Work

Work in Belgium: How to find jobs in Belgium
Source: www.expatica.com
Read more on the official websites of the communities:

And on www.belgium.be/en for the country of Belgium

Find work in Belgium with this complete guide to jobs in Belgium, including Belgian job websites, recruitment agencies, Belgian jobs in demand, the Belgian job market and permits required to work in Belgium.

Many foreigners easily find work in Belgium and chances of finding jobs in Belgium‘s main cities, particularly jobs in Brussels, are increased by the extensive international business scene and European Union (EU) presence.

With many EU institutions, NATO and lots of other major international organisations and multi-national companies based in Brussels, there are a great many jobs in Belgium for foreigners. However, in a country with three official languages and many more used in its cosmopolitan capital of Brussels, you’ll give yourself the best chance of finding a job in Belgium if you have good language skills; you’ll be competing with locals who are typically bilingual or multilingual, including a decent level of English proficiency, meaning there can be more competition for jobs in Belgium for English speakers. This guide, however, aims to help foreigners find work in Belgium by listing where to find the best jobs in Belgium.

This guide to jobs in Belgium includes:

  • Jobs in Belgium: job websites, recruitment agencies and organisations
  • Work in Belgium: Belgian job market, unemployment, minimum wages and taxes
  • Job vacancies in Belgium and shortage occupations
  • Belgian business culture and labour law
  • Visas and permits to legally work in Belgium
  • Language and qualifications required to find work in Belgium
  • Belgian job applications: Belgian-style CVs and interview tips

 

Work in Belgium

The Belgian job market

In the second half of 2016, Belgium’s unemployment rate stood at 7.6 percent, slightly lower than the EU average of 8.3 percent. However, youth unemployment (those under 25) was higher than 20 percent; in previous years, the largest increase in unemployment has been among those with higher education level qualifications.

Most Belgians work in the service sector – legal, banking, media and tourism – with around a quarter working in industry including textiles, glass, engineering, car assembly and chemicals. The Belgian government maintains a list of key sectors in Belgium.

There are numerous large companies located in Belgium, including Banque Nationale de Belgique, Proximus (telecoms, previously Belgacom), Ageas (insurance), Anheuser-Busch InBev (brewing), Bakaert (manufacturing, chemicals), Colruyt (food retail), Delhaize (food retail), D’Ieteren (automative), Elia (energy), KBC (banking/insurance), Solvay (chemicals), UBC (pharmaceutical) and Umicore (materials technology).

Belgium has one of the highest minimum wages in Europe – in 2017, Belgium’s minimum wage started at around EUR 1,532 (for 18+ years olds) to EUR 1,591 (20+ years, with at least one year of experience). Belgium, however, also has one of the highest tax rates in Europe, ranging on a sliding scale between 25 percent up to 50 percent depending on how much you earn. Read more in our guides to Belgian minimum wage and average salary in Belgium, taxes in Belgium and Belgian social security.

Job vacancies in Belgium

Most available jobs in Brussels are for highly skilled workers within the services sectors, such as finance, international institutions and businesses, estate agencies, education, and public health and social services. Despite Belgium’s unemployment rate, the country reports an ongoing issue with skill shortages, particularly in IT and engineering.

Some shortage jobs include:

  • engineers
  • project managers
  • technicians
  • architects
  • accountants
  • nurses and midwives
  • IT staff like computer system designers and analysts
  • technical and commercial sales representatives
  • teachers
  • admin staff
  • mechanics
  • building trades, including electricians, plumbers, joiners and plasterers.

There are also more flexible procedures for shortages occupations; you can see lists of shortage occupations on the regional work websites – Forem in Wallonia, Actiris in Brussels, VDAB in Flanders – plus other government website such as werk-economie-emploi.brussels and metiers.siep.be. Unemployed workers may also qualify for study programmes (in French) in a shortage occupation.

The EU and NATO also employ a large number of foreign workers.

