Applying for a job in the Netherlands
If you are an expat looking for a job in the Netherlands, it is extremely helpful to understand the Dutch way of applying for jobs. Perhaps your Dutch is so good that you can apply for one using the Dutch language. For international positions, you can often apply in English; nevertheless, it is also useful to know the mores of the average application procedure in the Netherlands.
What do Dutch companies consider important when hiring a new employee, and what is the fastest way to find a job? Here are a few tips on how to prepare well for the application process.
1. Finding the right vacancy
Vacancies can be mainly found online. Most companies publish vacancies on their own websites, and advertise on job sites and social media. In addition, companies also use recruitment firms which, in turn, publish the vacancies. One agency that focuses on international job matching is Undutchables.
Also keep an eye on LinkedIn—many companies in the Netherlands publish their vacancies there.
What is even better is to be on a company’s radar before they publish a vacancy. At most companies, vacancies are first posted internally. The employees themselves can respond to such a vacancy, or tell people they know about it. Finding someone this way saves companies money on recruitment costs.
Never underestimate the power of your personal network. Be sure to let your friends and acquaintances know you are looking for a new job. Who knows, one of their employers could be looking for someone just like you!
2. Responding to a vacancy
Unless it is stated otherwise, respond to the vacancy by sending an e-mail with two attachments: your curriculum vitae (CV) and an accompanying cover letter.
In addition, you can often get more information by calling the company, so it is wise to take advantage of this. Make sure you have specific questions for which the answer is not in the vacancy or on the website. Calling for the sake of calling is generally not appreciated by the Dutch.
Good questions to ask:
- What exactly do you mean by...? [Wat bedoel je precies met...?]
- What is the essence of the position? [Wat is de essentie van de functie?]
- What is the department like? [Hoe ziet de afdeling eruit?]
You will often receive valuable information during such a telephone call, which you can then take advantage of when sending your letter and curriculum vitae.
Cover letters in Dutch
Your reason for wanting the position is one of the most important reasons for an employer to hire you. Make sure you answer the following questions in your letter:
Where did you find the vacancy?
- I would like to apply for the position of (position), for which you posted a vacancy in/on (medium) on (date). [Graag solliciteer ik op de functie van (functienaam) waarvoor u een vacature heeft geplaatst in (medium) op (datum).]
- I discovered the vacancy for (position) in/on (medium). I would like to be considered for this role. [Ik kwam de vacature voor (functienaam) tegen in (medium). Ik wil graag in aanmerking komen voor deze functie.]
Why are you applying?
- I am looking for a new job because I would like to develop further in... [Ik ben op zoek naar een nieuwe baan, omdat ik me verder wil ontwikkelen in …]
- I am ready for a new challenge. The position in your company would be the next logical step for me in my career. [Ik ben toe aan een nieuwe uitdaging. De functie in uw bedrijf zou voor mij een logische vervolgstap zijn in mijn loopbaan.]
- I think it would be very interesting to work for your organisation because... [Het lijkt me erg interessant om voor uw organisatie te werken, omdat …]
Why you are the right person for the job?
I am convinced that I have the right experience and skills to make this job a success. For example, I… (give more information about concrete experience and examples that demonstrate your skills).
[Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat ik de juiste ervaring en competenties heb om deze functie tot een succes te maken. Zo heb ik ... ]
And make sure your conclusion is good:
- I would be pleased to further explain my application in a personal interview. [Graag licht ik mijn sollicitatie toe in een mondeling gesprek.]
- I look forward to your reply. [Ik kijk uit naar uw reactie.]
Other important rules for a cover letter:
- If writing in Dutch, use the formal ‘you’ in Dutch (‘u’).
- Keep the letter businesslike with a personal touch.
CVs in Dutch
A few rules for your curriculum vitae:
- Limit the length to two pages.
- Keep it factual and concise.
- Document your work experience and training in reverse chronological order, with the most recent one first.
- Please also state what you do in your spare time. After all, many Dutch people consider work-life balance to be important.
3. Receiving a reply
It is common practice to receive an acknowledgement of receipt of your application. If you have not heard whether the company has received your application within a week, it is acceptable to contact them yourself.
Next you will receive:
- An invitation for an interview: Well done! Read more about being interviewed.
- A rejection: Contact them by phone to find out if they might have any tips for you for future applications.
- Nothing at all: Unfortunately, employers do not always reply. In these instances, it is fine to call or send an email to enquire about the status of your application.
4. Being interviewed
For many positions, it is already a quite an accomplishment to be invited for an interview. Go there well-prepared.
Some tips for if you are not completely familiar with the Dutch culture:
- Arrive on time. Dutch people are very punctual. If you have an interview at 10.00 in the morning, make sure you report to reception no later than 9.55.
- Look your interviewer in the eye.
- Wear formal business attire—then you cannot go wrong. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Prepare ahead of time for questions you will get about why you want the job, as well as your character, strengths and weaknesses.
- Do not be surprised by Dutch directness.
- If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. Do not try to dodge the question.
- Be honest about any gaps or other irregularities in your CV.
- Make sure you also prepare a number of your own questions. This is seen as being proactive.
If you would like to prepare for an important interview, we would be happy to help. A few hours of practice with a language trainer Dutch can make a world of difference in how confident and professional you feel.