Post | October 2019 | Past workshops | 6 min read

3 October 2019 - "Navigating the Dutch Labour Market"

Written by Gabriel Rodriguez
"Navigating the Dutch Labour Market" with Tessa Faber, recruiter and HR professional

From CV fonts to LinkedIn profile photos, interview strategies and salary negotiations, we all know how stressful job hunting can be. This is true even in our own home countries, so it's no surprise that, as internationals in the Netherlands, the process can be even more complicated and frustrating. How can we craft a CV that meets Dutch business standards? During interviews, are we really allowed to be as blunt and forthright as the Dutch often are? Where are the best places to look for work? And what the heck is a motivational letter? At our sixth workshop of 2019, speaker Tessa Faber of Making Sense answered these and many more questions, guiding us through the typical job search process here in the Netherlands, telling us about some of the quirks of Dutch business culture, and giving us strategies to use as we enter the job market. 

Tessa Faber of Making Sense leads "Navigating the Dutch Labour Market" on October 3, 2019

“There are over a hundred thousand job vacancies in the Netherlands right now.”

Citing this hopeful and exciting statistic, career coach Tessa Faber of Making Sense began her presentation at our sixth workshop of 2019, “Navigating the Dutch Labour” market. The importance of this topic was evident by the excitement of our attendees – as well as by the standing room only attendance that filled our presentation space to capacity. For those of you unable to attend, and for those of you who were not able to register before our registration became full, we realize that the local job market is a topic on the minds of most internationals and expats here. Job hunting is stressful; in our own countries, sure, but even moreso as expats in a foreign country.

With this in mind, Tessa made it a point to have a more Q&A presentation style for this workshop – and our attendees had plenty of Q’s for her! It’s in this spirit that, for this workshop recap, we would like to do something a bit different and offer you a more detailed summary of the most important and practical information Tessa gave us, so that you can apply this information to your own job hunting journeys. The list of information below covers a wide variety of topics relating to the job market. We hope you will find this information useful as you head into the Dutch labour market!

On CVs and Resumés

  • In the Dutch job market, the word resumé isn’t often used anymore; the term CV is used, and so CV style is preferred.
  • The difference between a resumé and a CV is mainly one of length; resumés tend to be one page long, while CVs should be a maximum of two pages.
  • For many internationals, the idea of putting our photos on our CV is a bit odd. However, this is becoming more and more common on Dutch CVs, so be prepared to do so.
  • Surprisingly, many Dutch people put very personal information on their CVs, including marital status, hobbies, and even their religion! However, you should still only put what is most comfortable to you.
  • This is not so important for international companies, but if you want to apply to Dutch companies, it might be a good idea to have your CV translated into Dutch by a friend or translator.
  • One website Tessa recommends for CV information (and more) is Lifebrander. (Please note that this website is in Dutch.)

On Motivational Letters

What the heck is a motivational letter? If you’ve heard of cover letters, then you’re not far off. They are very similar to the cover letters used in the US, Canada, and elsewhere. But there are cultural differences that are very important to keep in mind when writing these letters:

  • Letters should be one page maximum, and you should focus on your practical experience, not on vague skills like “enthusiastic,” or “team player.”
  • Always customize your motivational letter to the vacancy as it is listed. Of course, your motivational letter should be based on your CV, but it is important that you’ve paid attention to the information that the company has provided in the vacancy. In essence it’s important that you parrot the job description back to them while also describing your relevant experience from your CV
  • Show the organization that you have paid attention to the information they have provided
  • If you have a question about what the company wants in a motivational letter or a CV, or if you simply want to follow up on an application you have submitted, it is okay to contact the company by telephone.

“The Secret Life of a Job Opening”

Tessa illustrated the life of a job opening, from the moment the job is listed by a company to when it is filled. First, a job opening becomes available. Second, the company looks for qualified people within the company to fill this role. It’s at this point that the job listing process ends without any external candidates even seeing the job opening. If it does pass through this phase, the job opening is often filled through a networking process; essentially, candidates close to employees or managers of the company hear about the job before it is even listed and are then chosen. Again, this happens before a listing becomes public. If the job opening passes these stages without being filled, it is then listed publicly. So if you are finding job openings through any kind of listing, it has often already passed through these other stages.

The Role of LinkedIn

Tessa could not emphasize enough the power of LinkedIn in finding a job here in the Netherlands (or anywhere!). As mentioned above, many job openings are filled through networking. Unfortunately, many expats new to the country often don’t know enough people to network in person. This is where LinkedIn comes in; many candidates find jobs by seeing listings posted through their online networks here. So if you don’t have LinkedIn, make sure to create an account, post a professional photo, and make your LinkedIn page look as professional as possible.

Interviews and the Importance of Experience

To Dutch employers, experience is often more important than personality traits like being a “team player,” “highly trainable,” etc. Quite often, experience is even more important than your educational background. Because of this, you should emphasize your practical and relevant experience during your interviews. Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Be as direct as the Dutch when it comes to relating your experience; be practical; and do not embellish or brag. That is a big turn off for Dutch interviewers.
  • Don’t try to fill time by beating around the bush during an interview. If you don’t have certain experience, don’t try to embellish or spin the experience you do have too much. And if you don’t know something, ask good, practical questions about the role you are applying for.
  • Go out there and get some experience, even if you can’t work yet! Internships are great if you are a student or very recent graduate. If you are not, don’t apply to those, Instead, you can gain good, varied, relevant experience through volunteering opportunities. And please remember that Volunteer the Hague is here to help you find those opportunities!

We want to sincerely express our deepest gratitude to Tessa for taking the time to walk us through the ins and outs of the Dutch job market through her informative presentation. At the end of the workshop, she made it a point to say that attendees should feel free to add her on LinkedIn; she has a vast network connected to her on that platform, so who knows? Maybe it’ll be just the connection you need to find some great opportunities here in the Netherlands. We also want to encourage you to visit her website, Making Sense, and take advantage of the coaching services she has to offer.

Finally, we want to thank our wonderful partners, Stichting Present Den Haag and NL Cares; we could not make these wonderful workshops happen without their partnership and support. And our wonderful workshop attendees, and all those interested in Volunteer The Hague, thank you for coming to this workshop to learn, and to share your career dreams and goals with us. We very much look forward to seeing you at our future events!

About the Presenter

As a recruiter and HR professional, Tessa Faber has worked for big international companies like IKEA, Exxon, and Silicon Valley software company Symantec. Since 2005 she has been an independent career counselor, coach, and trainer, specializing in strategic job hunting and personal branding. Her company is called Making Sense, and that is exactly how she strives to help her clients: Making sense of themselves, their talents, and making sense of what work fits best - and how to get it!

Her motto is "Ontdek wie je bent en wees het dan expres!" which, freely translated, is: “Make sense of who you are and then be it on purpose!”

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