Belgian management culture and labour law

The duality between the French- and Dutch-speaking regions is reflected in the Belgian workplace, which has traditionally followed the French hierarchical style where top managers make all the decisions. This, however, has been increasingly moving towards the more egalitarian Dutch approach of flatter and more open organisations, with more information flow and delegation. So while companies may still be fairly hierarchical, management authority rests more on competence and the aim is usually to reach a consensus or compromise – which can often be a protracted process. Belgians appreciate logic and reasoning and expect arguments to be backed up by clear facts and figures. They also value personal contact so not all business takes place by email or over the phone.

You may be offered a temporary contract at first as a trial period. You’ll most likely be working a 38-hour week with eight-hour days, around 20 days a year holidays plus 10 Belgian national holidays. Employers divide yearly salaries into 13.92 months in order to provide extra income at different times of the year, giving an extra 92 percent in spring as ‘holiday pay’ and an extra month at the end of the year. You can read more in our guide to Belgian business culture and employment contracts in Belgium.

Belgian work visas

All EU/EEA (European Economic Area – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss nationals can work freely in Belgium without the need for a work permit, although if you’re planning to stay longer than three months you’ll need a registration certificate. Read more in guide for EU citizens moving to Belgium.

Citizens from elsewhere will generally need a work permit, and certain nationalities will also need a visa to enter the country, although exemptions apply. Read more in Expatica’s guide to Belgian work permits, or find out if you need an entry visa or any other permit in our guide to Belgian visas and permits.

Languages required for jobs in Belgium

There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch is spoken in the Flemish community in the Flanders region to the north of Belgium; French is spoken in Wallonia to the south of Brussels; and German is spoken in the south east. Between 10–20 per cent of the country, especially those in the Brussels-Capital region, are bilingual and speak both French and Dutch. You would most likely be expected to speak the language of the particular region in which you’d be working. In some cases, mainly in international companies, English may be sufficient. You can find many language schools in Belgium if you need to improve your language skills.

Qualifications

If you come from a country signed up to the Bologna Process you will have your educational qualifications recognised in Belgium. Everyone else should contact NARIC (Flanders) or the Education section of the Ministère de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Wallonia) to get foreign educational certificates of all levels recognised in Belgium. If you want to work in certain professions, you may have to have your professional qualifications, both your training and experience, officially recognised or regulated before you can work in Belgium. Check here to find out if you need to have your profession regulated and how to go about it.

 

How to find jobs in Belgium

Expatica jobs in Belgium

On Expatica’s Belgian job search, you’ll find a constantly updated list of jobs in different sectors across the country.

EURES

If you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you can search for jobs in Belgium through EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal. This is maintained by the European Commission and designed to aid freedom of movement within the European Economic Area (EEA). As well as looking for work, you can upload your CV and get advice on the legal and administrative issues involved in working in Belgium.

Belgian employment services

Each region of Belgium has its own public employment office where you can browse job vacancies in Belgium, upload your CV, search for training courses, or get advice on your job search from a consultant online or at a local office:

  • Actiris covers the Brussels-Capital region
  • VDAB covers Flanders
  • Le Forem covers the Walloon region
  • ADG is for the German community in Belgium
  • ONEM is the national office of employment.

EU and NATO Belgian jobs

The European Union employs more than 40,000 people in various institutions, many of which are in Brussels. You do have to be a member of an EU country and usually also fluent in at least two or more languages. For information about working for the EU, current job vacancies both permanent and temporary, and to make online applications, see the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). You can also check EuroBrussels for jobs in EU organisations based in Brussels.

NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) also employs a lot of foreigners but you must come from a NATO country to apply.

Check out vacancies at other international agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in Belgium in the press in your home country or on the agency websites. You can find the names of all the NGOs in Belgium in the WANGO directory.

Job websites in Belgium

Jobs in Belgium for English speakers

Recruitment agencies in Belgium

Sign on with as many recruitment agencies as possible. They tend to specialise in different sectors. Look them up in the Belgian Golden Pages (in English). They should be recognised by the trade federation Federgon. You’ll also find most of the usual European and international employment agencies – such as Adecco, Hudson and Manpower Belgium – in Brussels and other major cities.

Teaching jobs in Belgium for English speakers

You can apply to become an English-language assistant in a state school or college through the British Council if you have an A-level, B1 or equivalent in French. If you have a TEFL/TESOL qualification you can look for a job with a private language school or business at TELF.com, ESL Base or i-to-i.

