Belgium - why work abroad?

Country: Belgium
Official languages: Dutch (north), French (south), German
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Population: 11 million
Capital: Brussels
Currency: euro (EUR)
Member EU or EEA: EU
Phone code: +32
Internet code: .be

Why this country?

Home to EU institutions and other international organisations, Belgium is affluent and multilingual. The Dutch-speaking Flemish north has coastal resorts, the historic cities of Bruges and Ghent and the vibrant port city of Antwerp. To the south, the French­speaking Wallonia has dense forest, remote heathland and a more relaxed way of life. Brussels is a melting pot of the two cultures and a large international community.

Employee shortages vary by region with many vacancies unfilled, particularly in Wallonia and Brussels. This is due in part to a mismatch between jobseekers' profiles and what employers require. Most jobs are in the services or public sector. There is also consistent demand for healthcare, IT, primary education professionals, domestic cleaners, sales staff, and office workers.

Looking for work?

To find a job in Belgium, it is good to speak Dutch and/or French, the most widely spoken languages. German is spoken only in a small part of Belgium. Brussels, the capital, is bilin­gual: for most jobs here, people have to know both Dutch and French. However, many Eng­lish-speaking people also manage to find work in Belgium, mainly in Brussels. Job opportuni­ties for people who speak English can be found at

Belgium has four public employment ser­vices for the different regions and language communities.

Actiris in the capital, Brussels (bilingual Dutch/ French):

Le Forem in Wallonia (south and French-speak­ing region):

VDAB in Flanders (north and Dutch-speaking region):

ADG in German-speaking areas in the west of Belgium:

The EURES portal's Links section contains links to other jobs websites and newspapers that feature job vacancy adverts. See also the web­site about international mobility and Belgium:

Tips for job applications?

Most employers select candidates on the basis of a CV and covering letter. If you apply by e-mail, use a 'professional’ e-mail address. Put a clear reference in your e-mail and take care with the layout of both the covering letter and the CV. Use accepted Belgian standards (BNN-normen, if known) to write your covering letter.

Is it standard to include a photo on the CV?

No, it is not advised.

Is there a preference for handwritten applications?

No, most applications are sent by e-mail.

Is the Europass format CV widely used and accepted?

The national format is preferred, but the Europass format is used increasingly, too.

Making contact by phone

If you call the employer, introduce yourself briefly and clearly, and speak in the required language. If you are making a spontaneous application, introduce yourself and make clear what kind of function you are applying for.

Do I need to send diplomas with my application?

No, they are usually not required at this stage. However, they may need to be submitted when signing your contract, so have a translated diploma ready

Should I supply references, letters of recommendation or proof of good conduct?

References or letters of recommendation are not used in Belgium. They may be requested, but this does not happen often. Proof of good conduct may be required for certain jobs.

Usual length of time between publication of the vacancy and start of the job

Six weeks, although for some jobs (e.g. vacancies where there is a shortage of applicants) this can be much shorter.

Preparing for the interview

If the employer is interested in your profile, one or more interviews might be arranged, as well as assessments and skill and psycholog­ical testing.

Prepare well by researching the company, reflecting on why you want to work for this employer and in this sector, and practising answers to questions in another language.

An interview can be seen as a form of nego­tiation, rather than as a question and answer session. For the employer, your attitude, asser­tiveness, politeness and the way you present yourself are crucial. You will be a representa­tive for the company and you have to fit in with the team.

Dress-code tips

Dress as you would expect someone to do in the position for which you are applying, neither over-nor underdressed for the role. Jewellery or perfume should match your clothing. Remember that the way you present yourself reflects your personality.

Who will be there?

A psychologist usually conducts the first inter-view. Afterwards you may have an interview with the line manager or even a future col¬league. The final interview, to negotiate salary, etc., will be with a representative of the HR department Expect 45 minutes for an interview and half a day for testing.

Do we shake hands?

Yes, in Belgium this is common.

Is there a typical interview structure?

Interviews normally start with the interviewers introducing themselves. Then the candidate is asked to present him- or herself The interviewer will move from very general to very detailed questions. At the end of the interview the candidate can ask additional questions. The interview will conclude with practical arrangements for the decision period and feedback.

The atmosphere is normally formal and professional. Act professionally, both before and after the interview. Speak only about topics that might be of interest to the employer. Take note of the way interviewers present themselves; use their first name only if they do. Be aware that the atmosphere at an interview does not always reflect the company culture.

When is a question out of bounds?

You do not have to answer questions about religion, sex, family plans, etc. Being unwilling to answer sensitive questions can also be evidence that you are assertive and can count as a strong point. You can make an official complaint if you feel you have been discriminated against.

Negotiating your pay and benefits

Salary negotiations usually take place in the final phase of the recruitment procedure, when the applicant has the opportunity to ask ques­tions. Salary is normally expressed as gross pay, per month or per hour, depending on the type of contract. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification of the exact content of your salary package. An extra 13th or even 14th month's salary may be negotiable within the annual sal­ary. These are not included in the salary adver­tised. Salary negotiations are only possible in the private sector.

The main non-statutory benefits are: meal vouchers, hospital insurance, company car, mobile phone, computer and refunding of transport costs for commuters. Negotiations take place between the applicant and an HR representative.

Is a trial period likely?

From a legal point of view, a 1-day work trial is not possible, unless arranged via a temporary jobs agency (which means that you will be paid for that day). Practical testing at the work¬place is possible, but can last no longer than is needed to test your skills.

How long is the standard probationary period?

Seven to fourteen days for workers; 1 to 12 months for employees.

Will the employer cover my costs for attending an interview?

In general, the employer will not cover your travel costs.

When will I hear the result?

This depends on the job and the employer.

Getting feedback and further follow-up

If an employer has promised to give you feed-back within 1 week, do not call before that time. If they have not called you after 2 weeks, you may call and ask for feedback.

How early should I arrive for the interview?

Always be punctual. Try to arrive 5 minutes early. If you expect to arrive late, due to traffic, train delays, etc., let the employer know. Be sure to have a contact number with you when travelling to the interview.

last modification: 2014-09-01
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