Finding a job in the Netherlands
I will be relocating to the Netherlands or I am new to the Netherlands and have yet to find work. I don’t speak Dutch and would be happy to receive any advice from you with regards to employment possibilities and opportunities in the Netherlands.
There are a significant number of international companies and organisations based in the Netherlands where, for ease of operation, English is the main working language. These include non-commercial organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and affiliates of the United Nations and the European Union. Major cities such as The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Utrecht as well as the Schiphol area have many such employers based in their areas. Also, certain available jobs may target languages other than Dutch or English. For example, French and German are always in demand. Learning some Dutch would no doubt increase your opportunities, but there are many jobs for which no Dutch is required.
What kind of CV and cover letter is customary to support job applications in the Netherlands?
It is important that your CV is clear, comprehensive and written on one or two pages maximum, as it will give a valuable first impression of you, your skills and the experience that you have on offer. Often companies will be inundated with CVs and will speed-read or scan through the CVs, so make sure your CV markets you in the best possible light.
In the Netherlands, a cover letter accompanying an application is often known as a motivation letter. The purpose of a motivation letter is to introduce yourself to the company, clarify why you are interested in the role and the organisation, and how your skills and experience could benefit their organisation. A motivation letter usually has the following structure:
- Your reason for applying
- Explanation of why you believe that you are the right candidate for the job and what attracts you to the company
- Conclude with a sentence stating that you look forward to meeting them to explain in greater detail that what you have outlined earlier in the letter.
Tailoring your motivation letter as well as the CV to the role you’re applying for will increase your chances of success. Don’t forget, in the Netherlands a catchy application/motivation letter, both content and design wise, is sometimes more important than an impressive grade list.
What steps should I take to prepare myself for my interview?
Here are some useful tips for preparing for an interview. Some may be obvious and some may be different from the way you would prepare yourself in your own country:
- Know the exact name, place and time of the interview, the interviewer’s full name and correct pronunciation, and his/her title
- Research the company, products/services, growth and potential growth in the future
- Refresh your memory on the facts and figures of your present employer and former employers
- Prepare the questions you will ask during the interview; the interview is about input and feedback from both you and the interviewer
- Arrive on time – this is very important in the Netherlands
- While the Dutch may appear to be very informal in their dress and appearance, it is still recommended to take care of your own appearance when attending an interview
- Don’t forget the importance of a firm handshake and eye contact when meeting your interviewer(s)
- It may help you to prepare yourself by knowing about the person(s) who will be interviewing you, so look them up on LinkedIn
In the job interview, the emphasis is on your motivation. You may be asked questions such as why you chose that particular company or to name your skills and strengths, but also mention some of your less strong points and skills you do not possess. Give examples that demonstrate your skills and strengths (these are called competency-based questions) and be also prepared to answer questions about personal matters like hobbies and social engagement.
You will usually be interviewed by one or two people. Applicants often have to attend two or even three interviews. At the end of the interview, it is common for you to ask some questions.
During the interview:
- Dress formally in business wear – although the Dutch tend to dress informally, an applicant should always be formally dressed
- Be aware of your body language
- Make eye contact when talking to the interviewer
- Answer with a simple yes or no but also do not over-answer questions
- Make negative remarks about your present or former employers
- Inquire about salary or other remuneration during your first interview unless the interviewer mentions it first
- Be offended when asked about your private life (employers search for long-term commitment)
Can I get some support and advice in looking for a job in the Netherlands?
If you are actively looking for a job but unsure about how to proceed, thinking about the next step in your career, considering returning to work after a career break, or looking for a change of career, you may find support useful.
There are several professionals and companies offering career counselling or coaching for expats looking for work. ACCESS has several trainers who can provide you with job hunting support.
Where can I find information about international jobs in the Netherlands?
Internet has taken over the recruitment processes and there is not much of a point on leaving your CV door by door. However, there is a possibility to stand out over hundreds of applicants by giving a simple call. Showing that you are pro-actively interested in the position and asking questions about it can make a difference to pass the first filter of the recruitment process. If you have no questions, you can always call to check if they have received your application in order to make the first contact. Here a sum up of the most popular methods of job hunting.
Via uitzendbureaus (employment or job agencies)
There are agencies that employ people and send them temporarily to employers, though you can also get other type of contracts depending on the employer. There are several advantages but also disadvantages to using this channel. On one hand, an agency can give you inside information about an employer as well as helping you prepare for an interview.
On the other hand, an agency is one step further away from the employer. It’s up to the agency to propose and ‘promote you’ for the job, which is why it’s important to make a good impression on them as well. Treat them the same as you would a potential employer, including a smart dress code.
Take time to choose agencies which represent your area of work, and especially those agencies which deal with international organisations if you do not speak Dutch. Some Dutch employment agencies may not consider you as a candidate if your CV is in English. To avoid being turned away with a standard response, look for job opportunities with descriptions that are in English. If Dutch is a requirement for the position and you can manage the language, then you should send the cover letter and CV in Dutch. In both cases, have your cover letter and CV checked for spelling and grammar errors as that is one of the first things a recruiter will look at.