You can also check international schools in Belgium, Belgian universities or language schools in Belgium to see if anyone if hiring. Find more schools in Expatica’s listings of:

Belgian jobs in newspapers

You can find job ads in the weekend editions of the main nationals newspapers:

  • in Dutch – De Morgen, De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, De Tijd, Het Laatste Nieuws.
  • in French – La Dernière Heure, Le Soir, La Libre Belgique, La Meuse, L’Echo.
  • in German – Grenzecho.

These newspapers also have their own dedicated online jobs pages: Le Soir, Politico and Grenzecho.

Business networking

Belgium, and especially Brussels, is a fantastic place to network with so many international companies and expats already working there. As a result, many positions get filled through word-of-mouth without the need for advertising. There are trade associations, business groups and professional bodies, and networking organisations.

Here are a few of them:

You can also get in touch with other expats working in similar fields through meet-up groups.

Make the first move – speculative job applications

Speculative job applications are an acceptable way to find work in Belgium. Find companies by searching online at:

You can also look up international companies with offices in Belgium. When you submit speculative applications, make sure you find out which language to use and to whom you should address it.

Traineeships, interships and volunteering in Belgium

The EU offers traineeships for university graduates via the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages), otherwise internships or summer placements can be arranged by AIESEC (for students and recent graduates) or IAESTE (for students in science, engineering and applied arts). Interships can also be found at Europlacement and Intern Abroad.

For those aged between 17 and 30, volunteer programs are arranged by the European Voluntary Service (EVS), where you work abroad for up to 12 months in exchange for board, food, insurance and a small allowance. Concordia is another organisastion for volunteer opportunities.

Start your own business

Foreigners can also consider setting up a business or as a freelancer in Belgium.

 

Applying to jobs in Belgium

Once you have found suitable Belgian jobs, you’ll need to know how to put together a Belgian-style CV and cover letter to make sure your application gets the consideration it deserves. To find out how to prepare your CV and covering letter, and well as what to expect in a Belgian job interview, see our guide to Belgian CVs and interview tips.

Information on working in Belgium

Belgian job applications: Writing a Belgian CV and interview tips

How to write a Belgian-style CV and cover letter plus tips on job interviews in Belgium to give you the best chance of finding a job in Belgium.

After you find a job in Belgium, you should adapt your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) and interview techniques to match the general expectations in the Belgium job market. Don’t just send the company the same CV you’ve used for jobs in your home country; instead give yourself the best chance of getting a job in Belgium by producing a Belgian-style CV and accompanying cover letter. Learning a few Belgian cultural traits can also help you avoid making behavioural errors if you are invited to a Belgian job interview. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for your Belgian job application, including writing a Belgian-style CV and interview tips.

Your Belgian job application: Which language?

Belgium has three official languages – Dutch, French and German – and it’s essential that you write your application in the correct language. Except in the Belgian capital Brussels, most Flemings would not appreciate being addressed in French, or Walloons in Dutch. As a guide, write your CV in the same language as the job advertisement.

If you’re applying for a job in Brussels, and you’re not sure which language to use, check with the company beforehand whether it’s suitable for you write the application in English or French. If you do write your application in a foreign language, be sure to ask a native speaker to check through your application for grammatical and spelling errors. Below we provide more detail on how to arrange your CV and what to highlight.

Applying for a job in Belgium

You may be asked to apply for a job in Belgium by completing an online application or sending your CV and a cover letter by email or post. The aim of the CV and cover letter is to get yourself though the door and in front of an interviewer. You don’t have to give every last detail in your CV and covering letter but you do need to draw out the skills and experience to show that you are the right person for the job.

When you’re putting them together, bear in mind that Belgian employers pay a lot of attention to experience, motivation and social skills. Don’t enclose educational certificates, as you’ll take these along to the interview. Some employers may request a photograph, otherwise there is no obligation to provide one. If you do, choose a professional-looking head shot with an appropriate background.

