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Working in Belgium - Advice & Tips

Belgium

Expatriate Affairs Consultant Nannette Ripmeester tells you below what it takes to get a job in the country where the hart of the European Union lays. The division in a Flemish and a Walloon area demands a thorough preparation when you are planning to enter the impressive diverse Belgian job market!

Job hunting in Belgium

When trying to enter the Belgian job market, remember that Belgium is divided in a Flemish (Dutch speaking) part and a Walloon (French speaking) area, besides there is also a German speaking minority. A good way of gaining access to the Belgian labour market is through websites like ‘Go Talent’ (www.gotalent.be). Area specific sites are: www.actiris.be (Brussels), www.leforem.bewww.werkwinkel.be (Flanders) and www.dglive.be (German speaking area).

Speculative applications are a good way of finding work in Belgium. For details on prospective employers you can look at standard directories and year books. It is strongly recommended to telephone the Human Relations department in advance, for example to find out to whom you have to direct your letter and in which language. Have some good questions prepared to ensure you leave a good impression!

The Application Letter

In general a letter of application should create enough interest to make the potential employer want to look at your application in more detail and hopefully invite you for an interview. Your application letter, however, should not provide too much information about experience and qualifications; this will be provided in your CV.

An important aspect of a Belgian covering letter is the language. If you are primarily looking for a job at the larger international organisations and institutions located in Belgium, a CV or resume in English similar to the one you use in your home country will do. However, when applying for a job at smaller, local companies you should adapt your CV to local customs and style. In general, the language of the covering letter should be the same as the language of the job posting you are responding to. If you are applying for a job in Brussels, use English or French if you are not sure which language to use. Bring copies of diplomas and testimonials to the job interview; do not include them with your application. Extracurricular activities are considered of great importance in Belgium. It is common to have your cover letter typed.

The Curriculum Vitae

The most common format for a Belgian CV is reversed chronological (most recent activities first). They are usually two pages long. The CV starts with your personal details, including name, address, date of birth, your telephone number (with international access code) and your civil status (including the names of your children!). You continue with your education, in case this is relevant to the job you apply to, include the results, your practical experience, your language skills (of great importance) and the references. Make sure that the people you mention as references are aware of it and that they have agreed to say something positive about you (if a reference is checked it looks rather stupid if the person can not remember you!).Under ‘work experience’ you mention the companies for which you have worked, with the exact date the job began and ended. It’s becoming more popular to apply for a job via the internet. Be aware of the fact that an electronic CV does not always look the same as the standard one.

The Application Procedure

Application interviews are a standard element of the selection procedure for jobs at all skill levels in Belgium. During the interview the recruiter will pay most attention to experience, motivation and social interpersonal skills. Assessment centres are becoming more common. A recruiter wants to have a full picture of the person he or she is going to select, therefore psychological, intelligence, aptitude and psychometric tests are widely used. Bring copies of diplomas and testimonials to the interview.

On-line applications are nowadays common. In fact, a lot of job agencies, but also employers who publish their vacancies on-line provide the opportunity to complete the job application form on-line.

If we got you started on Belgium – order the guide ''Looking for work in Belgium'' for further info.

In case you are interested in working for a European institution, you should consider ordering the guide '‘Looking for Work in International Organisations’' (ISBN: 978-90-5896-054-2) as it gives, next to a lot of information, valuable insight tips and advice.

About the author

Looking for work in BelgiumNannette Ripmeester is the expatriate affairs consultant to several multinational companies, which she advises regarding the strategy of international assignments and the practical implementation around expat issues.  Ripmeester started her international career at the European Commission, has worked on a project basis in 17 countries and is founder and Managing Director of Expertise in Labour Mobility (www.labourmobility.com).
She is co-author of a series of country-specific guides, the guide "Looking for work in Belgium", (ISBN-13: 978-90-5896-063-4) is part of that series of guides. To order this guide or other guides that will help you to secure the international job you want, visit our website: www.labourmobility.com.  As a reader of Eurograduate we offer you a 10% discount if you are your copy here.