Hunted Worldwide is the series that introduces you to recruitment hubs from Austin to Zurich. This week, we’re in Amsterdam. And Jay Freeman, Managing Partner at Panda International, is showing us around.
Jay swapped London for Amsterdam to further his career in recruitment a decade ago. Since then he co-founded Panda, who have recently moved into a freshly refurbished open plan office where everything’s brand new, from the Sonos speakers to the noise-cancelling headsets.
From the land of clogs, windmills and bicycles, Panda recruit into the life sciences market. Covering every vertical in the drug development life cycle: from production, quality and supply chain through to clinical.
There are some of the worlds biggest companies in Amsterdam. Liberty Global, Shell, Unilever along with banking clients ING and ABN AMRO.
Industries represented include electronics, chemical, automotive, shipping, agriculture, horticulture, service industries, banking, media and a booming digital startup market too.
The global Life Sciences sector is one of the highest regulated on the planet. And as a result, demand for highly skilled professionals outstrips supply.
For both permanent and contract sides of the business it’s typically a candidate driven market.
Finding jobs to fill is never an issue, however finding the best candidates is more so. Networking and development of relationships is important to ensure your candidate net can be cast as wide as possible. Without the candidate pool, success may be hard to ensure.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is relocating from London to Amsterdam later in 2019. Not only will the move itself create jobs, but the number of global companies that will base themselves close to EMA’s new home will see a huge impact on the supply:demand ratio in the Dutch market.
The split at Panda’s about 5 to 1 in favour of contract. It’s highly rewarding, given that the margins you’ll be working to here will be much higher than they are elsewhere.
Ordinarily in the Netherlands, perm takes precedence. Although due to the desire to bring niche skills and experience into a constantly evolving market, the contract scene in the Netherlands is extremely healthy.
Like most metropolitan cities, the professional community isn’t merely about connecting on LinkedIn and hoping for the best. Doing repeat business and winning candidates takes effort. Normally in the form of meetings, coffees, beers, meetups and networking events or conferences.
A lot of the time, events tend to be candidate driven, as with the market. If you know a lot of people, the Dutch tend to be inclusive, and will go out of their way to introduce you to others if they can.
Sponsoring client drinks or seminars etc is a great way to get a leg up, but really time served networking will work better than anything forced.
The Dutch are direct. Which means in business, you’ll know where you stand. They’re not fussed if you’re a Consultant or the CEO: they speak to everyone on the same level and aren’t shy about giving it to you straight down the line.
The Dutch operate a mostly horizontal hierarchy. The idea being that equality’s better for decision making and productivity. Execs don’t flaunt their power and will be on first name terms with entry level employees.
If you’re coming from the UK, you’ll notice the pace of business is slower. Timescales are stuck to, no matter the outside influence. So if your candidate has another offer with a rival company, a hiring manager’s unlikely to be swayed into moving any quicker just to appease you.
The first language spoken in Amsterdam’s obviously Dutch. Like anywhere you go in the world, if you try to speak the native language with even minimal proficiency, it’ll go a long way.
Dam’s an expat-friendly place to work. The standard of spoken English is at a high standard, and most Dutch professionals will have been taught it at school, so it’s unlikely you’ll find anyone who doesn’t speak it.
In the Panda office, the split’s about 50/50 between Dutch and non-Dutch Consultants, with the team hailing from all over Europe.
Life Sciences recruitment is very process-driven, particularly on the contract side. Clients of a certain size use MSPs and RPOs, so the bulk of your BD might manifest as low stakes check-ins until a spot on the PSL opens up.
SMEs and startups are generally better for spot business. And line manager contact is easier without a huge HR and Internal Recruitment department.
Amsterdam’s a small city. Even by European standards. Because of this, there’s no established CBD per sé. And getting from one side of the city will take you a matter of minutes.
Panda are right on the canals close to the centre, with plenty of restaurants, bars, jazz clubs and casinos a stones throw away.
Situated in the heart of Europe with four regular seasons, dressing to impress in Amsterdam means matching the occasion.
Obviously this will depend on your market but generally speaking, turning up to a client meeting in a pin striped suit means you’re likely to be overdressed.
So it’s not fully dress down. Smart casual’s your best bet.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Amsterdam’s bigger than it is. Particularly if you’re coming from a city that’s Uber-convenient to jump in a taxi. Going by car can take longer than simply hopping on a bike.
