Work in the Netherlands: Finding a job
The ultimate job guide to working in the Netherlands, including information on the Dutch job market, vacancies, work permits, job websites and other places to find jobs in the Netherlands.
Finding jobs in the Netherlands takes more than just translating your CV. To work in the Netherlands, you need to know about the requirements for international workers (such as Dutch visa regulations and Dutch work permits), the current job market, and how and where to find jobs in the Netherlands. Here's an overview to working in the Netherlands, plus a list of job websites and other resources where you can find jobs in the Netherlands.
This ultimate guide to working in the Netherlands covers:
- Jobs in the Netherlands: job websites, recruitment agencies and companies
- The Dutch job market: unemployment and minimum wage
- Available jobs and shortage occupations in the Netherlands
- Dutch business culture and work environment
- Dutch work visas and permits
- Language and qualifications required
- Writing a Dutch CV and interview techniques
Work in the Netherlands
There are lots of opportunities for expats to work in the Netherlands, with a wide range of international and multinational companies – Dutch internationals alone include ING Group, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Unilever, Philips and Heineken – plus plenty of recruitment agencies aimed at placing foreign workers in jobs in the
Netherlands. It has a relatively stable economy backed by plenty of foreign investment (encouraged by advantageous tax conditions), and comprises a diverse, well-educated population, about 19 percent of whom are foreign or ethnic minorities. Although unemployment increased following economic fluctuation in recent years, the Netherlands still has among the lowest unemployment rates in the EU (6.4 percent in March 2016, ranked 10th), below the EU average (8.8 percent).
Minimum wage in the Netherlands is dependent on age and reviewed bi-yearly. Minimum wage in 2016 was EUR 1,524.60 per month for those older than 23 years old, and lower for under 23s. See the latest Dutch minimum wages.
Highly skilled workers (also called ‘knowledge workers) are in great demand for jobs in the Netherlands, so much so that there’s a fast-track immigration process to get them in, plus tax benefits (the ‘30 percent tax ruling’) for some international employees. This group includes engineers, those with technical skills, IT specialists, those working in finance, as well as people with experience of working in sales, marketing and customer service. Other in-demand jobs in the Netherlands include professionals and graduates working in health care, tax, interim managers and education. You can see the industries with the highest vacancies, plus vacancies in the public and education sectors.
In terms of salary, according to the Dutch university and college guide Keuze Studiegids, dentistry was the most lucrative subject to study in the Netherlands. On the other hand, graduates of art history and cultural studies were the least likely to find work with a good salary, with some 15 percent earning monthly wages less than EUR 900, alongside graduates of degrees in cultural anthropology, environmental sciences and international law; many international law graduates, for example, start at NGOs where wages are typically low. New graduates, however, reportedly find it easiest to find work with a high salary.
The Dutch usually work a 36–40 hour week, sometimes spread over just four days. Work in the Netherlands is very well-structured within organisations so that most of it is done during normal working hours (ie. between 9am and 5pm) and, except at management level, employees would not expect to work overtime. Read more about Dutch contracts and employment law.
Dutch society is very egalitarian and this translates into the workplace. Dutch companies often have a horizontal organisational structure and they usually follow step-by-step plans. Decisions are taken after all the options have been discussed, so the decision-making process can be quite protracted. Meetings are often planned well-ahead, held frequently, run informally and, as the goal is for everyone present to reach a consensus, can last a very long time. Read more on Dutch business culture.
Requirements for working in the Netherlands
If you’re from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you are free to live and work in the Netherlands without the need for a work or residence permit. If you are asked by an employer for proof of your legal stay in the Netherlands you can give them a copy of this letter in Dutch). Croatian citizens may also work but will need a work permit for the first year. However, you will need to register with the Dutch authorities – read about the process for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to the Netherlands.
If you’re from anywhere else, your employer will typically need a work permit (tewerkstellingsvergunning or TWV) for you, and you must also hold a residence permit. Most employees will qualify for the single work and residence permit, although some categories of people, such as students and seasonal workers, still need separate work and residence permits. Others, such as highly skilled workers and holders of the EU Blue Card, only need residence permits, not work permits. Read our comprehensive guide on work permits in the Netherlands.
Social security number
You will also need a Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer or BSN) before you start work in the Netherlands. Everyone needs this personal tax and social security number, and you get it when you register at the city hall on your arrival. You can read more about the Dutch social security system.
You don’t have to speak Dutch to work in the Netherlands – in fact, English is the main business language in many companies – but it increases your chances if you do. You will probably end up working in the Netherlands for a large international company if you don’t speak Dutch. If you work for a smaller company then you will generally need to be able to speak Dutch in order to participate in a meeting or make a presentation. Expats who speak French, German, Flemish or a Scandinavian language are always in demand. To learn Dutch, you can find many language schools in the Netherlands.
Qualifications and references
Your chance of working in the Netherlands is greater if you hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. To find out whether your qualification is recognised or your profession regulated in the Netherlands, see the Nuffic website (the organisation for international co-operation in education).
If you get an interview for a job, you’ll need to show original testimonials or references from former employers. So make sure you bring diplomas, degree certificates and employer testimonials when you move to the Netherlands.
