Work in the Netherlands: Applying for a job
How to prepare a Dutch-style CV and cover letter, as well as how to act in an interview, to give you the best chance of finding work in the Netherlands.
To increase your chances of finding work in the Netherlands, you may need to adapt your CV and interview techniques to match the Dutch job market.
Preparing your job application and going for an interview is not always the same as back home. You will need to present yourself and all your skills, qualifications and experience in the way that Dutch employers expect – in your CV, cover letter, as well as in an interview situation. You also need to know which qualities are particularly valued here in the Netherlands, for example, what you do outside work is greatly valued in the Netherlands.
Dutch companies usually acknowledge applications within a week. If you haven’t heard after two weeks, check that they have received it.
For job hunting, read Exaptica's comprehensive guide on finding a job in the Netherlands.
Dutch or English?
If the company is Dutch speaking (do some research to find out, if it’s not apparent from the vacancy), then you should write your CV and covering letter in Dutch. Ask a native Dutch speaker to check it for errors if necessary. If it’s an English-speaking office, apply in English.
- Start with your personal details (including whether you are male or female unless it’s obvious from your name).
- Next, your work experience (including part-time/voluntary work) in reverse chronological order (i.e. the most recent first). Under each employer’s name and your job title, list your tasks and responsibilities and any other experiences or qualities you brought to the job.
- Then your education/qualifications (highest level first).
- Give details of your leisure activities/civic responsibilities – Dutch employers are very interested in extra-curricular activities which show commitment and initiative.
- Skills (e.g. IT, languages with level of fluency).
Dos and don'ts:
- Be succinct and factual, using short, plain sentences.
- If you’re putting together a hard copy, always use a computer (not handwritten).
- No more than two pages of A4.
- Don’t embellish or exaggerate on your CV: the Dutch expect honesty.
- Don’t include a photo unless specifically asked.
- It should be a short and professional letter of no more than one page of A4.
- Explain how you found the job, why you are applying and why you are the right person for it – it’s important to show your motivations for applying for the position.
- Don’t enclose copies of qualifications or employer references unless requested.
In addition to the usual rules about how to make a good impression in a job interview (know about the organisation, not answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions, relating your experience to the position you’re applying for and, of course, not criticising your present or former employer), here are some things to think about when going for a job interview in the Netherlands. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to worry about speaking Dutch as most HR personnel in the Netherlands speak very good English.
- Find out the name of the person who will be interviewing you and make sure you can pronounce it correctly.
- Dress formally (even though in everyday life, the Dutch tend to dress casually).
- Arrive on time – punctuality is very important in the Netherlands.
- Take copies of your CV, educational certificates and employer references.
- Don’t sit until you’re invited.
- You can expect to be asked questions not only about your education and what you know about the company, but also about your character, your motivation (show enthusiasm for both the job and the organisation but don’t go over the top) and your strengths and weaknesses.
- Look your interviewer in the eye (but don’t stare him or her out).
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question.
- Don’t be offended by the Dutch direct way of speaking!
- Think of some questions to ask at the end of the interview.
Skype or FaceTime interviews
If you’re applying from outside the Netherlands, the interview might be via Skype or FaceTime. Don’t panic. Treat it as a normal face-to-face interview – so dress formally, for example – and prepare well beforehand.
- Make sure the background looks business-like and that your face is well lit.
- Try taping a picture (or a post-it) alongside your computer’s camera lens to remind you to keep looking at the interviewer.
- Practice beforehand with a friend.
- Be yourself.
Veel geluk! Good luck!
For more information on working in the Netherlands:
- Finding a job in the Netherlands
- Finding work in Amsterdam
- Working in the Netherlands: Work permits overview
Find a job in the Netherlands using Expatica's job search.
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Updated from 2014.
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