The do’s and don’ts of the Dutch job market
Every job market has its own written and unwritten rules. The written ones are relatively easy to find, but the unwritten ones are more difficult to discover. I wish I had someone that shared them with me when I was going through my first years of employment in the Netherlands.
So, when I was thinking about what topic I should pick for my next article, a question from a potential client created the solution.
Looking for a job in the Netherlands? Here is what you should do:
1. Use LinkedIn like your life depends on it
In the Netherlands, LinkedIn is booming. A lot of recruiters use it to find new international talents for their companies and a lot of professionals use it to advance their own careers. You simply cannot afford not to have an updated profile with a great headline and a good summary that represents you and your professional achievements.
I know that in some countries, like, for example, Germany, LinkedIn is not very popular yet, but trust me, it is here. I know many clients who got their jobs through LinkedIn, either through their own network, being poached or applying via the portal.
2. Know that professional experience is very important
There are some countries, Germany, for example, where it is very difficult to get a job that doesn’t match your academic title. Here in the Netherlands, your direct experience is far more important (except for some professions like lawyer, doctor, etc.) than your official education. Many of my international clients work in a field different to what they originally studied for.
3. Be prepared for the Dutch communication style
It took me quite some years to understand that Dutch people show their respect to their counterparts by being open and saying directly what they think, whether the truth is painful or not. I've actually started to like this approach, as now I understand that it is not meant to be hurtful, it simply saves time and many misunderstandings.
So, the main principle here is to treat direct Dutch feedback as something constructive and to not take it too personally. You might hear, just as I heard many years ago, that your CV is crap. Take it as a lesson learnt; ask what you can improve on and go forward. Also, during the interview, be prepared for direct and open questions. Here are some more tips on how to nail a job interview in the Netherlands.
4. Use various ways to find and land a job
The common mistake my clients make, before they start working with me, is that they stick only to internet research. Although extremely important, spending hours in front of a computer should not be the only way to find your new job.
Networking is the keyword in the Netherlands, as well as in many other countries. You can do it online and offline; I always suggest doing both. You can use LinkedIn to approach people you are interested in connecting with and then continue the conversation in real-life. Always use your existing network first to connect with people you do not know.
Do not be afraid to ask for help, however, do it in a respectful way and do not waste the time of others. So, if you have been introduced, always follow up.
Here are the don't when it comes to the Dutch job market:
1. Don’t “beat around the bush”
As said in the do’s part, few cultures (apart from Nordic ones, maybe) are so painfully direct and to the point as the Dutch one. If you want to have a successful career in the Netherlands, you need to embrace the Dutch culture. Step one would be to not beat around the bush, especially not during your interview. Be polite but to the point, and don’t be afraid to ask some open and critical questions about your potential future job.
2. Don’t apply for internship / traineeship positions if you are not a student
This is a common misconception I hear from my international clients. Many of them think that since they are open for a new career path and a new perspective, it will be much easier to start at a beginner’s level with an internship. But it is not. The internships in the Netherlands are designed specifically for students and unless you have student status, you won’t get an internship.
3. Don’t send a CV that is longer than two pages
There are many different ways of writing a CV. In the Netherlands, it is common to submit a 2-page CV with a cover letter. The main principles are: be relevant, specific and to the point. Read the job offer very carefully and highlight the main required points in your CV. Make sure to show how your education and experience is relevant to the offered position. You can find more tips and tricks on writing your CV here.
4. Don’t immediately state you are looking for a part-time position
Yes, it is true that the Netherlands is one of the countries with the highest rate of part-time workers. However, unless the company has clearly specified that the job is part-time, do not start asking during the interview about working less than offered. Having said that, it is very common to negotiate a part-time contract or a working-from-home arrangement whilst working the job.
I hope you find these tips useful and that you don’t make any of these mistakes. Please share your own do’s and don’ts in the comments below. Good luck!