for the role.

High compatibility — giving a feel that the person will fit into the role and company.

Now let us look at a typical average job application in the market and try to score them in the above three parameters.


My name is XXX and I have 5 years of experience in YYY and ZZZ, I’m looking for a job in AAA and would love to have the opportunity to work in your company. I have herewith attached my resume and cover letter.

Looking forward!



Now if we look into the above approach which is commonly used by many, what do we see?

Cost factor — how do we reduce the cost of recruitment as a candidate?

If this application was submitted over an online job ad, the cost of recruitment is already high compared to a recruitment that could have been closed with an internal referral. This is the reason why an incredibly high number of positions are closed in the hidden job market without even having the need from the company to post a job online.

Coming back to the cost of recruitment, how have we shortened the recruitment process in the above approach?

In our job application, especially in resume, we claim to have certain skill sets and validate it with experience.

If these skillsets and experience are of incredible need and value to the company right now and you’re one of the very few who have applied, you will receive a response from the company.

But in most cases, the above scenario would not be the case. We may not be having the skillset/experience that the company is desperately looking for immediately OR realize they need right now. So, in these cases, the above approach of just stating your skills and experience is rudimentary because we expect the company to do everything else.

*experience: the reason companies prefer known brands like Spotify, King, Klarna, Mojang, Google, etc, is because they are brands that will shorten the evaluation process thereby reducing the cost of recruitment. If our experiences are not from recognized brands in Stockholm, it again increases the cost of evaluation thereby increasing the cost of recruitment.

If we look back at the above table, it is clear that in our current approach of job application with generic email, resume and cover letter, the time and effort it requires for a company to do each of the tasks in the list is much higher than the consecutive tasks listed on the candidate side. (also don’t forget to multiple the efforts from company to the total number of candidates they’re considering for the role)

When applying for jobs, it is always good to think of a table like above listing the tasks we do for that job application and list of things we expect the company to do, before they can give us the job. If the time and effort of the task list on the company is way higher than ours, every step we take to minimize it for the company will play for our advantage.

How do we reduce the time it takes for the company to review our job application?

Metrics is a universal language. How have the numbers with our skill sets in our previous experience is a great start in making it easy for review.

How have my work influenced the following numbers/metrics?

Try to find the best metrics that you have influenced that the company you’re applying is desperately looking to increase. This makes it incredibly easy to understand the relevance of your previous work.

Risk & Compatibility Factors — How do we reduce risk and prove the relevance and compatibility?

Let us look back into our traditional job application message one more time.

My name is XXX and I have 5 years of experience in YYY and ZZZ, I’m looking for a job in AAA and would love to have the opportunity to work in your company. I have herewith attached my resume and cover letter.

The problem with the above format is, it doesn’t even talk about the company or team but only talks about us as a candidate. Now with all due respect, if the company or hiring manager doesn’t know us at all and we’re absolute stranger to them, why would they read about a stranger?

So, a better approach here to prove we’re relevant and compatible outside of metric-driven resume is, talking only about the company and nothing about us. This may sound weird but let me explain.

If someone writes me an email saying, “My name is XYZ and I’m an experienced recruiter with unique skill sets”, there is very little interest in reading it unless I desperately have to.

But for instance, if someone writes me an email saying, “My name is XYZ and I have been following your work and your company’s progress within recruitment. You have done a really interesting job within employer branding and job drafting….

, then I’m intrigued. I want to read more of this email because I’m not reading about a stranger as in the first format but rather, I’m reading about me and my company and our work. The beautiful magic this creates is that, I’m also now tilted to think, the person who has written this email is an experienced recruiter BECAUSE in my mind, only an experienced recruiter will be able to appreciate the nuances of my profession like that.

This is the most basic trick to prove relevance and compatibility. By your specific niched detailed observance and appreciation of the craft of the company and its team you’re applying for.

We’ve hit almost 1500 words in this article as of now and it is time to wrap things up. As a responsible candidate and talent if you think consciously about expressing your skills and experience in the easiest metric-driven format for quick grasp PLUS add a cover letter/ message that talks about the company and what you observe and appreciate in them with regards to the craft you’ve mastered, even without referral there is possibility to get closer to your dream opportunities in Stockholm.

The goal of a job application/ cold email/ cold call is to gain trust and curiosity of the company to gain interviews NOT job. We want meetings, coffees, lunches to express ourselves better and that should be the ideal goal of the job application.

While we have to acknowledge that there are industries which could be more conservative than others and certain skills that are more in demand than others, I sincerely believe that for every talented individual there is an opportunity here and I wish you all the very best in reaching it very soon.

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