On Expatica jobs you can find a constantly changing selection of jobs, both English-speaking and multi-language, in sales, IT and other industries in Amsterdam, other major Dutch cities and elsewhere across the Netherlands.
If you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can search for jobs in the Netherlands on the EURES (European Employment Services) website. EURES is a job portal network maintained by the European Commission which is designed to facilitate free movement within the EEA. As well as searching for work, you can post CVs and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in the Netherlands (or any other country in the EU/EEA or Switzerland).
The UWV WERKbedrijf is the public employment service and has a network of partner sites and employment agencies. You can visit one of their branches to get advice and information as well as look for jobs in the Netherlands. It also has an online database of vacancies, which you can search by postcode (in Dutch).
Many companies list vacancies directly with recruitment agencies (see below), where you can find extensive lists of job websites in the Netherlands. However, some jobs can also be found on online employment databases, such as:
- Together abroad – English-language and multilingual jobs
- Monsterboard – in Dutch only
- National Vacature Bank – in Dutch only
- Top Language Jobs – English-language and multilingual jobs
- Intermediair – mostly Dutch
- LinkedIn also has a job database.
Many Dutch companies rely on recruitment agencies (uitzendbureaus) to find employees, and it is a common way to find work in the Netherlands. You can visit agencies in person but there are also lots of online recruitment agencies too. See a list of recruitment agencies in the Netherlands.
They offer a wide range of jobs in the Netherlands, such as administrative/secretarial, sales and marketing, finance, IT, HR, media, health and education, both temporary and permanent. You can look for jobs, register your details and find out what’s happening in your own field. Some offer interview coaching, IT and language tests. You can register with as many as you like to increase your chances of finding work. Read tips on working with a recruitment agencies.
Job websites of agencies for speakers of English and other languages:
Job websites of specialist job agencies:
- Aquent – web design, strategy and content
- Ardekay – IT vacancies
- Darwin recruitment – IT and telecoms
- Rave recruitment – ICT recruitment
Job websites of general employment agencies:
Company job websites and speculative applications
If there are no vacancies in the companies you’d like to work, consider writing to them directly ‘on spec’ with an unsolicited application. Dutch companies are happy for prospective employees to use this approach to find work in the Netherlands. It’s important to contact the right person though, so check companies' job websites or contact the company direct.
The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) posts a list of recognised employers/sponsors (companies and organisations) who have permission to bring highly skilled workers to the Netherlands with preferential immigration conditions, including not needing a work permit. Contact the individual companies on the list to find what jobs in the Netherlands might be available.
There are vacancies (vacatures) advertised in Dutch print newspapers although these are generally senior positions within international companies. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can check the following newspapers in print version or see their affiliate job websites:
Finding work through both personal contacts and social media is acceptable in the Netherlands. There are many expats in the Netherlands, and by linking into this network you might find a job through word-of-mouth or a personal contact. Social media sites like LinkedIn can also help you make contacts. In the Netherlands be careful about what you post on social network sites in case a future employer searches it. See a list of business networking groups and business clubs for expats in the Netherlands.
Also think about joining a business club, professional association or networking group, such as the Amsterdam American Business Club, Kea (for New Zealanders), Connecting Women and Women’s Business Initiative (networking for women), or SENSE, a professional networking for editors, writers, copywriters, translators, interpreters and teachers of English.
Meet-up will put you in touch with hundreds of groups of like-minded people in cities all over the Netherlands. The meet-up groups can be work or interest related and if you don’t see a group that suits your interests or job, you can always create your own group to see who joins.
International Job Fair: Expat jobs in the Netherlands
Expatica’s annual International Job Fair allows you to meet prospective employers from a wide range of industries face-to-face, make contact with multilingual recruiters, take part in workshops to improve your job-hunting efforts and apply for jobs in the Netherlands. The 2017 fairs, organised by Expatica in conjunction with IANAT, will be held at the World Trade Centre in May and October.
Traineeships, internships and volunteering in the Netherlands
University graduates can find traineeships in the EU via the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages), or internships or summer placements can be found via AIESEC (for students and recent graduates) or IAESTE (for students in science, engineering and applied arts). Europlacement and Intern Abroad also list interships opportunities.
If you are between 17 and 30 years old, you can apply to volunteer programs with the European Voluntary Service (EVS). You can work abroad for up to 12 months in exchange for board, food, insurance and a small allowance. For more volunteer opportunities, also check Concordia.
A volunteer in Dutch is a vrijwilliger and there are many opportunities depending on your skills. Expat advice centre ACCESS is always on the lookout for volunteers in its offices in Den Haag (www.access-nl.org).
Start your own business
Foreigners can also consider setting up a business or become self-employed in the Netherlands.
Working in Amsterdam
For additional information on looking for work in Amsterdam, see Expatica's guide to finding a job in Amsterdam.
Once you’ve found a job that looks perfect, you will then need to prepare your application. To find out how to adapt your CV and cover letter to work in the Netherlands, as well as how to conduct yourself in a Dutch job interview, read our article on Dutch CVs and interview tips.
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