Writing a Belgian-style CV

Make sure you write the CV in the correct language: Flemish for companies in Flanders (in the north), French for companies in Wallonia (in the south) and French or English for companies in Brussels, depending on what is specified in the job advertisement.

The usual style is reverse chronological order, that is, the most recent first. Belgian CVs tend to be relatively detailed but recent trends are moving towards using just one or two sides of A4 for major companies, although longer is still fine for smaller, local companies. Keep it factual, accurate and professional looking, and use good quality paper – or a letterhead – if printed.

Arrange your CV in the following order, providing as much precise, detail as possible:

  • Personal details – name, address, date of birth, telephone number (with international dialling code if appropriate), email address and nationality (marital status optional). It might be useful to mention maritual status if it will aid in the process of getting a Belgian work permit, for example, if you’re a non-European national married to a Belgian citizen.
  • Work experience – list company names, the positions you held and key responsibilities as bullet points; it’s important to highlight experience and skills particularly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Work experience is important in Belgium, so be precise in your detail: include start and end dates of each position, plus major projects, major achievements, training courses or technical skills, and how many people you supervised. However, Belgian culture is typically modest and conservative, so only supply brief, vital information so you don’t appear as bragging, even if you were the company’s best salesperson they had ever hired.
  • Education – list names of educational institutions, dates, course title and grades but only include those educational qualifications that relate to the position for which you’re applying. If this is your first job since qualifying, then ‘education’ should come above ‘work’.
  • Language – if you have language skills, then include full details of these, including the level (fluent, intermediate, beginner) and any course or language certificate you have completed.
  • Personal information – Belgians are interested in extra-curricular activities, so do include details of these on your CV, particualarly if you are a university graduate with little work experience. You might include any courses taken, voluntary work, hobbies or recreational activities; if you played an important role, such as manager of a group, or had any other achievements, for example a music certificate, list these to highlight certain skills you might have obtained, such as discipline or leadership skills.
  • Reference: add names of any references that you have notified.

The Flanders government job site provides examples of a Belgian-CV and cover letter.

Writing a Belgian-style covering letter

If you’re applying for a job in the French region you may be asked to write your cover letter by hand, otherwise typically it should be typed. If it’s the Flemish part of the country, then always type it. Make sure it’s in the correct language. Don’t go into too much detail – that’s what your CV is for. Keep it short and to the point, stating the job title and setting out why you are the most suitable person for the job.

The outcome of your application

Belgian employers do not always reply to job applications, particularly if you sent a speculative application. If you don’t hear anything about your job application within four weeks, you may assume your application hasn’t been successful.

Belgian job interviews and the selection procedure

Before the job interview, find out as much as possible about the company and the job you’re applying for. You should know your own CV inside out, prepare answers to questions about your motivations – why you want the job, why you want to work for this particular company – and how your skills and experience make you the best person for the job. Think of a few questions to ask your interviewers at the end of the interview (and not just about the salary). Don’t brag – Belgians are typically modest, and they will be assessing your social interaction skills.

Depending on the job you might be asked to sit psychometric, psychological, intelligence or aptitude tests as part of the interview process.

Don’t forget to take your educational certificates along with you.

Interview tips

  • Wear appropriate, smart, clothing – no jeans or trainers.
  • Be punctual, and make sure your mobile/cell phone is turned off.
  • Greet with a handshake and don’t sit until invited – if a woman enters the room it’s considered courteous for men to rise.
  • Use the interviewer’s title, not his or her first name.
  • Maintain eye contact (but don’t stare the interviewer out).
  • The interview may start with some small talk to put you at your ease but the interview itself will probably be fairly formal.
  • Be honest – resist the urge to brag or big up your experience or skills – and self assured and quietly confident.
  • Belgians value compromise and negotiation so try to give specific examples to demonstrate your skill in this area.
  • Inter-personal skills are highly rated in Belgium – demonstrate yours in the interview.
  • Belgians appreciate common sense, so try to show you have plenty.
  • Give examples with clear facts and figures – detail and precision will be appreciated.
  • If you’re asked about past business successes and failures try to give examples that show what you learned from these.
  • Keep positive – don’t be negative about yourself or criticise a previous employer.
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