5 mistakes people make when applying for a job in the Netherlands

5 mistakes people make when applying for a job in the Netherlands

We willen met jou in zee, or “we want to work further with you.” Out of a hundred plus applicants, I was chosen for the job! 

In the last 26 years, I have had my portion of applications, rejection and acceptance letters from Dutch employers - and have finally cracked the code for finding the right template for my CV and motivation letter to nail my dream job. In this article, I would like to share this with readers to help them nail their dream job too.

In my position as a career coach, I have seen a lot of Curriculum Vitae and motivation letters from my clients, either sent or intended to be sent as a job application. Almost all the letters or CV contain similar mistakes which lead to the CV and motivation letter landing in the "no" pile without a second thought - such a pity! Here are some common mistakes made by expats looking for work in the Netherlands.

1. Presuming that the Dutch employer knows the value of your diploma

The mistake that tops the list is not having your diploma from your home country validated. This means that a registered institute compares your diploma to the Dutch standard of education and provides you with an official letter stating the level of education that you have acquired in relation to the Dutch standard. The risk of not having your diploma validated can leave your potential employer wondering what your level of education is. Or they presume it is lower than the Dutch standard, thus doubting if your level of education matches the level they are looking for.

2. Presuming that the Dutch employer can read between the lines

A question I often get asked by my clients - companies who are your potential employers - is why people from some countries or cultures provide limited or hardly any information on their resumes. Providing minimal information about your work experience or education leaves the impression that you have hardly acquired any education or experience, and employers are left doubtful if you are competent enough for the position or job you have applied for.

3. Praising the company

Believe me, this will not get you the job you applied for! The companies are well aware of how good they are, so using your motivation letter to praise the company and providing that as your reason for applying to that post is no motivation for them to hire you at all. Besides, this is usually regarded as useless flattery and not exactly the reason why you should be applying. 

4. Not seeing yourself as an equal business partner

Just because a company is looking for employees does not give them a status of being superior in any way. Yet, I have seen motivation letters where the applicant gives this impression; an impression that no Dutch employer intends to give and actually abhors.

5. Not knowing exactly what you want

I know for newcomers, this could be a land of opportunities; almost every type of work can appear fascinating and before you know it, you are not sure which line of work you should apply for.  This feeling also becomes apparent in your CV or motivation letter, giving the impression that you are not sure if you want the job you are applying for or if you are equipped with the talents and characteristics the job requires.

Tips to avoid these mistakes

Hoping to land your dream job in the not too distant future? Here are some top tips to help you avoid the above mistakes: 

  • Have your diploma’s validated by an institute like Nuffic. You will have to pay for the administration cost - which is not very high. Also, remember to mention the level you get from them in your CV.
  • View your CV as an opportunity to let your potential employer know everything there is to know about your education and experience. However trivial it may seem to you, it could be of importance to the job and give an insight into the talents you possess.
  • If your genuine motivation for applying to a certain company is because it is a prestigious company, then you can mention this in your letter, along with what you bring to the company to enhance the prestige. If you are not certain what you bring to the table, then do not use this motivation, as it will only sound like bland flattery.
  • View yourself as an equal counterpart while applying for a job - remember they need you as much as you need them, so don’t sound like you are begging for the job. You have the knowledge, experience, and talent for the position you are applying for. Mention these points and make this explicit in your letter.
  • If you only have a general idea that you want to work for a certain company, then send in an open application - some companies allow this. But do not make the mistake of applying for a vacancy and then mentioning that you are also open for any other suitable position. This gives the impression that you are not sure of your own worth.

In some counties and cultures, a CV and letter that is more than a page long give an impression of arrogance. To them, I would say: via your curriculum vitae and motivation letter you are helping the company to choose you, so make it easy for someone from a company who does not know you at all to choose you. The only way to do this is by providing all the information you can about yourself. 

Last but not least, remember that as an expat you have lived and worked between cultures, so you always have that experience and perspective that you bring to the table.

Are you going through the arduous process of finding your dream job? Share your experience(s) or questions in the comments below. Good luck - you got this!

Kirtika van Hunen


Kirtika van Hunen

Kirtika van Hunen is a certified intercultural trainer, writer, coach and founder of Between2Cultures Through her trainings; 'Leading Across Cultures', 'Working effectively with the Dutch', 'Intercultural Awareness and Communication',...

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