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How to Write an International Resume

Verge asks the experts how to tailor your resume to land that job overseas.

Imagine yourself as a recruiter for a large, North American company. Hundreds of resumes are piled on your desk every day. At the top of today's pile is a five-page package from an applicant in France, listing everything that person has done in her lifetime, including published documents and university gradesall written in lengthy paragraph form. With hundreds of othermore concise resumes on your desk, would you even bother reading her document? For a professional resume to be effective, it should always be written with the target reader in mind. But what happens when your target reader is on the other side of the world? Impressing an international recruiter can be more challenging than impressing a local onein part due to differing social, cultural and professional expectations. But while it may be a little more work, it's certainly possible to get it right, even from another continent. So if you're getting ready to circulate your resume abroad, read on. Four resume experts weigh in below on how to target your own resume for the international job market.

Resume vs. Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A professional document that you're targeting for companies in France should be very different from one that you're circulating in Singapore, says David Edwards, director of the Business Career Centre at Queen's University. A resume is a North American style document; it's meant to be short (no more than two pages) and usually uses bullet points and short, snappy sentences. Resumes are typically accepted in countries that have North American influence, according to Edwards, like Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. A curriculum vitae (CV) is longer than the traditional North American resume - usually three to five pages. It tends to be more descriptive in nature and may even be written in paragraph form. A CV will usually include published papers as well as any testing and scores that you may have completed. This is the format used widely in continental Europe, according to Edwards. To ensure you're sending out the right document, always speak to the human resources department or the company recruiter beforehand to find out what style document (resume or CV) they prefer to receive and the desired length. Edwards also recommends organizing your resume in chronological order, even though it has become acceptable in some North American industries to organize resumes in order of the skills you've obtained. According to him, skills-based resume structures can create confusion for the reader, and can be seen as an attempt to camouflage gaps in employment. If you have a gap in employment worth mentioning, Edwards suggests addressing it in your cover letter rather than in your resume.

The Cultural Factor

In addition to which format to use, you'll also need to consider what information is pertinent to include, according to Margaret Malewski, author of GenXpat: The Young Professional's Guide To Making a Successful Life Abroad. In cultures like the United States and Britain, for example,

employers tend to emphasize a candidate's experience and transferable skills. They tend to look for examples of how an individual has made an impactlike the execution of a project or the achievement of a sales goal. "When looking at recent graduates, employers will favour those who have worked to put themselves through school, or at least have some work experience gained during their college years," Malewski explains. "Work experience at Starbucks, in this context, is an advantage, not a stigma. It is perceived as a sign of being a self-starter, a person who can manage multiple priorities and who is independent." Malewski contrasts this with continental Europe, where it is a matter of pride to parents that their children do not have to pay for school. "There is a very definite pecking order of universities, and the name of the school one has attended matters a great deal," says Malewski. "Therefore, continental resumes are much more likely to simply be lists of impressive schools one has attended, degrees one has obtained, and managerial positions one has held, since these matter more than what one has actually done in those places." Malewski recommends that you keep these social attitudes in mind when gearing your resume for a particular country. If you are a North American applying to a continental European or an Asian job, for example, Malewski says it is important to play up your formal qualifications like having attended a prestigious school or having worked for a well-known company, as well as any high grades or awards you've received. But regardless of its geographical location, any company that is considering hiring you from abroad will not only be interested in whether you can handle the job professionally, but whether you can adapt to a new culture and cope with its challenges. According to Jean-Marc Hachey, author of The Big Guide to Living and Working Overseas, you may want to highlight your relevant personality traits and international awareness. He suggests grouping all international experience together, listing all relevant work, volunteer and academic experience in one category. This can be a strong way to differentiate yourself from other candidates as someone who is a veteran of the international field. But don't worry if you haven't had much international experience yet. Philip Shea, Assistant Director of Admissions at York University's Schulich School of Business, recommends that you point out any academic courses that you've taken with international content or any previous employment where you've had contact with foreign cultures. This will add to your well-rounded persona even if you haven't left the country.

