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Some General Advice

  • The terms résumé and CV (curriculum vitae) generally mean the same thing, that is, a document describing one’s ­educational and professional experience. A CV is typically a ­lengthier ­version of a résumé, complete with numerous attachments.

Note: The average length for a résumé or CV is two pages. Never try to “get around the rules” by shrinking your font size to an unreadable level or printing your résumé on the front and back sides of one piece of paper.

  • Different countries use different terms to describe what a ­résumé/CV should contain.
  • “Cover letters” are called “letters of interest” in some countries and “motivation letters” in others.
  • Do not attach photographs to résumés in the United States; the employer will dispose it off. In many other countries, it is standard procedure to attach a photo or have your photo printed on your CV.
  • Some countries require original copies of transcripts and references to be attached to your application.
  • Education requirements differ from country to country. In ­almost every case of “cross-border” job hunting, stating the title of your degree will not be an adequate description. The reader might not have a clear understanding of what you studied or for how many years (that is, in some countries, a university degree can be obtained in three years and in other countries it takes five years to receive a degree).
  • If you are a recent graduate and depending heavily on your educational background to get a job, provide the reader with ­details about your studies and any related projects/experience. The same advice is true for seasoned professionals who have participated in numerous training or continuous education courses.

Note: The general rule is that your university training becomes a“line item” on your résumé (that is, no further details needed) once you have five or more years of professional experience.

  • If you have specific training, education or expertise, use ­industry-accepted terminology in your description.
  • Pay attention to the résumé format you use—chronological or reverse-chronological order. Chronological order means listing your oldest work experience first. Reverse chronological order means listing your current or most recent experience first. Most countries have preferences about which format is most acceptable. If you find no specific guidelines, the general preference is that a résumé/CV be written in a reverse-­chronological ­format.
  • The level of computer technology and accessibility to the ­Internet varies from country to country. Even if a company or individual lists an e-mail address, there is no guarantee that they actually receive your e-mail. Send a hard copy of your ­résumé/CV via “snail mail” just to make sure that it is received.
  • The safest way to ensure that your résumé is “culturally correct” is to review as many examples as possible. Ask the employer or recruiter for examples of résumés that they thought were particularly good.
  • If you are submitting your résumé in English, find out if the recipient uses British English or American English. There are variations between the two versions. A reader who is ­unfamiliar with the variations may presume that your résumé contains typos. Most European companies use British English though most United States companies—no matter where they are based in the world—use American English.
  • Most multinational companies will expect you to speak the languages of their country and English, which is widely accepted today as being the universal language of business. Have your résumé/CV drafted in both languages and be prepared for your interview to be conducted in both languages. Most companies want to “see” and “hear” actual proof of your language skills.
  • If you can, ask someone who is a native speaker of the language in which your résumé/CV is written to review your document. Résumés/CVs written by non-native language speakers tend to include terms that are correct in the exact translation but are not used on an everyday basis. One goal of your résumé/CV is to show your familiarity with the culture by using culturally-appropriate language. For example, several foreign résumés/CVs submitted to US employers describe university/college education as “tertiary” education. Although “tertiary” is literally correct, it is a term that is almost never used in the United States.
  • Be aware that paper sizes are of different dimensions in different countries. The United States standard is 8½ × 11 inches whereas the European A-4 standard is 210 × 297 mm. When you are transmitting your résumé/CV via e-mail, go to “page setup” on your computer and reformat your document to the recipient’s standard. Otherwise, when they print it out on their end, half of your material will be missing! The same is true for sending a fax. If at all possible, purchase stationery that has the same dimensions as the recipient’s and mail/fax your résumé on that stationery.
  • Work permit and visa regulations appear very similar from country to country. In very general terms, most employers who want to hire “foreigners”, “aliens” or “expatriates”, must be able to certify to the government that they were unable to find locals with the required skill sets. The fastest way to be hired abroad is either to seek a country where there is a shortage of people with your skills (IT backgrounds are pretty “hot” ­everywhere) or to be an “intra-company” transfer from ­another country. Be aware that obtaining a work permit can take many months.
To be successful and enjoy your experience abroad, you must be flexible and open-minded, and both eager and willing to learn new ways of doing things. People everywhere appreciate individuals who are interested in getting to know them and learn about their ways of ­doing things. Enormous cultural faux pas are forgiven for ­individuals who are making honest attempts to fit in. Be patient and observant. Ask questions and show your interest in learning and broadening your horizons. Be aware that you represent your country to everyone you meet. You may be the first Australian that a German has ever met. Both of these individuals will walk away from the initial encounter assuming that all Australians or all Germans are just like you. So, go out and give the world a twirl.

Translate Your Résumé for Electronic Eyes

An important tool in your “job-search toolbox” is your résumé. It is your ticket to a job interview. It should be clear, concise, objective-­oriented and easy to read. A great-looking résumé, however, may be ­invisible to the “electronic eye” of a computer. Electronic selection relieves an ­employer from having to look through giant piles of ­paper to screen potential employees. Since employers receive hundreds of résumés for ­every job they post, a growing number use computers to sort résumés and choose those candidates most appropriate for the job. If your ­résumé isn’t scannable and readable, the electronic eye will overlook it.

Buzzwords Are the Key

As paper résumés are received, they are scanned into a computer database. When a position becomes available, a manager searches the database using keywords to describe the desirable job candidate. The computer returns the résumés that contain matches. The manager arranges for interviews with those candidates. This means your résumé needs something special: keywords. The résumé basics ­remain the same: your job objectives, work experience, education and specialized training. A header on the first page contains your name, address and phone number; subsequent pages should contain your name and phone number.
However, because the employer is going to enter a series of words that are “key” to describing the job, you want to make sure your ­descriptions of work experience, duties, abilities and achievements use the same industry-specific terminology so that your résumé has a better chance of being a “hit”.
Also, use industry jargon or buzzwords. Many employers use a ­“required buzzword” field when searching through their automated ­applicant tracking system. Inclusion of the proper buzzwords will show that you’re industry-savvy and this will move your résumé to centre screen.


MYTH: Your résumé will always be read carefully and thoroughly.
FACT: In most cases, your résumé needs to make a positive impression within first minute itself, only then will someone read it in detail. Moreover, it may be screened by a computer for keywords first—and if it doesn’t contain the right keywords, a human being may never see it.

Make It Readable

Of course, simply having a résumé with buzzwords isn’t enough. Save the up-to-date text version of your résumé on disk in a HTML format so that you can send it to employers by e-mail or place it into online databases. To prepare an HTML text version of your résumé, create a résumé and save it as a text document. (If you have a résumé already, use the “Save As” function to save it as a text document.) Make sure all text lines up to the left-hand margin, with no use of centering or justification in the document. No graphics, artwork or special character formatting (except bolding) should be used. This will guarantee that your résumé will be readable in most formats and that your experience and education will be clear to the computer and the employer who is using it.

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