5 interview tips for landing a job in the Netherlands

So you’ve been invited to have an interview for a job in the Netherlands — congratulations! If the job involves you relocating from your current location to the Netherlands, I have some tips to help you stand out in the interview.

One month into starting my job in Amsterdam, I was asked to interview a prospective new colleague from another one of our offices abroad. Ever since I’ve been involved in several interviews and have helped make hiring decisions for people around the world wanting to come work in the Netherlands.

My top 5 interview tips will prepare you for a conversation with your prospective employer in the Netherlands.

1. Clearly outline your intentions with respect to relocating

One thing companies will definitely try to get a sense of during the interview is the likelihood that you’ll stay in the Netherlands.

The reason is obvious. They are making a significant investment in hiring someone from abroad — maybe they’ll offer you a relocation allowance or compensate your moving expenses. The longer you stick with the job, the higher their return on investment.

But if you haven’t already lived in the Netherlands before, then you probably have no idea whether you’ll love it and stay for life, or decide it’s not for you. Unless you already have family or a partner living there, your interviewer will understand that there is some uncertainty around this topic. But by preparing for this question and showing an ambition and reason to want to stay, you will have a better chance of succeeding.

My personal mindset was that I would stay for at least five years. It had been a dream of mine to learn the language and get to know the Dutch people and culture, and I thought I would need a minimum of five years to do that. This is exactly what I told my interviewers.

You don’t need to say that you’re going to stay for a specific number of years, or permanently.

You can be honest if you don’t have a specific target, but let it be known that your ambition is to stay long-term (and why).

Make it specific to the Netherlands

Sometimes when candidates are asked why they are interested in coming to the Netherlands, they talk about why they want to leave their current job or country. Or they speak generically about how they want international experience.

A stronger response is one that highlights the specific reasons the Netherlands attracts you based on your research.

Here are some examples:

  • The country is known for the some of the happiest children in the world and you would like to raise your family there
  • You would like to learn a new language, and Dutch has many similarities with English (or insert other Germanic language)
  • You appreciate that (insert city) is known for being international and/or having a large expat community
  • There are many English speakers in the country, making it easier to communicate and settle in at first
  • You are eligible for the 30% ruling and would like to take advantage of this incentive

Make it clear that you’ve done your homework and can clearly communicate the reasons why you’re interested in relocating to the Netherlands specifically and staying.

2. Know your eligibility to work in the Netherlands

Whenever we interview international candidates we always ask whether they are eligible to work in the Netherlands — so it’s good to be prepared for this. Several types of resident permits exist in the Netherlands and the conditions differ depending on the type of work, and whether or not you have a nationality within EU/EEA (or Switzerland). 

In most cases you cannot apply for the resident permit yourself — this must be done by your employer. Nonetheless, it’s good to do your research in advance to ensure you meet the requirements. By doing this research you may even find that you have some questions for the interviewer that you may want to clarify during the conversation.

I applied as a highly skilled migrant, therefore I knew I needed an employment contract with a company that was recognized as a sponsor by the Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst (IND) (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and only applied to such companies. Those companies are listed in the Public Register of Recognized Sponsors.

If you are also thinking about applying for the 30% ruling (which is done jointly by you and your employer) there are very specific conditions and documentation required. There is also a minimum salary requirement which you need to pay attention to when it comes time to negotiating your salary with your prospective employer.

Before the interview, make sure you visit the IND website for information on the types of resident permits and their requirements.

3. Research the company and role

You’ll find this tip on just about every list of interview tips no matter where in the world the job is — and for good reason.

The more you can show that you have researched the company and the role you’re applying for, the more you will come across as prepared and genuinely interested in the opportunity.

If you’re applying to a job similar to the one you’re doing now, it’s good to know how much bigger or smaller the new company is in comparison. If there is a big difference, be prepared to answer how you’ll respond to the change. Specific details (like number of people on the team) can be hard to find online. If you’re working with a recruiter you can ask them in advance for this information. Otherwise you can always ask these questions during the interview itself.

4. Prepare your responses

If you’re reading this post, then you are presumably also preparing your responses to the questions that might be asked in the interview. 

There are some typical questions that you could be asked as a foreigner looking for work in the Netherlands. These are centred around why you are interested in the Netherlands, and what your long-term plans are (i.e. is their investment in relocating you here going to pay off in the long term?).

Check out this post for 15 interview questions to prepare for a conversation with a prospective employer in the Netherlands. 

5. Prepare to ask questions to the interviewer

When you ask questions to the interviewer it shows that you really are interested in getting the most out of the conversation, and that you came prepared.

Your questions don’t have to be reserved for the end of the conversation either. If the interviewer is describing the role or an aspect of the company, don’t be afraid to ask your questions directly. In fact, in my experience doing interviews in the Netherlands, interviewers welcome this as it makes the discussion feel more like a conversation and less like an interview. It also shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and not just going through the motions of reciting your responses.

Here are some ideas of questions to ask to ask in the interview:

  • What has the experience of other expats at the company been?
  • How does the company handle onboarding and training?
  • Does the company provide any resources to colleagues who want to learn Dutch?
  • What qualities must one have to be successful in the position?
  • Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with?
  • What would the career progression for this role look like?
  • How will my performance be evaluated?
  • How would you describe the company culture?

Questions to ask the interviewer(s):

  • What do you like about the company (or role)?
  • Why did you join the company after X years at company X? (Have a look at their LinkedIn in advance or ask them to give an introduction at the beginning of the interview)

Finally, if it hasn’t already been answered, you can ask the interviewer what the next steps in the hiring process will be, or when you can expect to hear from them next.

Bonus: Learn a Dutch phrase

Dutch people are aware that their language is hard to learn, so they genuinely appreciate when foreigners make an attempt to communicate with them in their language. By no means would an interviewer expect you to know any Dutch, especially if it is not necessary for the job. But it would probably come as a pleasant surprise if you try out your first Dutch words with them.

I call this one a bonus because this tip is certainly not for everyone. Not everyone has the ambition to learn the language, nor is it necessary at all to use in an interview. However if you are serious about learning the language, it does show that you’re probably serious about staying for the long term. When you learn the language it is easier to integrate with natives and form a community outside of work and the expat community.

I recommend keeping it simple and sticking to the basics such as:

  • Dankjewel – thank you
  • Dank jullie wel – thank you (addressing more than one person)
  • Tot ziens! – goodbye

These, in my opinion, are not too difficult to pronounce. I recommend using Google Translate’s ‘Listen’ function to help with the pronunciation.

The key to success in any interview is just being prepared.  Particularly for a job that involves relocating, you should be ready to communicate the reasons why you’re interested in relocating to the Netherlands and staying there.

Know the type(s) of residence permits you need and whether you meet the eligibility. Research the company and the role and prepare yourself for the other typical questions that you’ll be asked. Finally, don’t wrap things up until all of your questions about the role have been answered. Be yourself, and of course, be on time!

Succes! Good luck

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