In Amsterdam it’s all about cycling.
Hop on a bike and you’ll realise how compact the city is. From wherever you are, most places can be reached in 10 minutes.
There are drier routes to take in the winter: the tram, buses and the metro are all good options. And the recently opened underground connects the north and south of the city. Though by and large, if you don’t mind a stroll most places can be reached on foot.
Overall, quite similar to the UK. In fact, the Dutch enjoy complaining about the weather almost as much as Brits do.
Amsterdam’s close to the North Sea on its Western border meaning the weather can vary, but its climate tends to be mild, with four distinct seasons. Although it can be a little cooler than most cities due to its coastal location.
It may work out to be more cost effective to buy instead of rent. It’s unlikely you’ll need a deposit to buy in Amsterdam. You simply go to the bank, show how much you earn – refreshingly, they take commission into consideration as long as you can prove that you’re consistent – then make an offer.
Because the barrier for entry’s a bit lower, offers usually spark a bidding war which can drive house prices up. The demand for rental properties in the centre of Amsterdam is relatively high: what you’d expect from a major European capital city.
Bitterballen’s a dish that seems to divide opinion. They’re deep fried breadcrumb balls filled with meat in a roux. Essentially, a variation of a croquette. And you usually dip these in mustard. A welcome mouthful after a couple of jars on the canal.
On the whole, the food scene’s changed a great deal over the years. There’s an eclectic variety which sees Sushi just as available as high quality French cuisine. Everything your stomach could desire is here. And will be less expensive than other major European cities too.
Jay tells me De Pijp (The Pipe) is a cool, vibrant area to hang out. With plenty of options on hand.
Given that the best way to get around’s on a bike, it should tell you about how outdoors-y Amsterdam is.
There are about 30 parks in Amsterdam. And they’re a popular attraction for visitors and residents alike. Vondelpark alone constitutes 48 hectares, meaning even on the busiest summer days, you’ll find a spot to sunbathe.
And with plenty of open space, Amsterdam’s great for young families.
The social scene in Amsterdam is cosmopolitan and varied. The Dutch are above all a sociable bunch, and it can be an unwritten rule that if you’re friends with one member of a group, you’ll soon be introduced to the rest. ‘Gezelligheid’ I’m reliably informed is a Dutch word that encompasses this friendly attitude. Something you’ll be able to test at one of the many music festivals or King’s Day when the city comes to life.
You may have heard that certain “soft drugs” are legal in Amsterdam. You can buy weed, magic truffles, salvia and peyote cactus from coffee shops. This is indicative of the Dutch attitude to drug laws, which view consumption as a health matter similar to drinking alcohol.
As a result, Amsterdam culture’s known around the world and contributes to a truly unique social scene.
It isn’t the cheapest city in the world. And it’s by far the most expensive city in the Netherlands.
A beer will cost you €5. Two of which will make up a pint.
A 50m square apartment will set you back around €1,500 a month. And generally speaking, most things are about 30% more expensive than the Hague, less than an hour down the road. In fact, the cost of living could reasonably be compared to London.
Fortunately, big margins and the opportunity to build up a solid book of runners means you’re a string of placements away from leading the lifestyle you want.
Remember I mentioned it might make more financial sense to buy instead of rent? There are tax benefits to buying a house too. Although they’re complicated, it could mean a big break for homeowners.
Tax is something you should be looking at very carefully if you’re thinking of moving to the Netherlands. This handy tax calculator might be a good place to start.
The EU’s freedom of movement applies to any countries still within the European Union. Otherwise, the process for gaining a visa to work in the Netherlands can be quite difficult. This, as always, depends on your country of origin.
There are a number of companies who will be able to offer assistance for a fee. And most employers will be familiar with the process.
Schiphol Airport is one of the biggest in the world. You can get to pretty much anywhere from here. The Dutch usually nip off to Aruba, Curacao, Bali or Indonesia on their hols.
And there are ferry and train links with the UK and the rest of mainland Europe too.
A huge thank you to Jay Freeman for his time and insight in putting this article together. At the time of writing, Panda International are hiring:
Take a peak inside their offices on Hunted and pop Panda an anonymous message to apply directly.
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