Working in the Netherlands

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Tips for job applications

Applying for a job is different in every country. In the Netherlands, it is good to show what you are good at and how that fits a job. It is unusual to ask what you will earn at the beginning of an interview; this should be done afterwards. Ask questions during an interview to show that you are interested and have read up on the company. You may be asked to take an intelligence or personality test for certain jobs.

Before you apply, look at the job posting:

  • What are the requirements, and can you meet them?
  • How many hours and when do you need to be available, and does that match your availability?
  • What work experience and skills are needed, and does that align with what you are good at?
  • Is there any minimum training required? Foreign training is not always sufficient for regulated professions (such as a doctor). For other professions, comparable foreign training may be sufficient
  • What kind of company is it, and does it suit you?

If you are invited to an initial interview, make sure you make a good first impression and prepare well:

  • Arrive on time
  • Maintain an open attitude
  • Give a firm handshake upon arrival and look your interviewer in the eye
  • Turn off your phone
  • Practice job interview questions
  • Make sure you have something to say about each part of your CV
  • Look up some information about the company you are applying to

Common job interview questions:

  • Can you tell me a little more about yourself?
  • Why do you want to work at this company?
  • What makes you suitable for this position?
  • What did you do before this?
  • What are you good at? What are some areas for improvement?
  • Do you have any questions about the company? (always prepare some questions for the employer)
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Workplace customs

Like any country, the Netherlands has certain customs and unspoken rules in the workplace. The following is an overview of the most important ones.

Working week
You agree on your working week with your employer. In some companies, workdays are Monday through Friday, but Saturday and Sunday may also be considered workdays in certain occupations (e.g., healthcare or hospitality). A full-time work week is 36–40 hours per week, depending on the industry. A work week may never exceed 60 hours per week, and you may not work more than 55 hours per week on average over a 5-week period.

Working hours
You agree on your working hours with your employer. A shift can last up to 12 hours by law. Different rules apply for people under 18 and pregnant women

Breaks
If you work more than 5.5 hours, you are entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes (this may also be two 15-minute breaks). If you work more than 10 hours, you are entitled to a break of at least 45 minutes (this may also be several shorter breaks). Sometimes, a collective labour agreement may stipulate that you are entitled to more breaks. Breaks must not be at the beginning or end of your workday.

Rest
You may not work for at least 11 hours after a workday. The 11-hour rest period may be shortened to a minimum of 8 hours once every 7 days, but only if it is necessary for work. You are entitled to 36 consecutive hours of rest every 7 days as standard. This can be spread out over 14 days, requiring a total of 72 hours of rest in up to 2 rest periods. Different rules may apply if your profession is subject to a collective labour agreement.

In addition to these types of rules, there are also several characteristics in Dutch business culture:

  • Informal: contact with colleagues is often informal and breaks are taken together. Hierarchy does not play a huge role and everyone is allowed to share input and ideas.
  • Direct: The Dutch are honest and direct (e.g., when giving feedback), often aimed at efficiency. This may come across as insensitive but is not intended to be so.
  • Feedback: The Dutch are used to giving and receiving feedback. Employers and employees also give each other feedback. An example of this is a performance review, during which you discuss what is going well and what could be better. You are allowed to speak your mind here.
  • Sharing opinions: The Dutch like to share their opinions, whether solicited or not.
  • Agreement: The Dutch find it important reach agreement with each other
  • Down-to-earth: The Dutch do not generally show off their accomplishments.
  • Initiative: The Dutch like it when you take initiative and are flexible, such as when providing ideas or rescheduling appointments.
  • Plans: The Dutch generally make arrangements for many things in advance rather than doing something spontaneously.
  • Openness: Dutch culture has few taboos—almost everything is open for discussion.
  • Freedom: people are free to determine aspects such as their sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation

Diplomas and experiences

You can categorise occupations into roughly four groups:

  • Practical occupation without training, such as hospitality worker, delivery driver and cleaner.
  • Practical occupations with training, such as mechanic, administrator and nursing assistant. These professions often require a secondary vocational education (MBO) diploma
  • Higher-level practical professions, such as HR officer, elementary school teacher and accountant. This usually requires a degree in higher professional education (HBO). These are often practical professions that also require theoretical knowledge.
  • Specialised theoretical professions, such as researcher, analyst and engineer. This usually requires a degree from a university or university of applied sciences.

In the Netherlands, it is sometimes possible to advance to certain professions based on work experience. You can also undergo retraining programmes to learn suitable new skills for professions.

If you have a foreign diploma, you can have it evaluated to determine the equivalent Dutch level. This allows a prospective employer to assess your knowledge and skills better. The Nuffic website (https://www.nuffic.nl/onderwerpen/diploma)
offers information about the value of your diploma in the Netherlands. You can apply for an official diploma evaluation through Nuffic if you have a residence permit.

Civic integration and the Dutch language

How important is it to master the Dutch language?
The languages you speak often affect your job opportunities. The importance of being able to speak Dutch depends on your profession. For example, in professions with a lot of customer contact, Dutch is important. It is less important for some practical jobs, such as cleaning.

If you don’t speak Dutch very well yet, English also comes in handy in the Netherlands. Most Dutch people speak good English.

There are a number of things you can do if your command of the Dutch language is limited:

  • Preparation: prepare an interview well. Read up on the relevant topics and memorise some useful words
  • Technology: keep handy language apps or websites (e.g., Google Translate)
  • Body language: use gestures, body language and facial expressions
  • Patience: be patient with each other and give each other time
  • Practice: keep practising your Dutch as much as possible. This can be tricky because many Dutch people will switch to English if they notice your Dutch is not great yet. They mean well, but you can tell them that you prefer to practise your Dutch.

You can practise the Dutch language in numerous ways, including:

  • Language courses
  • Language coaches or language buddies
  • Volunteer work
  • Conversations with colleagues, friends, neighbours or other parents
  • Dutch TV programmes or books
  • Dutch games
  • Outings to places such as museums, the cinema, the market or the library
  • Apps and websites (e.g., Duolingo)

How do I combine civic integration with a job?
Combining a job with your civic integration schedule can sometimes be difficult. Discussing your civic integration schedule with your employer when you start working is key. Specify the days and times you are unable to work. Indicate that the schedule may change, and promptly communicate any changes to your employer.