Like everywhere else in this world, Dutch employers and candidates have their unique fashion of communicating during interview sessions. What’s normal in one country can be considered inappropriate in the Netherlands and vice versa. Thus, preparing for an interview with a Dutch employer is crucial, especially when local candidates compete with you. While some of the details relate to cultural issues, others relate to the employer’s expectations.
Prepare an effective elevator pitch
You will be expected to break the ice with a solid presentation of yourself - if you want to make a good impression take a look at Graduateland's guide on how to write an effective elevator pitch.
Show your motivation in the right way
Dutch employers would like to see motivation, but only if expressed in the right way. They won’t be touched in any way when you say “I would like to work here to expand my horizons.” Instead, try to be more specific by stating "I am impressed with the company's focus on [...], and I would like to contribute to it."
Avoid too much self-confidence
Dutch people are notorious for being direct and honest. Therefore, an over-enthusiastic style of self-praise is not highly appreciated. Employers won't like hearing you say you're good in certain areas of your expertise, but they will be excited if you say that others think you are good at those things. For instance "In the writing department, people always asked for my insights before submitting the texts to our editor, and I enjoyed exchanging feedbacks with my colleagues". Dutch employers highly appreciate teamwork, so if you have any team skills, go ahead and emphasize them by using the examples above. Another trick that will help you avoid self-praising is responding to questions in a humble manner, for instance by saying "I am glad you brought this up because I was also wondering the same thing. My opinion is [...]. However, I would be more than happy to have your advice if this is the best approach to the problem.".
Due to the flat hierarchies, managers are not always considered to be the ones having the perfect answers. Thus, you are always expected to put your ideas and solutions on the table. To avoid any awkward situations during your interview, it is better to be either prepared to give some detailed answers or take the initiative yourself. This aspect is critical because the employer assumes that the way you act at the interview equals your work style.
During - or at the end of - the interview, it's imperative to ask questions. This way you will show your interest in accepting challenges and responsibilities that await you in the company. Prepare a mixture of items that include your role and the company as well.
Prepare before the interview
Although it differs from one company to another, there are some specific points that Dutch employers use to construct the questions. Consider this the skeleton of the interview and have some answers prepared - it will make you feel in control of the situation even though you won’t be personally asked about all of them.
Here is where you can deliver the elevator pitch, but don’t talk about yourself for more than five minutes - remember the paragraph about self-confidence.
Focus on fairly recent achievements that relate to the job position and highlight their impact.“I coordinated an extended evaluation of a campaign that saved the company a lot of money” could, for instance, be a way of conveying your achievements when applying for a marketing/communications position.
Impressions of your career up to this point
Prepare a straightforward answer when asked about your past working positions and don’t forget to stress the word “happy” to show you are satisfied.
If you get the question “What was the most difficult issue you encountered in your career so far?” the employer tries to find out how you perceive the word “difficult”. To give an impressive answer focus on your problem-solving skills.
Nothing complicated, just list some of them. Don’t forget Dutch employers appreciate team players.
It’s not a shame to admit you have weak points, but it’s critical to emphasize what measures you take to overcome them.
Last, but not least
Never be late, under any circumstances. Regarding the dress code, it should be fine as long as you don’t go overboard. In the Netherlands, clothing is reflected in your work so if you apply for a position that involves creativity you can dress more casually whereas a corporate position requires more formal attire. Greet your interviewer with a strong handshake and always maintain eye contact.