Anne is Dutch, but finishing off university with an MA in the UK. Most of her job application experience has taken place over the last year, in London. When she started applying for jobs in the Netherlands, she found quite a few cultural differences between the UK and the Netherlands, as well as a generation gap in dos and don’ts for cover letters, CVs and application etiquette.
The Dutch are a little old-fashioned when it comes to CVs. According to ‘ruling’ etiquette, you inform your future employer about your age, nationality and marital status. Personally, I do not think any of these bits of information should influence whether or not somebody hires me, and in this respect I think the UK ‘rules’ on this type of information are much better. However, both my parents, when checking my CV and cover letter, did ask me if I had forgotten to put my marital status and nationality on my CV. I had made the conscious decision not to provide this information (admittedly, also to save space…). I asked some of my Dutch friends, and although most of them still use the ‘old’ format they all agreed it was fine for me to remove it. Generation gap or cultural influence?
British cover letters, at least from my experience, are about confidence. Confidence in the skills you gained during your positions, confidence about who you are and where you are going in life. Dutch letters are much more about modesty. Of course employers want you to be confident, but you have to mask it – a true skill. Going back to my dad reading over my letter, he said: “You sound incredibly overconfident (arrogant, almost) – I wouldn’t hire you”. Ouch. I think any daughter wants their dad to hire them, even in fictional situations. We went over my letter together, changing sentences around and playing with vocab. I could understand where he was coming from, and I do think my letter improved considerably. However, my ‘Dutch’ letter would have never made it through the brutal London selection procedures.
Lastly, the application process. When I was younger I was told it was a good thing to phone the organisation you were applying with asking a question regarding the process – just so they recognised your name. I do still see this happening, but personally, I am not sure how effective this is as you are often phoning someone who is not actually in charge of the application process. Besides, if a company is receiving many, many, applications – how effective is this, particularly in the first round of selection?
Currently, similar discussions are going on about LinkedIn – do you check our your future employer or the person interviewing you? Do you ‘link’ with, or ‘follow’, the organisation? Soon a post on this blog will discuss LinkedIn etiquette related to the application process.
Anne is probably not the only one experiencing these gaps and differences. What is your experience with internationally applying for jobs, traineeships or internships? Do your parents (or boss) think considerably different about this process than you do?