Dutch job applications: How to write a Dutch CV and interview tips
A complete CV Netherlands guide: Information on how to write a Dutch CV and letter for a job application, plus interview tips and interview questions to prepare.
If you're looking for jobs in the Netherlands, you should consider adapting your CV and interview questions to match the Dutch job market. Despite English being the business language in the Netherlands, it doesn't mean the job application process and interview questions will be the same as back home. When you apply for jobs in the Netherlands, preparing a Dutch CV (CV maken) and being aware of Dutch business culture can greatly increase your chances of landing a Dutch job.
When writing your Dutch CV and preparing for your Dutch interview, you should present yourself and all your skills, qualifications and experience in the way Dutch employers expect. Knowing which qualities are valued highly in the Netherlands will help you choose which skills to highlight or interview questions to prepare; you won't be surprised when an interviwer asks about your personal life, then, if you know that what you do outside work is highly valued in the Netherlands.
This CV Netherlands guide answers everything you need to know about the job application process in the Netherlands:
- How to write a Dutch CV (CV maken)
- Dutch CV tips: dos and don'ts
- Dutch CV example
- How to write a cover letter in Dutch
- Do I write my CV in Dutch or English?
- The job application process
- Interviews in the Netherlands
- Interview tips
- Interview questions
- Preparing your qualifications for your job application
The CV you used back home might not be suitable in the Netherlands if it's not in the style of a Dutch CV. Like Dutch communication, your Dutch CV should be short and to the point, typically one page for an entry-level job and no more than two pages. Dutch employers also value work-life balance, so you need to dedicate space to extracurricular activities and leisure activites to show what you do outside work.
Dutch CV structure
- A Dutch CV starts with your personal details, including whether you are male or female unless it’s obvious from your name. You should include your full name, date of birth and all contact details (basic location, phone, email); marital status, nationality or military obligations are sometimes included but not obligatory.
- Then list your work experience (including part-time/voluntary work) in reverse chronological order (ie. the most recent first). Under each employer’s name, location and your job title, list your tasks and responsibilities and any other experiences or qualities you brought to the job.
- Then put your education and qualifications, with highest level first or reverse chronological order.
- Give details of your extracurricular activities, such as leisure activities or civic responsibilities – Dutch employers are very interested in activities which show commitment and initiative but at the same time try to keep it relative to your Dutch CV; examples include showing you are a board member, volunteer, or sport coach or player.
- You can list skills and competences on your Dutch CV if they can help in the job, for example, IT skills, languages with level of fluency, or knowledge of specific programmes or machinery.
- If you have space, you can list some hobbies or interests.
- You can put brief reference contacts on your Dutch CV; some Dutch employers will check so make sure details are correct.
- Your Dutch CV should be succinct and factual, and bullet points and short, plain sentences are preferred in the Netherlands.
- Honesty and directness is greatly valued in the Netherands, so don't embellish or exaggerate on your Dutch CV.
- Always type your Dutch CV and use functional, plain design and fonts.
- Your Dutch CV should not be more than two pages of A4.
- Don’t include a photo unless specifically asked.
- If you don't have a long work history don't feel the need to embellish; instead focus on academic projects, extra courses, volunteer work or other part-time or seasonal work where you can demonstrate relevant skills.
Europass is also a useful job-hunting tool where you can upload your CV in a format that is recognised in all European countries.
You can also get advice from business networking groups and clubs in the Netherlands.
Motivations are important to Dutch employers, so explaining why you are applying for the job or what attracts you to the company is key. In fact, research by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs found that a candidate's motivation was one of the main reasons for a job offer in the Netherlands.
Thus you should keep the facts and figures in your Dutch CV and use your cover letter to explain:
- how you found the job and why you are applying – it’s important to show your motivations for the job application and new position;
- aspirations or goals you want to achieve;
- why you are the right person for the job and what qualifications or skills reflect this.
You should typically first list your name, address, postal code and city, phone number and email on the left-hand side of the page, followed by the name and address of your recipient. You can then list the date, subject and address your recipient.
Your cover letter, however, should still be concise:
- It should be a short and professional letter of no more than one page of A4.
- It should follow the format of a formal business letter.
- Keep it simple, avoiding extravagant or over-expressive explanations but still appearing enthusiastic about the position.
- Don’t enclose copies of qualifications or employer references unless requested.
- You should use the formal 'u' in your communication, if in Dutch.
- In the closing paragraph be forward and express your interest in an interview and meeting with them.