Personal Information and Cover Letter

When circulating your resume abroad, you might be asked to include more personal information than you normally would in North America, according to Margaret Malewski. While North American companies are not permitted to discriminate based on personal information, in Europe, information like age, nationality, marital status and children are all considered important factors that can affect a candidature and are usually included in one's CV. And sometimes, Malewski says, personal information like gender or race is just deduced by an applicant's name, photo or nationality. Sometimes asking a candidate to include such personal information or a photo can be innocent (it can help a foreign recruiter know whether to address you as Ms. or Mr.). But Philip Shea agrees that international recruiters sometimes base their decisions on factors that are unrelated to an applicant's professional qualificationsincluding gender or race. Unfortunately, this sometimes comes with the territory when applying to work abroad, where cultural stereotypes or discrimination can be present.

Ultimately, though, Shea says that you must decide what information you are comfortable including in your application. Whatever personal information you choose to include, Shea always recommends including the dates when you'll be in the country and whether you're willing to cover your own moving expenses. While a resume is a historical document and shows what you've accomplished in your professional life, a cover letter should look to the future and show desires, motivation, and why you're applying for the job, according to David Edwards. But Edwards says that people still tend to put too much information in a cover letter. He recommends that applicants pick two to three salient things that are going to impress the reader and play those up with a little colour to get the employer's attention. Get samples of cover letters from locals, suggests Margaret Malewski. Cover letters are more culturally relative than resumes, according to her, and some employers may even require them to be written by hand. International resumes - like cover letters - need to be customized for each target job and each target country. A little time spent researching both the country and the company will not only save you the time of sending inappropriate documents, but will also increase your success rate abroad. And isn't that the point of this whole exercise?

Top 7 International Resume Tips

Preparing a resume for a position overseas? Check out Verge's top 7 tips from the experts. If you don't have time to research the particular country and company you're applying to, you're better to err on the side of a shorter, resume-style document. According to David Edwards, even though some regions are accustomed to looking at CVs or longer-style documents, many would be comfortable with a resume style. You can put always put a note stating that if they want a more thorough document, to please request it. If you're going to be in the country, mail your resume from there. Philip Shea says this will show that you're serious about being there and that you're familiar with the country - all likely to increase your chances of getting noticed. Do not include references, says Margaret Malewski. If a potential employer is interested, he will ask. It is sufficient to put a note at the bottom of the document stating, "References available upon request." Always put your education above work experience. According to David Edwards, this will help frame your experience, and the reader will have less questions as he reads through your document. Most people create one resume for everyone. David Edwards suggests creating a four or fivepage master document - then cutting and pasting into a shorter document for each job you are applying for. In environments where jobs are mostly given to family members and friends, sending a resume will not be terribly effective. In these cases, Margaret Malewski says networking and befriending potential employers will go much further than a formal job application. Always include a Memberships and Interests' section at the end of the document. David Edwards says this is the only place that gives the company insight as to who you are outside the workplace. He suggests listing affiliations where you played a leadership or senior role, or an affiliation that is relevant but isn't listed in another part of the resume. The interests section, in particular, gives the interviewer the opportunity to break the ice during an interview.

How to Write an Effective International Resume

They Are Different From Domestic Resumes
Whether you are looking for your first professional international job after graduating with a master's degree, or you are applying for your first internship or volunteer position abroad you should be aware that international resumes are different from domestic resumes. For many, the idea of understanding international resumes is to figure out how to write a country specific resume, such as a Korean resume, a Portuguese resume, or an Italian resume. This idea is based on a false premise. You will rarely be applying for international work with an employer based in a foreign country. Ninety-five percent of the international jobs open to entry-level North American university students looking for professional international work will be with North American based employers or international organizations. These employers understand North American resumes styles. But there is a twist.

Three Big Differences

International resumes are different from domestic resumes because international employers place more emphasis on your personality. They focus on your international I.Q. They want to know that you will be effective in an international work environment. They are often less concerned with your technical skills. There are three building blocks to an international resume: First, you have to build a resume that shows your personality and is organized to match the employer's "ideal profile." Second, you need to emphasize your cross-cultural skills, especially in terms of the cross-cultural work environment. And last, there are a host of smaller detailsother differences that are unique to international resumes.

