Working with the Dutch
A guide to the employment opportunities in the Netherlands, and insight into the Dutch work environment.
If you're living in the Netherlands, you will find plenty of job opportunities for foreigners. Expats are an essential component of the Dutch workforce, and office life has its cultural quirks.
Work in the Netherlands
The Dutch workforce (8.3 million people) is internationally oriented, highly educated and multilingual. Workers’ rights are strongly protected, although economic recession in recent years influenced a rise in flexible contracts and pushed unemployment up. The unemployment rate is recovering, currently at 6.4 percent (March 2016), although the youth unemployment rate (15–24 years) still sits above 10 percent. However, the demand for highly skilled workers remains high and there are incentives for international employees, such as the 30 percent ruling (a tax benefit scheme), and a fast-track immigration programme for highly skilled migrants.
To comply with EU conditions, the Netherlands introduced a single permit in 2014 that combined the employee residence and work permit into one, known as the GVVA (gecombineerde vergunning voor verblijf en arbeid). As such, in many cases employers no longer need to apply for a separate work permit for labour migrants.
A number of beneficial policies were also implemented under the ‘Modern Migration Policy Act’ in 2013. For example, if a worker needs a Dutch entry visa (MVV) and/or residence permit, their employer in the Netherlands can apply for the necessary papers on the employee’s behalf while they are still abroad. Applications can also be fast-tracked to two to seven weeks for companies that are ‘recognised’ by the IND (www.ind.nl has a list).
Finding jobs in the Netherlands
Expats seeking a new career challenge in the Netherlands will find ample opportunities. The Dutch employment market is mature and boasts an impressive array of local and international companies spread across the Randstad region and beyond. You can find many job opportunities in our guide to finding a job in the Netherlands.
Recruitment agencies are big in the Netherlands and several specialise in recruiting non-Dutch nationals. It’s worth exploring every avenue including internet job engines, such as www.intermediair.nl, www.toplanguagejobs.nl (search by language) or the popular www.monsterboard.nl, or even sector-specific sites (architecture, biotechnology, finance etc.). Consider a wider range of areas or industries when job-hunting, so you can get onto the working ladder.
The UWV WERKbedrijf portal (www.werk.nl) also has a useful list, as does EURES, the European job mobility portal (www.eures.info). Expat community sites, such as Expatica, have extensive employment listings for foreigners (jobs.expatica.com). Getting a job through personal contacts is quite common, so don’t be shy about making a direct enquiry to a company or dropping in at a branch of an agency or uitzendbureau.
Vacancy (vacature) advertisements are covered in all Dutch newspapers and senior positions at international companies are often placed in English. The list of companies that are eligible for applying for highly skilled migrants is a useful source and can be found on the IND site.
Read more about where to find jobs in the Netherlands.
Skills in demand
Expats with French, German, Flemish, and Scandinavian language skills are always in demand, according to expat job agency Undutchables. The job market is also strong for experienced professionals in finance and IT, sales and (online) marketing, and customer service.
Experience and personality are the most important aspects employers look at, so highlight this on your CV.
Many international companies have headquarters in the Netherlands. For senior executives, ‘cross-cultural competency’ tests may be part of the selection procedure for international assignments. Following on from standard personality analysis programmes, such as the Meyers Briggs Type Indicators, these tests analyse personality preferences and prejudices that could affect performance in a new cultural environment; technical competence to do the job is already assumed. Top firms are looking for executives who are open-minded, flexible, mature, and show respect for and interest in different cultures.
Culturally correct CVs
Concise, direct and professional communication is the style for job applications in the Netherlands. “Remember that a Dutch CV only states facts and figures,” said the centre for work and employment, UWV WERKbedrijf.
One or two pages maximum in this order:
- personal details (address etc.);
- education (courses, not results);
- work experience (the most recent first is popular with recruiters but some like to see career progression). Include job responsibilities.
- leisure activities are valued ‘very much’ by Dutch companies, according to the UWV WERKbedrijf. In your cover letter (which should be in Dutch if possible), include more about your motivation for the job, but keep the tone professional. If you’ve done your research, you should know what the company is looking for and how you fit in.
Read more about preparing a Dutch-style CV and interview techniques.
Dutch working culture
Work life and home life are kept separate, and office hours are strictly observed. Newcomers working at Dutch companies are often surprised by the informal working relationships, horizontal management structures and (lots of) meetings (overleggen), at which every point of view must be discussed to reach a consensus. There’s a punctilious approach to these meetings, indeed social engagements of any kind: always carry your diary (agenda). Colleagues often lunch together (all part of working as an egalitarian team) or there may be a canteen. The working environment in an international company can be very different.
Flexible working is common, particularly for families with children, however senior executive women are still some distance from the boardroom. In terms of gender diversity at the top, “the Netherlands lags sorely behind other countries,” says cultural consultant Mary van der Boon. In 2012 the Netherlands implemented an EU initiative target of 30 percent of executive positions to be held by each gender by 2016, although it’s not mandatory and applicable only to large or listed companies.
Read more about Dutch business culture.
A volunteer 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).
Find a job in the Netherlands using Expatica's job search.
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