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I would like to ask whether it is generally considered OK to call the HR department of a company to ask for further details regarding a job post (not a job application). I work in the Civil Engineering sector.

I am currently looking for new opportunities in the Netherlands. Unlike in the US the job posts often have a number listed for the HR department and something along the lines of:

"Please send your letter of motivation and CV to ... or contact HR via ..."

Since I am not an EU citizen I have taken on a habit of calling these numbers before I even try to apply and asking a number of questions:

  • Is the job open to non-EU citizens?
  • How important is mastery of Dutch language for that particular position?
  • Further questions if the job description is unclear on technical level.

I never try to place myself or discuss my personal eligibility directly or whether I am a good candidate. I try to frame these questions as generally as possible and even avoid giving my name or the contents of my CV. Of course I am not seeking to interfere with their hiring process. Rather I am trying to assess beforehand if me applying is worth the time and effort. I would like to avoid spending hours on an application for which I will be immediately eliminated for one of the above reasons.

So far I have not gotten any negative responses to these "cold" calls, but I do wonder whether I am putting them on the spot because I would like to avoid doing that.

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    There are some questions on this site regarding the issue mastering of the ... language: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/141732/… – Bernhard Döbler Oct 15 at 15:35
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    "and even avoid giving my name or the contents of my CV" Don't do that. If you call and ask some relevant questions regarding the position, you are an above-average candidate (not taking qualifications into consideration). Give them the option of noting that. – Roland Oct 16 at 10:38
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Yes, this is very OK.

If you have any questions about the post, it is better to ask for more information than submit an application and it ended up being a waste of yours and the recruiter's time.

As an expat working in the Netherlands, I'd just add a point of caution: make sure that the information you're asking for clarification is indeed not written in the posting somehow. You can be dismissed as not having sufficient English skills to comprehend the text.

Is the job open to non-EU citizens?

If the posting says the company is not sponsoring work visas, or that you must have a valid Dutch work permit, that means that the job is for EU citizens only OR you must already have a Dutch visa if you're going to apply for that position.

Sometimes is not that the company is not willing to pay for the visa process or the moving - both of which are very costly, they might not be on the list of companies that are authorized by the government to sponsor work visas. You can find the list here in case you want to double-check.

How important is mastery of Dutch language for that particular position?

The Netherlands is a very international country and one of the most expat-friendly I've seen, especially because a lot of people speak English, very good English.

Especially in big companies or companies that work in international settings (like logistics, technology, etc.) if they list Dutch as a requirement it is because the job you're going to do:

  1. Will involve communication that needs to be done exclusively in Dutch (especially true for jobs that involve legal matters or dealing with authorities / local bureaucracy)
  2. You'll work with a workforce that doesn't have that good mastery of English (especially true for jobs that involve a "lower-educated" workforce)
  3. You'll have to deal with subjects that are not easy to convey in English or that people do not feel comfortable discussing in a second language (especially true for health / HR)
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    "Non-EU citizens" may have a "valid Dutch work permit"... – Stobor Oct 15 at 23:18
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    @Stobor Good point. The "valid Dutch work permit" is more like "we're not sponsoring your visa" – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 16 at 7:44
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If an employer provides contact information, it's done with the expectation that you may want to contact them. And, given the example questions you've posted, it seems like you have a legitimate need to contact them - these are typical questions that a candidate may want to clear with HR prior to applying for a job, and if the answers aren't specified in the job description, it makes sense to ask beforehand.

Think of this from the other side of the equation - the employer's HR department doesn't want their time or resources wasted reviewing a candidate who isn't even employable, so they are probably happy you called to clarify, as well.

And, in any situation, it always makes sense to evaluate the evidence at hand, even if anecdotal - the fact that you haven't received any negative response would reinforce the notion that it's OK to ask these questions ahead of time.

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    Thank you for your encouragement. I had the feeling I was not doing anything wrong but needed confirmation. – user32882 Oct 15 at 14:59
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Rule of thumb: When in doubt, always ask.

The company (if a sensible one) will appreciate your efforts for calling them to confirm the eligibility, which saves a lot of time and effort for both the sides.

If I get a negative response / vibe for calling a prospective employer up for legitimate reasons, I'll think twice to even make an application.

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Is it OK to call company for more details about a job post (not an application)?

Yes this is always OK. If the job posting is unclear, it is better for everyone to clarify things before going into the interview process. This avoids wasting anyone's time. Don't consider your calls "cold calls", the company posted a position and you are merely inquiring about it.

  • Nice. In the third category I always only ask things like "I noticed that there is no indication in the job posts for the level of experience required for these positions, would it be possible to gain more information about that?" and so on and so forth... – user32882 Oct 15 at 14:58
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Is it OK to call HR for additional details on a job posting?

In short "Yes" it is OK to call.

Is the job open to non-EU citizens?

This is definitely within the wheelhouse of HR. They should be able to answer this question. That is what they are there for.

How important is mastery of Dutch language for that particular position?

This one should also be easy for HR to answer but if they are not 100% sure you can always ask to speak with the hiring manager.

Further questions if the job description is unclear on technical level.

This one will likely be harder for HR to answer and this is where I normally would ask to be transferred to the department in question to get some clarification. Most of the time this is not an issue to do so. Sometimes I have been told they cannot transfer me.

That all said you may or may not get any new information.

The HR department gets the details of the position from management and the HR personnel you would speak to often will not have a deep understanding of the position itself.

Sometimes they do and you get the info you need but in the case they don't then I would ask if you could speak with the hiring manager. It is fine to ask but not all places will allow this. The manager could be very busy or it is just against policy.

When I have encounter a position I was interested in but wanted more details I would simply call HR and ask some questions. If they say they are not sure or I am not satisfied with their answers I ask to speak with the hiring manager.

Honestly I have gotten through to the manager more often than not so it should not be an issue. That said if you cannot get through then the next best thing is to just apply and ask those questions during an interview if you are accepted for one.

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