Job hunting among the smaller, local companies calls for a CV prepared according to local customs and style. Be careful how you present your talents and experience, whether you’re using a CV or the shorter American style resume. Belgians are a modest and rather conservative people and may see your claims for major accomplishments in prior jobs as bragging. Even if you did single-handedly save millions of euro for your last employer by working through your lunch break or cutting the distance between your desk and the coffee machine, it’s safer to supply only a brief explanation of your assigned duties in each job you’ve held.
Your cover letter should generally be in the same language as the job posting you’re responding to, unless the employer has specifically requested applications in English. The following are general comments about the differences in style between the three countries but, if in doubt, have a local native speaker (preferably someone who knows the company or industry you’re interested in) check your application before you submit it.
Although some employers prefer to see a one-page summary CV first (more like an American resume), a CV for Belgium normally includes quite a lot of detail and can run to three pages or more. Employers will expect to see exact dates of employment, as well as the dates of birth of each of your children. Include results for any examinations listed and don’t forget to mention how many people you supervised in each position you’ve held. Belgian employers like to see mention of extracurricular activities; any civic or social club affiliations should be mentioned, especially if you’ve held an office or other responsible position. You should include a summary of your professional goals at the end of the CV. You don’t need to include copies of diplomas or other certificates mentioned in the document with your application, but you should bring copies of these (if you have them) to any interviews in case you’re asked for them.
Your cover letter should be typed, preferably on letterhead paper and in the proper language (Flemish for companies in the Flemish provinces, French for companies in Walloon, or English for an international employer). If you’re applying for a job in Brussels, use French or English if you aren’t sure what language to use. Belgian employers don’t always reply to applications, especially unsolicited ones, so if you haven’t received a response within four weeks, you can assume you’ve been rejected.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg from Survival Books.