Several agencies specialise in jobs for non-Dutch speakers. You can either forward your CV to the job agency or apply for their advertised vacancies. Both can be done via their websites; however, it is a good idea to give them a call to introduce yourself and stand out as a potential candidate. For a comprehensive list of recruitment agencies contact the ACCESS Helpdesk here. If you are looking for a recruiter or head-hunter for your next career step, then you have to refer to the werving- en selectiebureaus (recruitment agencies). You can find all agencies available in the Netherlands on: Allewervingenselectiebureaus.nl.
Please note that many of the agencies actually require a MBO (vocational education)/HBO (professional higher education) diploma to apply for the vacancies. If you are looking for part-time work as a student, job boards such as Monsterboard.nl may be more helpful.
In the Netherlands, establishing a network of contacts is invaluable. Keep in mind that networking can happen anywhere (e.g. sports clubs, your children’s school, joining clubs and interest groups). Make sure you are ready for the question: what do you do? Spend time on perfecting your profile and practising your ‘pitch’ but remember to keep it simple and natural.
Also attending multilingual job fairs might be helpful. Some of the organisations/employers participating in these fairs may have positions for English-speaking job seekers and the added networking opportunity may provide valuable information. You will find more information about these job fairs on the ACCESS and other expat-oriented websites.
LinkedIn is a well-used recruitment medium in the Netherlands (make sure your profile is up to date and includes the fact that you are in the Netherlands). Joining LinkedIn’s basic membership is free. Make sure your profile and experience are consistent with your CV and be sure to use a (professional) photo. Recruiters and hiring managers are constantly looking at profiles or placing job advertisements here. You can also join groups, take part in discussions and use LinkedIn for your job research. For example, what are the profiles like of people in a similar profession to you? Where do they work? You can also signup for job alerts by filling in key words and areas of work interest, which will notify you of jobs matching your requirements. For more information about using LinkedIn for your job search click ‘here’.
Via the internet and job boards
In the Netherlands, most companies and organisations advertise their vacancies on the internet. Several platforms exist on which all (or many) of the available job opportunities for internationals have been gathered. You can upload your CV and sign-up for job alerts on various job boards; this can save you a lot of time when looking for jobs and assist in discovering who is hiring.
Amongst the more popular ones are: Togetherabroad.nl, Iamexpat.nl , Dutchnews.nl, Expatica.com. Although you will come across several jobs in the Dutch language only, keep in mind that they also include non-Dutch speaking jobs as well.
If you have identified particular organisations that you are interested in, try to find a connection in your network (LinkedIn can be a good start). This can lead you to an introduction to somebody working there. Simultaneously, you could also consider an open application, and if possible, deliver it in person. This method is more effective in small- to medium- sized companies.
On the ACCESS website, you will find a list of career coaches and trainers. Contact details are provided so you can email the coaches and trainers directly if you would like further details about how they can help you. Some of the courses/workshops offered by the ACCESS’ trainers are professional skills development, cultural awareness and global mobility.
What is the Europass CV?
The Europass CV is understood in every European country and it pays particular attention to your skills and competences. You can create a Europass CV on europass.cedefop.europa.eu.
Where can I find more answers to questions I may have once I find a job?
Additional information on working in the Netherlands can be found on the government website: https://www.werk.nl/werkzoekenden/eu/. Here you will find comprehensive information about who may work in the Netherlands, searching and applying for jobs, contracts, qualifications and credential evaluation, and the Europass CV.
Where can I find job openings for students?
If you are a student and looking for a job, the following websites can be useful:
Your university may have an overview of job openings for students in the area of your studies. If you have done an internship, you can also ask if that organisation has anything for you.
Aside from the websites listed above, the general tips in this section for finding a job can be useful for students too.
If I want to apply for a job, would I need a work permit as a student?
If you are from the EU/EEA or Switzerland, you are free to work without restrictions.
Highly educated persons scheme
‘The orientation year for highly educated persons’applies to all recently graduated students in the Netherlands from non-EU countries.
The residence permit orientation year for highly educated persons can be submitted within three years after completing the studies or after obtaining the PhD.
The scheme gives those graduated in the Netherlands the opportunity to first return to their country of origin after having completed their studies, and to then come back to the Netherlands. A work permit is not needed, which means that if you hold a residence permit for the orientation year for higher educated persons you are allowed to work in the Netherlands without any restrictions.
More information is available on the IND’s website.
Work permit application
Should you need a work permit to work while studying, your employer needs to apply for it at www.uwv.nl/werkgevers.
Exception for internships
If you are studying at a Dutch host institution and you need to do an internship as part of your study programme, you do not need a work permit. Your host institution and your employer do need to sign an internship agreement. Please note that this exception does not apply for exchange students. For more information click here.
Will I be paid during my internship?
Dutch employers are not legally obliged to pay you for your internship, though many give some kind of compensation, such as travel expenses. Others may be more generous and pay you a small amount. Depending on your educational background and the company’s own policies, you might get something between 180 and 450 euros a month. Be aware that you still have to pay taxes on anything you earn from an internship.