How to enter the Dutch Market as a non-Dutch Recruitment Tech company?

5 tips to access the gateway of the European Recruitment Tech scene by Geert-Jan Waasdorp

The Dutch market is often seen as a breeding ground for recruitment tech companies that want to enter ‘main land’ Europe. Often these companies started in the UK or US and wanted to make their next move into Europe, especially Germany and France. The Netherlands is their gateway to the European market. A strategy that companies like LinkedIn and Indeed successfully pulled of.

Some of the success factors are that the Dutch are multilingual and speak English well, have a very developed flex and contracting business (Randstad is Dutch and the second largest in the world) and have a very orderly, and small country. And this reflects on their recruitment market. Within 2 hours driving everyone is in physical reach. Also, the Dutch are known for their innovative character of recruitment, with a lot of successful international companies, of which a lot have been bought in recent years. For example PeopleXS by TalentSoft, Textkernel by Careerbuilder and Connexys by BullhornTo enter Europe as an ambitious HR tech or Recruitment tech enterprise, you first must conquer the Netherlands.

In this short blog, I will give 5 tips to access (do’s and don’ts) the Dutch recruitment market.

1.      The Dutch market is very small and crowded with hundreds of providers, start-ups, scale-ups and local contractors. The most important ones you can find in the Dutch recruitment tech landscape 2019.

This looks like a lot, but if you get to know this market better, you will see that barely 50 of them are influential. This means that it’s easy to become visible once you know how to reach and impact your target audience. A company like did this very successfully in 2016/2017 and became a strong brand in just one year. It takes a great story, a great product and approximately 100K euros of marketing budget. Once you have managed to captivate your audience, you start to get visibility at recruitment blogs like in the Netherlands.

2.      Another way to access the Dutch market, is to do this the informal way, by networking and being present on all the main events, like and all the important others. Talent Acquisition Live is the most important international recruitment event of the Netherlands. Of course, participating as a visitor is a first step, but also being there as speaker, acting as a thought leader and tell, blog or vlog about your experience and knowledge. Knowing the most influential people (for example the jury of ‘most influential recruiter’, ‘Werf& live awards’, ‘Digitaal Werven’) can be very helpful. If they like you and your product, the buzz around your brand begins. But it all starts by being present at (all) the events….

3.      The easiest way to be successful in Germany is to be a native German. In the Netherlands it is not as necessary to speak Dutch to be successful, but the product has a better chance of success when it’s multilingual. That way it is open to the complete market. Having a native version of your product helps a lot in mainland Europe, because in Germany, France, Spain, Italy (everywhere else) this is critical. Vendors who try to sell a primarily English product to the Dutch market, almost all fail. This despite everyone speaking English. We call this the Harry-Potter effect. Most of the adults can read English and wanted to read the new Harry Potter book. But 700,000 readers of the book waited 6 months for the Dutch translation, before reading it. In other words, selling your product will be easier if it is also translated into Dutch.

4.      A lot of Dutch start- and scale-ups are growing in Europe and globally, like VonqAdver-OnlineTextkernelWCCCammioIntelligence GroupOtysHarverAppical,Onrecruit, Jobboost.ioTrendingjobsEndoubleWonderkind. Many of their founders or innovation managers are prepared to share information about do’s and don’ts. Some also come together on global events like Zukunft Personal. This is one of the main ways smaller companies become big. Because the Dutch reach out to each other (and think twice before investing a lot of money), they act together and share (leads) together. A lot of them work together for lead generation, simply because they are not competitors, and/or the global market is so much bigger than the Netherlands.

5.      Forget about your sales pitch. In the Netherlands you need to sell on added value. Even when you are sponsoring drinks and free tickets, the Dutch and especially the Dutch recruiters hate listening to commercial content and an obvious sales pitch. That’s why on the main events, vendors don’t speak themselves, but their clients do. But one good client story doesn’t build a brand! So, combine rich content with a creative out-of-the-box action. I would be lying if I said a nice (free) gadget won’t help, except for the omni-present giveaway pens. But an out-of-the-box action will do even better. Great example is (was) of course SocialTalent. Great content, great visibility and their Black Belt Ninja Sourcers.

Good luck in winning the hearts of the Dutch. It’s easier than it’s made out to be and “bier and bitterballen” can also do the trick.