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My experience with the Dutch ONA

The Dutch ONA is, in theory, simple. It’s the Orientation on the Dutch Labor Market. Meaning you understand how the Dutch job system works. You can also apply for a job, understand what schooling would is important and how to be a competent worker. Easy right? Especially for someone who had held a job. Ah well.. If only it was that simple. I was nervous about it so I bought the workbook to help me.

I understand that they want to make sure that foreigners understand the market… But I enjoy working from home. Sure, I’m not getting paid (this blog is too small for sponsorships!) but I love what I do here. For the time being I don’t have any intentions of becoming a member of the workforce but I needed to do this anyway…

The Dutch ONA has 8 cards to fill in.

Occupational orientation
What sort of job would be perfect for you? You can choose 3 jobs to talk about but from those you need to choose what job you’d like to focus on. This card talks about the reasons for why you choose that particular job and what are your qualifications for it.

Realistic professional image
This card addresses your personal preferences when it comes to job. What hours would you like to keep? What dress attire is appropriate? Do you need to improve on yourself to be able to take this job? Also where would you like to work? A commute is serious, how do you feel about that? These questions are all answered here.

Know your characteristics
This card is all about your personality. It’s short and to the point, which is nice!

Professional opportunities
This card is all about job listings. I used Monster.nl to find my listings and came away with 261 for my chosen field. I had to list two job listings and explain why I wanted to apply for this jobs.

Professional competences
This particular card talks about what extra course I could take to help me with my job. Thanks to my wonderful tutor, we found something that was not only relevant, but also interesting to talk about. I listed the course, why I wanted to take it, and how it would benefit me.

Building a network
Everyone has a social network but this card addressed that on a professional level. I have a few Dutch contacts that I was able to list, including Sander’s boss!

To find a job
This card was all about internships and the like. Did I want to do volunteer work? Did I want to do an internship? I said no to both as I’ve done all this in America.

Work culture
This card is about the differences in work culture. Want to know a good one? In The Netherlands people get so much time off of work. And it’s all paid vacation time!


The long wait
I’ve heard horror stories of people waiting for up to 8 months to hear back from the people at the ONA. I was so terrified about missing my due date that I worked hard and submitted my paper work as fast as I could. It took 2 weeks to hear back. Then another 2 weeks for my appointment date. I had to go in and then talk to two people about my answers on my cards.

First time’s a charm
Except this time it was not. I went in blind without knowing what to talk about. I had been busy cramming for my other exams. See this was the situation. I registered a month earlier for the last of my tests. I had signed up for Dutch writing, speaking, and general knowledge of the culture (I had saved the hardest for last). Then two weeks before my scheduled date I get a letter in the mail. You have your Dutch ONA appointment on this date. It was the same date as my exams.

I didn’t have time to review my answers or understand them well. There was information that wasn’t satisfactory. I was missing valuable knowledge for my interview and I failed. My errors list went on and on. I was heartbroken for a week.

For my 2nd attempt I called in a professional, my tutor! We went over the answers that I assumed I got wrong. She opened my eyes to what the questions were asking for. Boy was I off in some places! Together we redid the trouble areas and resubmitted my answers. Two weeks later I got a notice that the answers were good enough for me to apply for a new appointment. And I did.

I had my 2nd Dutch ONA interview the morning of August 29th. It was at 10am and Sander dropped me off about an hour and a half early. He had to go to work of course. The commute via public transport would have taken forever so he decided to drive me. I waited in the brisk morning air for the building to open. After that I went inside and signed in. After that I had to wait another hour before my appointment. I saw my older interviewer and my heart dropped.

Thankfully I was called in by someone else. The two ladies this time around were wonderful and seemed thrilled for me to be there. We talked about my cards, my answers, my hopes and dreams and anything else they wanted to know. Mid interview I noticed that my heart wasn’t pounding. I actually felt comfortable answering their questions. They told me it would take 10 days to see my results online. I left with a smile and I don’t want to get my hopes up but this time felt so good.


The moral of the story is sometimes there are situations that can’t be helped! You have to put on a stiff upper lip and keep moving forward!

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    August 10, 2020 at 11:04 am

    I am also about to do ONA interview. I had no idea what would happen there. But thanks to your blog I can imagine now. Nurvous nurvous! Bedankt voor je informatie!

    • Reply
      August 10, 2020 at 11:20 am

      You’re welcome! Just do your best to keep calm and believe in yourself! Good luck!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Lily, it’s good to stumble on your blog. I’m Indonesian living in Breda. Good to know somebody who had experienced ONA, cause soon ill have to do it too. I have questions about Ona, do you mind correspondence with me through email or whatsapp? Btw Do we have to speak fluent dutch? Because i don’t speak dutch very well, and plus the nervousness, I’m afraid i can’t answer them correctly. Thank you

    • Reply
      September 8, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      I would love to! I’ll shoot you an email right now!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Lily and Nely, I wonder if you could give some examples of questions asked? I sent my portfolio and got a positive response. I am just as nervous as you (were)- going for my interview mid Dec. I would like to prepare as best as i can for potential questions…they might ask. Any info from your experience would really help! thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      November 23, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      Of course! One question I remember, was why I wanted to do my chosen occupation. I responded that I love art, making things on a computer, and working with other people. My education was also in graphic design and I loved making websites. There was a super specific one about why I wanted to work with a smaller company. They also asked why I wanted to take a course on UI (User Interface) design. I mentioned that it was the next step in web design and I had no previous experience with it. Just look at your answers and consider the possibilities behind them. If you want to be a baker, why do you like that? Do you enjoy baking? Or maybe because you want to bring a smile to someone’s face? If you want to be a doctor then it’s because you care about people, right? Haha

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