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Now Hiring in Amsterdam: A Local Perspective

cf3e1f51c69cb493482034b9609b6deaBy: Elena Di Fiore
Principal HR Consultant, HR Management Consulting

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when struggling to find work however have you wondered what job search is like overseas?  Having lived my life so far in Adelaide, my career history spans across supporting multinational organisations with their HR and hiring processes. Australian employment legislation governs recruitment best practice but what happens in a country that doesn’t promote equal opportunity?

I’ve spent the past week amongst Employers, their workforce and jobseekers seeking a better understanding of the challenges that exist within the Amsterdam job market. My initial perspective was very different to the unemployment rate of 7.5% reported in February 2013. Most of the job advertisements posted in my local district were for hospitality staff, so I took to the local businesses to find out challenges within the job market. It is worth noting that the experiences shared within this post do not necessarily reflect every industry within Amsterdam, mostly hospitality.

An Employer’s Perspective
Sergei, a Bar Manager from Russia, openly shared that the hiring process he has adopted is no different to other local employers. Applicants submit their résumé and a recent photo in person, with a brief interview held on the spot. No behavioural questions are asked; it’s mostly a conversation around hourly rate, previous experience and availability. If the applicant isn’t of interest, their résumé is “thrown in the bin”. Reasons for not hiring include inability to speak English and if an applicant comes across as “lazy” or lacking initiative. I did ask how you can determine someone’s level of initiative in a brief interview; apparently “you can just tell”. Sergei says that he has terminated employment because many of his staff have formed addictions which interfere with their work and the success of his business. For this reason, he chooses to hire casual staff only because breaking a permanent contract leads to legal representation that could potentially set him up for paying an employee for the rest of their life, even if not continued to be employed by him.

An Employee’s Perspective
Caitlin, a Barista originally from Hungary, spent eight months looking for work in her local town that is a 90 minute train ride out of Amsterdam. Every employer rejected her application because she couldn’t speak Dutch. She now travels 90 minutes each way to work in a local coffee shop but is quickly tiring of the long commute. “I want my own business but I don’t know what to sell”, she says. We spoke at length about Caitlin’s transferable skills and on the following day, she served my coffee stating she’d spent the night before writing up a business plan and hopes to screen print and sell t-shirts.

A Jobseeker’s Perspective
Toby, a new tourist from Germany, spoke about his job search and recent move to Amsterdam. Having arrived a day earlier, he was optimistic about his ability to find a job and moved from Munich because he likes the lifestyle and culture of living in the city. “Give me two days and I will find a job”, he says. Toby previously relocated to Amsterdam three years ago but struggled to find work because he was unable to communicate in English. After attending English classes, Toby hopes to gain employment without using a résumé and by simply approaching business owners in person. I wished him luck on his quest.

While this provides a local perspective of the hospitality job market in Amsterdam, developing an understanding on challenges in gaining employment was extremely insightful. Thank you to all who shared their experiences so openly. I look forward to following the Dutch job market over the years to come.

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