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What are the experienced cultural differences of applying in the Netherlands?

Cultural differences in applying and knowing how to deal with them in the recruitment process help to increase your job search success. To get hired rather sooner than later. A bold statement, but I believe cultural awareness will help you to interpret statements made or actions taken.

Cultural differences are one of the most discussed topics during clients conversations. Throughout all phases of the hiring procedure. From the stage of resume building to interview preparation, salary negotiation and even after they landed a job. It is a subject not to neglect when applying for a job in another country. All the more reason to address this in this Career Connection Blog. In this article, I want to walk you through 5 of the most common experienced cultural differences of applying I run into while working with my clients.

The experienced cultural differences in applying for a job

The most common experienced cultural differences I run into are:

  1. Resume building: The expected tone of voice and content of the resume,
  2. Cover Letter building: What should be in the letter to convince the recruiter to invite me for an interview,
  3. Job Interview: What are the interviewers looking for in my answers aka, how to address the questions asked,
  4. Salary negotiation: Is it OK to negotiate my salary, compensation and benefits? How do the Dutch deal with this subject?
  5. First days and months at work: Most questions I get relate to the topics hierarchy, expectations and responsibilities.

So there’s a lot to talk about on this subject, so let’s delve in a bit more by explaining why I believe cultural awareness will support a smooth transition.

Why is awareness of these cultural differences important?

Cultural awareness will help you to make your way through the applying and hiring process with more ease since you are more aware of how things are perceived on the other end. We don’t realize it perhaps, but once we set foot across the German or Belgian border, other ways of handling the hiring procedures apply and even more important, other ways of communicating with each other apply. So if these differences are there between neighbouring countries, then imagine the existing cultural differences between continents. Sometimes it is: The bigger the distance, the more cultural differences to bridge.

This is the main reason why I dedicated a special paragraph in the Catalyse Your Job search Membership programme to the subject of cultural differences. To create awareness about the existence of these cultural differences. I believe supporting you in understanding these cultural differences will help you to work with them now and in the future. We need mutual understanding to bridge the cultural differences and it is such a broad and diverse subject, I could talk, or write, forever about it.


Have you checked the Catalyse Your Job Search Member Programme already? It’s  THE programme to join if you wish to have continuous job search support from beginning to end. Grab all information about this program over here.

Some Real Examples of the cultural differences of applying

To bring his subject to life, let’s talk about some real-life examples I run into frequently. The examples are related to the subject mentioned before.

 #resume building and cover letter writing.

When hosting the Career Events at the Student Hotel, there are always a few people bringing in their resume and cover letter with the desire to have it checked or leave it behind. One of the participating recruiters told me she spoke to a lovely Asian lady who brought in a resume “almost the size of a small book, it had at least 9 pages.” It was highlighting all her academic accomplishments and more, but nothing about her actual work experience. Besides something simple and basic as the length of the resume, recently a client shared this story with me.

Mariëlle, thanks so much for advising me to mention my sailing interests on the resume in such a specific way. At the end of the job interview the recruiter asked me why I choose to mention my sailing interests so specifically. I mentioned I wanted to highlight the specific area of sailing I am active in. Seemed that we got a mutual interest, the whole team is a team of sailors and this is one of the things that caught her eye and why they selected me for a job interview. The job interview already lasted one hour but because of this question went on for another 45 min to 1 hour, just talking about sailing. Amazing.” This is just one of many examples of job interviews that go back to putting interest on a resume.

Well, cover letter writing is a whole different thing. Coming up with practical examples that show your skills and how you’ve accomplished things is the thing people struggle with most. Besides the motivation to work for a company of course. A general motivation usually doesn’t do the trick, companies love to know why you would like to join their team instead of the team of their competitors. This usually goes back to shared mutual core values, something I added into the job search preparation module of the Catalyse Your job Search programme.

 #the job interview

During an offline event last week, I ended up next to a Dutch team manager and we got to talk about job interviews. This happened because I expressed my opinions about job interviews. I mentioned job interviews are considered a bad tool for hiring people and wondered why organisations kept on using them. Job interviews leave so much room for bias and overlooking cultural differences.

This team manager is currently in the middle of hiring new people in his team. He told me this: “Just this morning I conducted job interviews and I was surprised by the answers I got to the question: Could you tell me something about yourself?

I asked him: “What happened?

He answered:  “Well, I expected a personal story but all I got is people telling me all about their degrees and their accomplishments. I just wanted to get to know the person behind the resume.

Well, I told this manager he not only had to think about implementing other hiring tools if he would like to connect more international staff to his team, but I also told him he needs to learn how to bridge the GAP between his cultural perspectives and other cultural perspectives as well.

This is just one example of where things go wrong in the hiring process. Most of my clients at first don’t know how to answer this question, since they don’t know what the expected answer should be. This manager thought he was asking a clear question. The candidates probably find this the most confusing question ever. While reading this example I hope it hit you, hiring managers to want to get to know you, not only your achievements.

#salary negotiation

I’ll save this topic for another time to share some more insights on how to deal with salary negotiations. Often I get the question: “is it OK to negotiate my salary?” Yes, it is, companies expect you to negotiate. The great tools available to do your research will be added to the Catalyse Your Job Search Programme soon.

Just one example where things went completely wrong. I spoke to a guy who did his research on expected salary levels when applying to a start-up company. What he didn’t realize, is that the expected salary he named related to corporate companies. He didn’t hesitate to name numbers to find out the start-up company could only offer half of it. His answer: “that’s no problem for me, I’ll take that.” He didn’t get a job offer. The start-up company didn’t take him seriously. To prevent yourself from ending up in a situation like this, I want you to know there are different ways of handling your salary negotiation and I would love to show you how.

 #the first days and months at your job.

In the next article, I will address the subject of meetings at work, but I do know the onboarding process and programme is surprising to most of my clients. Or let’s say, the lack of an onboarding programme. Of course, organisations do have general onboarding programmes in place, but I am talking about the familiarization programme, the training on the job, done by your direct co-workers.

It might come as a surprise to you, but this is handled with the practical Dutch “Let’s get to work” attitude. This usually means a pile of work is waiting for you to get done and after explaining the few basics you need to know to get started, this is followed by a gentle: “Well, I think you can get started now, here are some things that need to be done, I’ll be there in case you have any questions.” And your colleagues are off to their her seat to work on their tasks.

I always ask my clients about their expectations when they have the first day at the office coming up and expectations usually don’t meet up with what I just described. Often I receive emails that I was right about the way the familiarization programme went.


There is always the possibility to schedule a 60-minute introductory call to learn more about how to find out if the Catalyse Your job Search programme is the programme to join taking your personal situation into account. Don’t hesitate to check my schedule over here and plan your call today.

I can imagine all these examples might be a bit overwhelming to you. Or recognizable. There’s a lot of research done by Dutch Psychologist Geert Hofstede, the outcomes of this research often help out to create some awareness. Besides this, I love the work done by Erin Meyer, author of the book called The Culture Map. It’s all about cultural differences in work settings. I often use the material of both researchers in my Masterclasses to help people understand where cultural differences originate from.

The key takeaway for me on this topic is this one, posed by someone in my network: “cultural differences start as soon as I leave my front door.” For me this is spot on, even if we are from the same cultural background, we all created our own culture in our own homes.

The October Masterclass within the Catalyse Your job Search Member programme will be all about the cultural differences in applying and how this affects the applying process. Based on the theory mentioned above, I’ve set up an amazing programme for you. So, if you are a member of the Catalyse your Job search member programme, be sure to note October 21 down in your calendar to learn more.

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