What makes a good CV and how to nail a job interview
When it comes to finding a job in Belgium, it’s all about first impressions. You definitely want your resume to stand out and open the door for a job interview. In today’s job market it is vital to know how to ‘sell’ yourself. Easier said than done, right? These useful tips will help get you started.
What makes a good CV?
First, throw out your “old” CV and start from scratch. When applying for a job in Belgium, it’s crucial to have a CV that fits the Belgian market in both style and language. The latter is quite a sensitive issue: should you write in Dutch, French or German, the three official languages of Belgium? It all depends on where you want to work.
If you are applying for a job in Flanders, choose Dutch, and opt for French when you wish to work in Wallonia. In the bilingual capital of Brussels, you can use both, but we recommend using the same language as the job application or to check with the company whether an English CV is suitable. Better to be safe than sorry. Above all, try to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes, as most employers find it a real turnoff. There’s no harm in asking a native speaker to check your CV beforehand.
Don’t get lost in the details
Bear in mind that your CV is not supposed to be a biographical narrative. The trick is to keep it short and to the point. Don’t bore employers with too many details, but accurately highlight your skills and experience. It immediately shows your ability to focus on what’s important. You can add a photo, but this is usually not required. If you do so, make sure you look professional.
When drafting your CV, always work in reverse chronological order, meaning the most recent first, and opt for a simple, readable font. Remember it’s not a school art project, so go easy on the colors and flair. More importantly, a CV should look sharp and structured. As a rule of thumb, Belgian resumes are structured as follows:
- Your personal details: name, address, date of birth, telephone number, e-mail address, marital status, nationality;
- Your education: educational institutions, dates, course title and grades;
- Work experience: company names, the positions you held and key responsibilities/accomplishments;
- Language skills and levels: mention both your active and passive knowledge;
- Extracurricular activities: as these can reveal something about your personal skills and interests, things like hobbies, volunteer work, …;
- References: names of former employers, lecturers, etc. who can vouch for your excellence.
You can find many templates for well-structured resumes online, for example, by the Flemish job organization VDAB.
Don’t forget your cover letter
In Belgium, resumes are usually combined with a cover letter explaining your specific motivation for seeking the job. It’s not an easy task if you are not a skilled writer, but remember to keep it short. Explain why you think you are the right person for the job and what attracted you in the application. How are you planning to use your skills in this particular job? Don’t just copy-paste old cover letters; make them stand out by tailoring it to the job in question. VDAB also provides good examples of cover letters that you can use.
How to behave during a job interview
If your resume gets selected, you’ll be invited for an interview. Prepare yourself for the interview by scanning through the website of the company and coming up with some interesting questions to ask. Think about your answers to some straightforward questions, such as: “why do you want to work here?” and “why are you the right person for the job?” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The interview is a chance to show how you use your social skills to handle tricky situations.
When it comes down to the interview, make sure you look and act your best:
- Dress appropriately depending on the company and the job you are applying for.
- Avoid being late and remember to shake hands when meeting new people.
- Always keep it formal, even during small talk.
- Present yourself with confidence, but don’t be arrogant.
- Respond honestly to the questions.
- Stay positive about yourself and past employers.
- Give examples that accurately demonstrate your knowledge or capabilities.
Ready to turn words into action? Find job vacancies that are right up your alley and start applying today! Check out our job openings at Link2Europe!
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