Show Your Professional Personality

International resumes highlight your skills and group information so that you do the analytical work for the recruiter. In this way nothing is left to chance. Employers will see you the way you want them to. Here are a few specific strategies to put personality into your resume. Career Objective: This fundamental statement about what you want to do and what you like to do suggests what you will most likely excel at. Everything that follows in a resume is written to support this objective. Personal and Professional Traits: This breakdown helps international employers know who you are and why you are good at your work. Make sure each trait is backed up with concrete examples in your job descriptions. This tactic is especially useful for those who are new to the job market and may not have enough material or experience to write a full 1-page Skills Summary. Skills Summary: This grouping is the most powerful tool you have. It gives you full control to tell employers who you are. It takes lots of self-analysis. Work hard on choosing subtitles. Write efficiently.

Education: If you are just graduating and have few professional work experiences, write up your education as if it were a job, listing three or four points under your degree. Tell employers who you are by first listing "Areas of Interest" (not courses taken). Write then about "Major Projects," the ones you excelled at. Write also about befriending international students and working in multicultural student work teams. You could also list tutoring, study abroad, and language learning. Professional Work Experience: By separating your professional jobs from non-professional work, you get to highlight jobs that support your objective, which employers appreciate. Write at least one third of a page on each of these important jobs. Job Descriptions: Include skills in your job descriptions, and for important jobs, consider grouping the description into functional areas. Example: "Marketing," "Administration," and "Writing." For each job, always list one item that states "why you were successful" or "what you were known for." This tells the employer tons about who you are and what makes you tick. Other Sections: Show your personality in other sections of your resume. Examples: for awards based on merit state why you received the award; for volunteer experience state what you accomplished; for travel provide details (e.g., "Enjoyed the challenges of getting around and interacting with officials while visiting Romania and Albania."). Order Within Sections: There are many lists within your resume. Always sort these by order of importance as to how they support your career objectives, with the most supportive item at the top. Thus in the details of your job description do not make the mistake of first listing the last task assigned or even the largest task; rather, list the task that best supports your objective. Group International Experience Together: By grouping your international experience under one section, you are increasing its impact and minimizing the chances that some of your international experience is missed. Under the subtitle "International Expertise and Understanding" list: international education or courses, cross-cultural and international experiences in North America and abroad (volunteering, interning, or working), language abilities, and international travel. Length of Resume: An international resume can be longer since it includes more information about your personality. A 3- to 4-page resume is normal. But don't forget every word must count (no gobbledygook please, efficient writing only!); and everything must be formatted to allow for speed-reading (subtitle your skills inventory, use functional job titles, break down long jobs into functional areas).

Sell Your Cross-Cultural Skills

Let employers know that you are aware of the unique set of skills required to be successful in a cross-cultural work environment. Here are a few examples on where and how to mention these skills. Skills Summary: Enjoys cross-cultural work environments; Adept and attracted to multicultural environments, both socially and at work.

Job Descriptions: Positive attitude toward change and new environments; Sensitive to the dynamics of a cross-cultural work place; Ability to relate to people of different personalities and backgrounds; Tolerant, curious, and appreciative of different work patterns while remaining committed to deadlines. Education: Completed many projects within a multi-ethnic student team in order to gain cross-cultural work experience. Volunteer Experience: Lived with a local family and successfully adapted to cultural changes. Language: Ability to learn languages quickly when traveling. Travel: Adept at building relationships while remaining street wise when traveling in developing countries.

Address Other Differences

There are a host of small differences to watch out for in an international resume. Obviously, language and travel descriptions need to be more detailed. But what about listing citizenship, especially if you have a foreign sounding name. List marital status if you are single, have no dependents, and are available for travel. List your spouse's occupation if he or she has a mobile career such as teaching or nursing. Take care to provide a permanent email address since international employers sometime contact applicants many months after applying.

A Last Word
It is most powerful to write an international resume with a career objective. While the objective can be broadly based, it has a specific career focus. You will be successful if you build each section and write each description to support your objective.