Some phrases for letters in Dutch include:
- Dear Sir/Mr or Dear Mrs: Geachte meneer /mevrouw
- Kind regards: Met vriendelijke groet
Before preparing your job application, you should determine if the company communication is in Dutch; you may need to do some research if it’s not apparent from the vacancy or website. For Dutch-speaking offices, you should write your cover letter and CV in Dutch. It is worth to ask a native Dutch speaker to check for errors, if you're not confident, so your Dutch CV doesn't get tossed in the bin. Speaking Dutch in the interview, however little, will also be appreciated, even if your interviewer switches to English. You can find many language schools in the Netherlands to brush up.
If the company is an English-speaking office, however, it is acceptable to write your CV and cover letter in English and you will likely conduct the interview in English as well. It is, however, always appreciated to write your letter and CV in Dutch.
Dutch companies usually acknowledge a job application within a week. If you haven’t heard after two weeks, it is acceptable to check that they have received your job application.
In addition to the usual rules about how to make a good impression in a job interview – know about the organisation, don't answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions, relate your experience to the position you’re applying for and, of course, don't criticising your present or former employer – there are some other 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 full name and title 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; direct eye contact is common in the Netherlands, although not to the point of staring each other out.
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question.
- Don’t be offended by the Dutch direct way of speaking. The Dutch respect honesty, plain-speaking and fairness, although this communication may affront those who are used to more courteous commentaries, such as the British. Some questions may appear direct or open but you are invited to do the same; if you don't know an answer, say so, or if there are weaknesses in your Dutch CV don't be afraid to admit it – frankness is much more appreciated than fumbling and trying to hide through your answer.
- The Dutch value equality so don't over hype your skills or brag about achievements; these are sometimes seen as confidence in other cultures but less so in the Netherlands.
- But show a sense of humour, too – being sociable and easy to work with is valued.
- Think of some questions to ask at the end of the interview.
If you’re applying from outside the Netherlands, the interview might be online. Don’t panic. Treat it as a normal face-to-face interview – so dress formally, for example, and follow the interview tips above – and prepare well beforehand.
Other interview tips to consider include:
- 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.
- Practise beforehand with a friend.
- Be yourself so your personality still comes across.
When preparing your job application, preparation is always key. These interview tips give an indication of what Dutch employers are looking for, and thus what you should prepare and focus on during your interview and CV preparation (CV maken). That way you can reduce your chances of being caught without an answer.
- You may be expected to answer several questions about your previous work and employer, so it's important to refresh your memory on the main facts and figures where you work(ed) – and of course vie away from negative comments.
- Interview questions in the Netherlands are about input and feedback from both you and your interviewer, so have a small list of questions of what you intend to ask at the interview. It is common to ask up to three questions at the end of the interview.
- You may be asked questions about your personal life which can appear alarming, such as age, marital status, children, pets, childcare plans, hobbies and interests, or about your spouse. The Dutch family unit is important and of interest in the Netherlands.
- Do not ask questions about salary or benefits during a first interview. If asked about your desired salary, it is expected you already know the range and conditions if mentioned in the job advertisement. In such cases, you shouldn't go into too much detail.
- Because Dutch in an inflected language, it may sometimes appear your speaker is finished with their sentence when in fact they haven't. It helps to leave small pauses at the end of the sentence so as not to accidentally interrupt.
Some interview questions in the Netherlands may appear personal, open or direct, however, it is not necessarily to dig up a negative or startled response. Even if some interview questions appear to focus on personal or social factors, you still need to think how or why those questions are related to the job. Some questions may also not translate well into English, so think about what the interviewer is really trying to find out about before replying.
- What interests you about this job? Why did you apply?
- Tell me about yourself? How would you describe yourself?
- What was a major challenge in your previous job, and how did you overcome it?
- What did you like or dislike about your previous job? Why are you leaving your job? Are you happy with your career? – This is not about digging out a negative reply but rather to find out what you're looking for in your new role.
- Have you ever had issues with a manager in a previous role? – Showing how you can work through issues is what the interviewer is looking for.
- What do you expect from a manager? Describe your work style? – A potential employer is looking to find your approach to the workplace, peers and management style. Knowing the values in Dutch business culture can help choose what to highlight.
- What is your greateset weakness or strength?
- Are you a self-starter? What are your motivations? – Share your work enthusiasms, projects and what parts you enjoyed in your previous job.
- What do you know about this company, and why does this job suit you? What can you offer this company?
You won't typically be asked to attach your qualifications to your Dutch CV, although you can bring them to the interview. If you need to determine the equivalent of your education qualifications in the Netherlands, there are a few institutions that do evaluations:
- Qualification evaluation centre IcDW: www.idw.nl
- Nuffic, the Dutch organisation for international higher education: www.nuffic.nl
- SBB (Stichting Samenwerking Beroepsonderwijs Beroepsleven): www.s-bb.nl.
More information on working in the Netherlands
- Finding jobs in the Netherlands
- Finding jobs in Amsterdam
- Working in the Netherlands: Work permits overview
Veel geluk! Good luck!
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