Writing a CV in English is essential if you are a non-Dutch speaker and wish to apply for jobs with international companies in the Netherlands. Even if you are a senior professional and have previously written and submitted many CVs, the CV that you have now may require some re-structuring for the Dutch market.
Your CV, next to your motivation letter, is an extremely important marketing tool as it is the first impression that a prospective employer has of you as a prospective employee. It is imperative that your CV does you justice, marks you out favourably amongst the competition and opens the door for you with an interview where you can expand further on your career history, skills and background.
How to make an ATS friendly resume?
The first thing you need to know is that most international companies and recruitment agencies use some sort of software to store all job applications. This software is called an ATS (Application Tracking System). An ATS is not just a simple database with lots of resumes but a sophisticated program that allows hiring managers to perform fast and efficient searches for candidates. Why is this important for you? Because recruitment managers will use certain keywords to search their database and if you do not use the right keywords in your CV, it may never be seen by a human eye.
In order to increase the likelihood of your CV coming up in a search, you should save your CV in pdf or doc(x) format as the software may not be able to recognize other formats. Also, use common fonts when writing your resume, such as Arial or Times New Roman as if you opt for less common fonts, the software may not be able to read the information you have carefully presented as the system will see only a blank page or a page filled with strange symbols.
A common CV structure would look something like this:
- Personal details
- Personal Profile
- Work experience
Make sure this section clearly states your name, phone number and email address. If you have a LinkedIn account, which we highly recommend, add the link.
Although it may seem insignificant to you, your email address is very important and can decrease your chances of getting an interview. Trust us, [email protected] is not a good choice.
Having a photo in your resume has both pros and cons and it is up to you to decide whether you include it or not. Hiring managers are, indeed, more likely to remember you if you have a proper picture. However, if you decide to add an image, please bear in mind that the picture has to present you in a professional way. Beach or festival photos are probably not the best choice. They may show your sparkling personality, but you want recruitment consultants to take your job application seriously and to pay attention to your expertise.
Remember that due to the GDPR law you are not obliged to provide any other personal details if you do not want to. It is also worth mentioning that recruitment agencies send CVs of prospective candidates to potential employers without any personal information. This is done in order to better safeguard your personal data.
If you are already located in the Netherlands, mention that in your CV, especially if you still have a phone number from your own country. Candidates have better chances if they already live in the Netherlands, simply because the recruitment process can be faster and the risk for an employer is lower. Sometimes a candidate goes through the entire recruitment process only to give up in the end because he or she changed their mind regarding the relocation.
Please note that if you are outside the EU/ EEA area, make sure to state if you have a valid work permit. A potential employer would like to know if you are legally allowed to work in the Netherlands and for how long.
Personal profile is a short paragraph stating a few sentences about who you are, what your soft skills are and what you are looking for. Try to use keywords here as well, but also try to be original. Communicative team player is a phrase that many people put in their resume. Think about what you can bring to the table. This section of your CV should not be set in stone. You should change your personal profile to match the job description. This of course does not mean copy-past keywords from the job description, but create a balance between who you are and what the particular job requires.
This is usually the section of your CV that recruiters will focus on most so you should make it as presentable as possible. Of course, if you are a fresh graduate without work experience you can mention any internships you had. You should list your most recent experience first. A good CV is clear, concise and easy to read both for the software and a human being. Make use of bullet points and headings to provide a clear framework and make the information easy to follow. Take into account the following:
- Always include job titles, company names and dates of employment.
- Make sure that you explain any gaps in your cv. For example, “2005 -2006 Travelled across the States” to give a full account of your career history and what you were doing when you were not in employment.
- Use an appropriate job title if the one you currently have is misleading. For example, Black belt Growth Ninja may sound cool, but it doesn’t say much about your position! Senior Business Developer sounds clearer. And again, have the keyword search on your mind when writing your CV. Unless you are applying for a martial arts school, there is a slim chance that a hiring manager will type “ninja” in the ATS software.
- Always check for correct spelling and grammar as mistakes in your CV can affect your application.
Again, start with the most recent education. Name the university and the city where you have studied as well as the degree you obtained. If you wrote a thesis, mention the topic and in one sentence explain what have you researched. Write down any additional certificates. This provides a potential employer with proof that you are willing to learn more and that you take personal development seriously. However, do not stuff your resume with every possible diploma you ever received. Think about what are the most relevant ones for the job you are applying for. No one is interested in your Best Buddy diploma you got in second grade.
For internationals looking for a job in the Netherlands, language skills may be the most important part of the CV. Be objective and write the fluency level in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (A1 – C2).Avoid describing your language skills in percentages or presenting it visually in graphs and bars.
Another important tip is to write the names of languages you are good at, not to use images of flags, because the ATS system will not be able to recognize them. So, for example, if a recruitment consultant searches the database using keywords fluent German speaker, the ATS will not show your CV, because the word German does not exist in it, only the image of a German flag. ATS software is not equipped for turning images into characters.
Next, if you possess knowledge of any software or system make sure you write it down. Hiring managers will often search the database just by typing names of software required for a specific job. For example, for some roles a knowledge of Photoshop, SAP, Oracle or Exact is a must and he or she will use these exact terms to find all CVs in the database that have them listed. The same goes for industry specific terms, such as US GAAP, VAT or Google AdWords. However, do not use them just to stuff your resume with keywords. Be honest with yourself and a potential employer about what you actually know how to do.
These are particularly relevant if you were involved in activities where you had leadership responsibilities, or which involved relating to others in a team. Similarly, if you have published any articles, jointly or by yourself, give details. If you have been involved in any type of volunteer work, mention this. Prospective employers will often look at the hobbies and interests listed in someone’s resume. This is because it gives them a rounder picture of the candidate and can give vital clues on personality and motivation.
There are 2 options here: you can use the generic statement references are available on request which means that the future employer has to ask permission to be able to access your references. The other way is to include the actual names and phone numbers of your referees, if you have their permission to do so.
Top 5 CV tips
Your CV should be no more than 2 pages. Although it is a cliché, it is also true that hiring managers spend approximately 6 seconds to check a CV. No one has time to read a four-page essay on your life no matter how interesting it can be.
Have someone read over your CV. It can be a friend, a family member or a professor. They may be able to see small mistakes you overlooked or can help you phrase things differently.
Do a spell check! You would be surprised to know how many silly spelling mistakes we see. Things like fluent Englesh, Inglish, Eniglish, does not really instill confidence.
Print out your CV. Even if you are going to send it by email, the company will always print it out and you need to check that the format is still the same.
Job hunting is a full-time job. It can be very tedious and overwhelming at times. And we understand that. But it is very important that you always tailor your CV according to a job application. There is no such a thing as a general CV that you write once and for all and send to all job openings you can find. Every job is different and requires a different skill set and personality. Try to figure out which tasks an employer emphasises and match that with what you have done in your previous roles. For example, if the job description stresses administrative tasks, you should highlight all administrative assignments you had. This, of course, does not mean that you should exaggerate or invent tasks. Just to put them in the first place.