Three major factors sparked Hannelore Waterschoot to start the recruitment agency Talentree helping internationals find a job in Belgium.
Hannelore worked at Vlerick Business School in Gent for the last 12 years. During that time she noticed the international alumni had troubles finding a job when graduating. Also Hannelore’s sister’s husband from Egypt struggled to find a job in Belgium. The increasing amount of refugees entering Belgium was the third reason. It caused Hannelore to really take action on making the situation easier for internationals looking for employment in Belgium.
She had the feeling that a foreign background coupled with a lack of a local network makes it difficult also for highly educated, skilled, internationals to get jobs. Not being fluent in all three languages of Dutch, French and English were also major roadblocks.
As a solution she saw a recruitment platform matching companies valuing diversity with a talent pool consisting of various international profiles, in other words Talentree connects (local) international talents with European growth companies.
Talentree won a Startup Weekend competition
She participated almost immediately at the start of her sabbatical from Vlerick at an event called Startup Weekend in Leuven in April 2016. At the startup weekend she pitched the idea, formed a team around it and won 1st place! Talentree was born!
As a prize the Talentree team got the Start.it@kbc award with access to the incubator and a membership to the Bright and Young (BRYO) network of the flemish chambers of commerce (VOKA). Since then Hannelore found a team of learning and development professionals volunteering to help Talentree. Now they are busy with building a portfolio of candidates looking for a job and getting organizations to enrol and offer their positions.
During the market research Hannelore noticed that while it might not be crucial to know Dutch when someone starts a new job in Flanders, it is necessary to be able to continue working. The main reason is for the employed to be able to communicate with his or her colleagues. This is why “we at Talentree recommend candidates to commit to learn Dutch and take classes as soon as possible” she says.
Challenges of hiring internationals
Hannelore states there certainly are challenges for companies when it comes to hiring internationals:
“They are not used to foreigners and prefer to stay with the “safe” option of hiring someone local”, she says.“In some cases there can also be more administration with obtaining work permits and such. Internationals might also be difficult to reach with open positions, as the employers don’t know which channels to use.”
Talentree tackles these challenges by supporting companies in their search and focussing on the benefits, depending on the specific needs of the company. Diversity proves to spark new ideas and innovation. It also creates a more diverse employer branding, opens insights in new consumer markets and leverages international business development. As an example Hannelore gives the shoe shop Torfs.
“Torfs consciously employs team members wearing headscarves because they had a growing customer base with migration background and want to represent this customer diversity in their talent pool.” Hannelore says.
Newcomer Induction Management Acceleration Programme
Talentree also launched an educational programme with Vlerick Business School aimed at providing a faster integration of highly-educated newcomers within the Belgian labour market. This project is carried out with the support of the European Social Fund and the Flemish Government. The project follows a successful example of the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden, where 80% of the highly-educated participants obtained a job at the end of the trajectory. The programme consists of an educational management training combined with an internship and intensive coaching and mentoring for both participating talents and internship companies.
From September through March, a group of highly-educated newcomers follow a management training of 20 days during which both leadership skills and the different sub domains of management are addressed. Next to this, they do an internship of 6 months (in collaboration with VDAB) combined with intensive mentoring and coaching, also for companies.
You can find out more and apply to be a participant company or newcomer by following this link.
Find a job in Belgium? Contact Talentree
Hannelore urges anyone who is looking for a job and has:
- An international profile or multicultural background
- A degree or relevant working experience
- A residence and work permit in Belgium
- Proficiency in English or French or Dutch
to apply to be part of the Talentree talent pool, by filling out the form on www.talentree.be.
Also companies valuing diversity in the workforce should contact Talentree via firstname.lastname@example.org
Talentree organises also info sessions in various parts of Belgium. At the sessions both potential candidates and companies can learn more about Talentree and meet the team.
You can also get more tips by reading our The Square.Gent post “How To Find A Job in Ghent Without Speaking Dutch“.
About the author:
Jenny is originally from Finland and moved to Ghent in 2019. Now she works as self-employed organising events, supporting businesses with marketing and helping people starting their own businesses by being a community manager of Entrepreneurs Anonymous & co-organiser of Freelance Business Day. Find out more and connect with her on LinkedIn.