Having a Job Interview in the Netherlands, what expats really need to know
The one man public service broadcaster for expats, the Shallow Man, has decided to once more fulfill his stated mission of informing, educating and of course entertaining. Many of you reading my site, are about to embark on job interviews in the Netherlands. If you’re new here there are seven things that you really need to know, to land your dream job in this denim lined workers paradise. I recently read a piece on Iamexpat, that had some interview tips by an expat coach. I couldn’t disagree more with the advice given there so have asked an expat coach who I trust, to provide you with valuable advice on how to survive and succeed in your job interview in the Netherlands. I’ll hand over the rest of this post to her.
The Expat Coach
Hiiiiii. I’m so excited to be here. The Shallow Man asked me to write a piece for expats on things they should know when attending job interviews in the Netherlands. Firstly a bit about me.My name is Inna Copulatealotova. I’m an expat coach. I specialize in advising expats on their career development.
Many of the people I’ve advised over the years have ended up being sent back to their home countries, which is real proof of the value of the coaching I’ve provided.
I’m originally from Russia and have lived in the Netherlands for nine years. I used to call myself an expat advisor, but an English colleague suggested that as many of the careers of the people I advise end up crashing and burning, that the term ‘coach’ was more applicable. Oh, the British have such a sense of humor!
So here are seven ways to succeed in a job interview in the Netherlands.
Now my advice might upset some. If as a result, I’m captured by a group of angry Dutch women, who make me cut my hair with a fruit bowl, remove all my makeup, and force me to exchange my stilettos for dangerously flat shoes, I’ll say to my enemies, “dressing to be comfortable is just an excuse because you’re too lazy to care about the way you look.”
The things I do for his readers!
Interviewing in the Netherlands
This is going to shock you, but the Netherlands is you know, really, really small. It’s not like the United States where you work 24 hours a day, and send emails at three am to your colleagues, just to prove how that you’re still working. Nor is it like the UK, where you have to regularly get drunk and have sex with your colleagues to be accepted by the team. It’s also not to be compared with Russian working culture, where you have to be very emotional, and shout, scream and cry to get things done. The Dutch have their own way of doing things, which I’ll explain below.
Don’t whatever you do, act like an overconfident American during a job interview in the Netherlands. Especially if you happen to be American. In the United States, it is common to change jobs every couple of years to gain experience and move up the career ladder. This gives Americans a lot of experience and exposure to different working practices. Americans also tend to finish University a lot quicker than the seven to seventeen years that the average Dutch person spends studying. So in fact, you might have more work experience than the person who is interviewing you.
While the Dutch are very assertive when it comes to pushing their way onto trams, or jumping places in queues in shops, this doesn’t mean that they are confident. The Dutch are very direct, but like driving along the Herengracht, it’s one-way traffic. Whatever you do, don’t spend too long telling them about all of the jobs you’ve had during the time they were still going to the Cooldown Cafe every Wednesday night and sitting hungover at University. Instead, concentrate on all of the things that you can learn from them, and their organization, they’ll like that. Don’t be overconfident, even if you’ve earned the right to be. Think of yourself as being Zwarte Piet, and the Dutch interviewer as Sinterklaas. You’re there to serve and hand out peppernoten, but your experience and opinions aren’t really wanted.
Whenever the interviewer says something that is bloody obvious, don’t tell them off for patronizing you. Instead look really surprised and say “really? I didn’t know that, thank you so much for educating me.” They’ll be like hagelslag in your hands.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Netherlands is a very small country surrounded by water. This explains why so many Dutch men wear their trousers above the ankles. The ever present threat of being drowned leads to the Dutch being very self-focused. It’s a society of me, myself, my Uggs, my Birkenstocks and I.
At work, however, things are different. Dutch employees love nothing better than to involve as many people as possible in decision making. The reason for this is that if anything ever goes wrong once a decision has finally been made, no individual can possibly be blamed.
It’s not unusual to see cleaners and catering staff being members of Dutch organizational project teams. The more people involved the better. I once attended a project meeting at a large Dutch oil company, where one of the team members had no idea why he was there. “I’m just a homeless guy that happens to sleep outside the building, yet they involve me in decision making. As if I know anything about evicting indigenous people from their villages.”
During your interview, talk about the importance of teamwork, and how much you love Douwe Egberts coffee.
3.Taking initiative and asking questions
The Netherlands is a very flat society. There’s no hierarchy here unless you happen to be Moroccan, Turkish or from the former Dutch colonies. If you’re one of those rare allochtonen lucky enough to get a job in a Dutch corporation, don’t make any trouble, just keep telling your employer how grateful you are for their ‘tolerantie.’
Dutch employers expect you to come up with lots of ideas and show initiative. Dutch managers will then steal those ideas, and present them as their own to senior management. During the interview, ask lots of questions. If they ask you about your home country, tell them how desperate you are to move to Holland, the greatest and most tolerant society on God’s earth. Emphasize how little you’ve learned in your home country, and that as the Dutch have the greatest educational system in the world, that you can’t wait to learn from such well-educated people.
4. Body Language
Unless they are on a tinder date or packed into the Cooldown Cafe or Cafe de Paris like sardines in a smoky tin, the Dutch are not touchy feely. After an interview, don’t, as is common in Russia, slip your tongue in, while kissing them goodbye on the cheeks. This could be embarrassing, as they might be in the middle of an affair with a colleague, who could get jealous and not offer you the job.
The best body language when dealing with the Dutch is eye contact. The Dutch love to stare, and stare and stare. It’s something they learn as teenagers while out in bars for the first time, and rarely grow out of it.
Mirror your interviewer. If you’re to be interviewed by a Dutch woman, I advise that you smoke four packets of cigarettes the night before the interview. Your voice will then have a kind of husky and manly tone to it. When at the interview, shout answers to her questions as loud as you can. You’ll be just like her, and she’ll really appreciate that, even if you are only a bloody foreigner.
It’s important to show some empathy during an interview. The best thing is to fake it. If your interviewer is a man, make comments about how bossy your partner is, and that you can’t get home late or you’ll be in trouble. It’s a problem faced by most Dutch men. He’ll find you Sympatico.
If your interviewer is a woman, tell her how you can’t wait to start working there and being as unhelpful as you possibly can. Mention that you’ll threaten your employer with a burnout if they expect you to work for the full seven hours a day that they pay you for. She’ll understand you perfectly.
7. Demand to work part time during a job interview in the Netherlands
Even if you’d prefer to work full-time, make sure that you tell them that you have to go to Zumba classes on Tuesday mornings and that you can never work later that 5.15pm as you have to collect the children from daycare. Also insist on being able to start at 10 am, as you’ve chosen to live in a town that has huge amounts of traffic to and from where the company is based. It’s the organization’s problem, not yours. They need to be flexible. Also, demand time off to study for a qualification that has absolutely nothing to do with the job that you’re applying for. You’ll be just like the local Dutch employees, and they’ll love you for it.
I hope you’ve found this useful. If you need any more career advice, I charge 100 euros an hour for information that is so bloody obvious, it’s incredible that I remain in business. Ik hou van Holland!
No cats were hurt during the writing of this post.
Until next time, hou je snavel!