Write Resume for International Job Search

Do you dream about working abroad? Do your short or long-term career goals include an international assignment?

Maybe you want to practice your ability to speak multiple languages.

Perhaps you completed coursework or a degree in international business.

Or maybe you just want to broaden your corporate qualifications with a more global perspective and multicultural experience.

With an increasingly diverse workforce and global economy, international business experience — whether that involves frequent international business trips, short-term overseas assignments, or longer-term relocation to foreign locations — can certainly be valuable as a building block for your entire career.

With more and more multinational firms transferring employees between global locations, your chances of winning a coveted overseas assignment have never been better. But, how do you market yourself for these positions?

As with most job searches, one of your first steps will be to develop your portfolio of personal marketing documents. How to write your resume for an international job search is a point of major confusion for many would-be expat workers. In other words, you must prepare your resume/CV and job search letters specifically to target the international roles you want. Do the terms resume and CV (curriculum vitae) confuse you?

The first thing to understand is that different countries use different terms to describe what is essentially the same type of document. In fact, in international circles, the terms “resume” and “CV” are often used interchangeably. But, to complicate the issue, depending on the country you are applying to, the requirements of what to include in your resume/CV and in what format to include it may be very different.

For example, in the U.S. you should never include a photograph of yourself in your resume (unless you are a model or an actor/actress). Likewise, you should not include any information about your birthday, marital status, family status, or other similar personal details. In fact, if you do include photos or personal data, most U.S. employers will simply discard your resume rather than risk a potential discrimination lawsuit. On the other hand, personal photographs and data are expected and often required on CVs meant for European or Asian employers.

In U.S., Canadian, and some other job markets, your work experience should be included in reverse chronological order (most recent to oldest). In many other job markets around the world, your experience should be listed in straight chronological order (oldest to most recent).

Clearly, it is crucial that you be aware of the requirements and expectations of the job market you are applying in. You must take the time to research and learn these differences before preparing or adapting your resume for international employers.

In some cases, when you are applying to the overseas location of a multinational company, the decision-makers for the position will be of a nationality other than the location in which you are applying. For example, you may be targeting a position in Hong Kong, and know that the person making the decisions for that position is an American expatriate. In this case, you may want to submit a resume written in the U.S. style which will be more familiar to the decision-maker.

At Distinctive Career Services, our expertise is in creating resumes in the U.S. style. However, our client base is worldwide and our resumes have been used successfully by people all over the globe seeking international assignments based in the U.S. or targeting positions worldwide when they have determined that the U.S.-style is most appropriate. The lesson: do your research and know your audience, then tailor your approach to the expectations of the audience.

Regardless of the job you are targeting, and what country that job is in, if your goal is to go global you definitely want to emphasize and highlight your international travel and multicultural experiences, your foreign language abilities, and any coursework you have completed that is relevant to international business. You can weave all of this into the body of your resume/CV and may even create a separate section to call it out in greater detail.

Finally, above all, be open-minded and flexible. Your eagerness to learn and your adaptability are key predictors of how successful you will be on international assignment. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions and adapt to new ways of doing things. Your international job search is not the time to hold tight to your own cultural preferences. Be flexible! If you don’t know what is expected or required of job candidates in a particular company or foreign location, ask! Then adapt your approach.

Here is a checklist to help you prepare your international resume and career marketing portfolio:

_____The content and format of my resume/CV has been modified to conform to the requirements of the international job market I am targeting.

_____The content and format of my resume/CV has been modified to conform to the expectations of the decision-maker for the position I am targeting.

_____I have paid particular attention to requirements regarding photographs and personal data and have adapted my resume/CV accordingly.

_____My resume/CV has been translated into another language if necessary and has been reviewed by a native speaker of that language.

_____My resume/CV emphasizes and includes information about all of my previous multicultural and international business experience and qualifications.

_____My resume includes a thorough listing of my foreign language abilities.

_____My resume/CV includes detailed descriptions of my education and training (educational requirements and degrees vary around the world, so it is often helpful to describe your degrees in terms of their local equivalent).

_____The design of my resume/CV had been modified to fit on the paper size that is the standard in the international location I am applying in.

_____My resume/CV has been proofed and is completely free of errors.

_____My resume/CV uses simple fonts and a classic, easy-to-read design.

_____The electronic files of my resume/CV are prepared in standard formats, including Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, and plain text ASCII.

_____I have researched and scrupulously followed any guidelines for submission of my resume/CV as described by the company I am applying to.

_____I have sent my resume/CV and job search letter by email when an email address is available, but have followed up with a hard copy by regular postal mail.