Danish companies struggling to fill positions: report

More than every third Danish company has unsuccessfully attempted to recruit new employees in the past year, a new survey shows.

Danish companies struggling to fill positions: report
Photo: Iris/Scanpix

The shortage of labour is detrimental to companies’ ability to develop their business and is keeping the economy down, writes

The problem has been on the rise for some years and is now so extensive that more than every third company – 36 per cent – has unsuccessfully tried to recruit new employees within the past year, shows a survey of 3,335 companies conducted by the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI).

Deputy director and head of DI’s labour market policy department, Steen Nielsen, believes that the survey is cause for alarm.

“This is a major impediment to the operation and development of Danish companies. Companies risk having to say no to tasks when they are unable to get the employees they need,” Nielsen said.

“It also has the socioeconomic consequence of Denmark missing out on earnings and prosperity. The shortage of labour has a direct and negative effect on the economy,” he added.

Companies themselves also highlight that the lack of employees has major consequences.

In another survey of 464 of DI’s member companies, approximately one third replies that they have had to postpone projects due to unsuccessful attempts to recruit. And around one fourth have lost sales or orders because they have not had employees available.

“The bottom line is directly affected when there is a shortage of workers – and in the slightly longer term, companies risk losing important customers and markets if they are unable to meet customer needs,” said Nielsen.

A number of companies, however, have thus far managed to survive the lack of employees by having other employees work overtime. Two out of three companies in DI’s survey replied that tasks have been handled via overtime work, while a smaller number of companies have chosen to outsource the task to other companies at home and abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Denmark's constant residency curbs will turn away skilled workers'

Professor of Economics at Copenhagen Business School Niels Westergaard-Nielsen is not surprised that Denmark is in a situation where companies are experiencing a shortage of labour.

“We have shifted from an economic downturn, in which companies could simply hire from among the unemployed, to a situation in which companies who wish to hire must bring in their employees from other positions, meaning there is more competition for labour,” he said, adding that the problem also affects the research community.

“Previously, we received tons of applications for our student jobs, but now there are much fewer.” 

Westergaard-Nielsen expects that the shortage of labour can create a pressure for increased wages when companies begin to vie for employees.

Photo: Iris/Scanpix

“The labour shortage is a problem that must be taken seriously. We need job market reforms now if we are to avoid a situation in the near future in which the shortage is so widespread that we experience wage pressure and poorer growth,” Steen Nielsen said.

It is likely that this competition will become even more intense in coming months. DI’s recently published forecast for the Danish economy predicts that employment will increase by 36,000 in 2017 and a further 25,000 in 2018. Hence, at the end of 2018, the country is in line for the highest private employment rate for salaried employees ever.

Nielsen said that he believes that there is a need for older employees to stay longer in the labour market and to make sure that access to foreign labour remains good. 

“The reason why the problems haven’t yet become too much for companies to handle is that more and more employees stay on the labour market for longer and that companies have had access to foreign labour. And these are also the areas in which we must take action in coming years,” he says.

READ ALSO: Danish government drops plan to increase retirement age

Venstre’s spokesman for business policy Torsten Schack Pedersen said that, for him, DI’s survey underlines that efforts must be made to overcome the shortage of labour.

“We are focusing heavily on how we can create a larger labour supply,” he said.  

Much work remains to be done in relation to integrating refugees in the labour market, and that work is required to ensure that companies have good opportunities to recruit foreign labour, according to Pedersen.

Employment spokesperson for the Social Democrats, Leif Lahn Jensen, believes that the solution lies with job centres.

“They have to be even better at getting out to the companies and finding out what is needed. Then, they must find the profile to match. It’s not a question of finding more hands. The hands are there. What we have to ensure is that they’re skilled enough,” Jensen said. 

For members


Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

Job searching in Denmark can be a daunting and lengthy process with many hurdles to overcome. The Local spoke to Kay Xander Mellish, author of 'How to Work in Denmark', for her tips on submitting a successful CV and application.

Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

CVs in Denmark often have certain aspects of layout, presentation and content in common. By writing a CV that sticks to some of these recognisable customs, you may improve your chances of catching the eye of a potential employer.

