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Job Hunting in the Netherlands

There are lots of job opportunities in the Netherlands for expats, but there is more to finding a job than translating your resume. Learning about the best ways to find a job in the country, the current job market, and requirements for international workers can help the process go much more smoothly.

The Dutch Job Market

There are a large number of international and multinational companies located in the Netherlands, along with a range of recruitment agencies to help you get connected. The economy here is stable, with plenty of foreign investment and a well-educated, diverse population (almost 20% of which is made up of foreigners and ethnic minorities). The Netherlands also boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU.

Engineers, IT specialists, finance specialists, and other highly skilled workers such as those with technical skills and those experienced in customer service, sales, and marketing are in high demand in the Netherlands—so much so that there are tax benefits and a fast-track immigration process for international employees. Healthcare, tax, and education professionals are a few of the other jobs also in demand.

Work Culture and Environment

People in the Netherlands typically work 36-40 hours per week; sometimes this involves four nine- to ten-hour days rather than five eight-hour days per week. Work within most organizations is structured so that normal working hours (between 9:00am and 5:00pm) are sufficient, and most employees do not typically work overtime, except those at management level.

Most Dutch workplaces, much like Dutch society itself, are quite egalitarian. Companies in the Netherlands tend to have horizontal organizational structure, and most follow step-by-step plans. The decision making process can be somewhat lengthy, because decision are typically not made until all of the options have been discussed. Meetings are usually held frequently and run informally.

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Language and Qualifications

Speaking Dutch is not necessary to get a job in the Netherlands; in fact, English is the main language spoken at many companies. However, speaking Dutch well does increase your chances of finding work. If you don’t speak Dutch, your best bet is to seek employment at a large international company. In general, you will need to be able to speak Dutch at smaller companies. In addition, expats who speak languages other than Dutch and English are always in demand.

As far as education goes, you are most likely to land a job if you hold a bachelor’s degree (at a minimum). Bring your degree certificate, diploma, employer testimonials, or any other proof of qualification you might need, as your prospective Dutch employers are likely to want to see the original documents.

Work Permits

Individuals from the EU/EEA and Switzerland can work and live in the Netherlands without any type of special permits, work permits included. Croatian citizens are also allowed to work in the Netherlands, but are required to have a work permit for the first year.

If you are from anywhere else, you will (in most cases) need a work permit; your employer will have to apply for one for you. You will also need a residence permit (or to have applied for one). There is a new combined permit which some residents are eligible for; this simplifies things somewhat. However, certain people, such as seasonal workers and students, still need separate work and residence permits. Still others, such as highly skilled workers, are required to hold only residence permits, not work permits.

Finding a Job

Because there are thousands of expats living in the Netherlands, you’ll have easy access to a huge professional network. Some people are lucky enough to find jobs simply through word of mouth. You can also put social media to good use, using LinkedIn or another social media network to make contacts. In the Netherlands, just as anywhere else, be careful what you post on your social media site. It will probably be worth your time to go through all of your social media networks and remove anything you wouldn’t want prospective employers to see.

You can also join a business club or networking group such as the Amsterdam American Business Club, Connecting Women, or SENSE (a professional network for writers, editors, and English interpreters). Meet-up is a great way to meet like-minded people in your city, and there are many interest- and work-related groups you can join. You can also register with one or more recruitment agencies, as many Dutch employers rely on them to find employees.

If you’d like to work for a specific company but there are no vacant jobs, consider writing to them and sending an unsolicited application. Some companies are happy to consider applicants who use this approach. Just be sure to check the company website or contact the company to determine who the right person is to send your enquiry to.

Applying for a Job in the Netherlands

When you have found what looks like the right job, preparing your application is the next step, and may not be exactly the same as preparing a job application back home. For starters, you may need to translate your resume into Dutch; be sure to ask a native Dutch speaker to read it over for any errors. (If the company is primarily English-speaking, then it’s fine to apply in English.)

You’ll want to make sure that your resume includes your personal information, your work experience, your education and qualifications, any skills you possess, your references, and your leisure activities, interests, or civic responsibilities. Dutch companies appreciate extra-curricular activities that demonstrate initiative and commitment. Your resume should be succinct and factual, and should contain a short, professional cover letter.

When you are called for an interview, the usual rules apply: be educated about the company for which you are interviewing, relate your experience to the position for which you are applying, and avoid criticizing your former employers or coworkers.

In addition, you may want to learn the name of the person who will be conducting your interview and make sure you know how to pronounce it. Dress formally, be on time, don’t sit until invited to sit, and come prepared with a few questions to ask of your own. Don’t be offended if your interviewers are very direct or blunt; this is the typical Dutch way of speaking.

Finally, if you are applying from outside the country, you may have an interview via Skype or FaceTime; treat this exactly as a face-to-face interview. For example, dress formally and be well-prepared. Make sure your face is well-lit and that the visible background looks professional.