When applying for a job in Belgium, tailoring your CV according to the specific customs of the country will definitely be appreciated despite the fact that today a great number of companies - especially the multinationals - accept versions of the American resume.
To be able to write an authentic CV it is essential to grasp a few specific elements in regards to their culture. Belgian working life is comparatively conservative so the length of the CV gives plenty of space to list all your qualifications in detail as employers are interested in knowing you. Compared with other one-page standard CVs, the Belgian resume can reach up to three pages.
Second of all, considering the three official languages in Belgium - Dutch (Flemish), French and German - it is crucial to choose the right one for writing your CV. Depending on the region, when applying in Flanders (north), except Brussels, you will have to write the CV in Flemish while in Wallonia (south) you will have to write it in French. The unique cultural identities of the two parts of the country are very strong, so don’t write your CV in French if you apply for a company located in Flanders and vice versa. Normally, the language adheres to the job description so there’s also a chance of writing the CV in English or German - if the company is located in the small eastern part of the country, close to the border with Germany.
Other than that remember that Belgian employers focus on your work experience, motivation, and social skills.
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Overall, the first section of your Belgian CV must include:
- Date of birth
- Telephone number including the international country code
- Civil status including the name of your spouse and name of your children (if any)
- Military status (if any)
As you can see there are plenty of details you must include straight away. While other CV formats do not require the names of partners and children, Belgian employers are interested in knowing everything about you. Remember also that if you are a male it is important to mention any military service even though nowadays it is not mandatory anymore.
The next sections of the Belgian CV are tailored according to your qualifications. Usually, the section following personal information relates to work experience, however, in case you don’t have any (or too little), the education should be listed first.
Prior work experience
This section is usually the longest and it generally covers:
- The name of the companies
- Employment periods
- Key responsibilities and tasks listed as bullet points
The usual style of a Belgian CV is reverse chronological order so you should start with the most recent position and work your way back. Pay great attention to this section and include every possible job position you had including student practice and summer jobs. Remember to list the exact dates for employment periods and highlight the positions that are relevant for the specific job you are applying for.
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For the educational background you have to mention:
- The name of the institutions
- Dates of enrollment
- Course titles
Using the same reverse chronological order from the previous section, start with the most recent education and work your way back to high school. Be aware that Belgian employers are interested in your grades only if they are relevant to the job description, so no need to include them if that doesn’t make sense. Don’t forget that you are allowed to make this the second section of your CV in case you lack work experience.
Within the multicultural context of Belgium, language skills are a strong asset, so create a detailed section by mentioning the name and the proficiency level for each. Don’t hold back with mentioning any certificates in case you have some.
Belgian employers are not only interested in general details about your family, but they also want to know more about you as a person and what better way to show it than through extracurricular activities. Do not be shy and include every activity you participated in, no matter the affiliation, and make a short summary of your responsibilities. If you happened to have any leading positions it is advised to indicate how many people were reporting to you.
Finally, a summary of your career goals can be included at the end of your CV, but it can also be added at the beginning. Although no official documents need to be attached with your CV, the employer may ask for them at the interview so better have them prepared. Once you are done with the CV, the next step requires you to write a Belgian style cover letter.