1. Length

“Keep it to one excellent page, or two if you’re more senior. I’d say if you’re aged 30 and under, one page will be enough. Only add the jobs that are relevant. Employers don’t want to hear about that restaurant server or babysitting job if it’s not relevant to the role,” Mellish said.

2. Format

At the top of your CV, a paragraph describing your experience, skills, education and character is a common way to lead into a CV. This text can be adapted depending on the job you’re applying for and how you want to present your skills.

“Add three adjectives about yourself that you can support with an example, rather than ten adjectives with no story. For example, say you are innovative for this reason. People don’t like hot air in Denmark,” Mellish said.

Aside from the profile text, chronological lists of qualifications, relevant employment history and other relevant experience should be kept brief enough to fit the one to two pages.

3. Show your personal side and a photo

It is expected that applicants include a section about their hobbies, even family situation on their CV in Denmark, as well as a photo, to give a sense of who they are as a person.

“Danish employers are interested in you as a human, more so than employers in other countries so include information about yourself, including your age and your hobbies.

“Choose a good quality photo that is not too serious but shows you looking friendly and approachable,” Mellish said.

4. Story telling

“Think in terms of story telling”, Mellish advised. “Pure letters and numbers don’t mean a lot to employers in Denmark, they need to know what projects you’ve done, what role you played and what kind of person you are through your CV.

“So rather than writing ‘I have these grades’, it’s better to say ‘I worked on this project, it took this long, I achieved this'”, Mellish said.

5. Hit the ground running

Mellish called this “plug and play”, where you show you will slot right into the company and get going with the role.

“When employers are reading your CV, they want to know what you can do on day one of the job. Sell your ability to solve someone’s problem. You need to give the impression you can add value straight away.

“In Denmark the average length of time in a job is two and a half years, because you can take your pension when you move, so employers don’t want someone they need to spend time training,” Mellish told The Local.

READ ALSO: Five tips for writing an effective Danish CV

6. Teamwork

“Group work is very important in Denmark, more than individual achievements. So talk about your teamwork and how you worked with a group to produce a good business result. It shouldn’t be ‘me, me, me’ – that’s a turn off,” Mellish said.

7. LinkedIn

“People in Denmark love LinkedIn so you need a fabulous LinkedIn profile with a good picture. Before anyone calls you for an interview they’ll have looked at your LinkedIn profile.

“In your profile, include the storytelling, explaining the projects you’ve worked on. If your job involves a uniform, I recommend wearing it in your LinkedIn photo so people get that impression of you right away. Your background photo should also be work-related, not rainbows or puppies. Use it to tell the story of who you are,” Mellish advised.

8. Unsolicited application

This is when you approach a company or department you would like to work for, without a job being advertised. The Danish term for it is uopfordret ansøgning. 

“Many people make contact on LinkedIn and ask to meet for a coffee, where they chat and rather than pitch for a job, they ask if the person knows anyone looking for someone like them. Danish employers welcome this and many people are hired this way,” Mellish said.

Another way to network is to join a union, Mellish advised. They often have career events but can also help read your contract when you get a job offer, or help with any problems in the workplace. 

9. Ring the recruiter

The phone number of the hiring manager will often be in the job advert. Mellish advised finding a quiet place to ring them from and spending ten to fifteen minutes asking some good business questions.

“This also helps you work out if you might want to work for this person,” Mellish said.

“Send your CV within 24 hours of the phone call and mention you spoke to them in your application,” she added.

10. Patience

“On average it can take six months to find a job in Denmark. If it’s under this, you’re lucky. If it takes a year, it’s not you, it just takes a long time because employers are looking for someone to fit into their team.

“I wrote 100 letters, I got ten responses, three interviews and one job which I had for eight years,” Mellish told The Local.

“Danish employers are not always good at getting back to you. If you don’t hear anything, just keep applying for other jobs. If you sent an application on June 1st, you could send a follow-up email on June 15th, then you’ll have to leave it and move on,” she advised. 

Kay Xander Mellish’s book ‘How to Work in Denmark’ offers both job-searching advice and tips on how to succeed in the Danish workplace.