How to build your CV or resume for work abroad

How to build your CV or resume for work abroad

by Adriana Stein

Updated November 7, 2022

You’re learning a new language, and you want to make the leap to find a job abroad. How do you build your CV to look attractive for jobs in other countries? 

What is a CV, and is it different than a resume?

The term ‘CV’ is short for the Latin phrase ‘curriculum vitae’, course of life, and resume is French for summary. In Canada and the US, resume is the standard term, whereas in Europe, CV is the standard. While it sounds like the resume would be shorter, in my personal experience these are interchangeable terms for essentially the same document. It’s more important to check what the local standards are for this document, than get hung up on the literal meaning of the words. 

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Be up front and honest about language skills

It’s good news for employers if you can speak another language, but don’t inflate your skills. If you’re applying to a job that says you need to be fluent in German, don’t pretend your A2 is really a C2. If you’re actively taking lessons, be clear about that too. Even beginner language skills are worth mentioning. Unless you’re fluent, it’s generally not a good idea to get your CV translated. 

Find out how locals write their CV

Do some research about what the local CV expectations are, because they might be quite different. Some countries still expect photos attached to your CV, your education details first or last, a one-page document or a full job history. In some countries, it’s expected that your references will be on your CV, and in others it is not required until after the interview process. Check job postings as well, to make sure you’re clear on what job titles mean in your destination country. Does ‘associate’ mean entry level or a department director? Adjust your own CV with the equivalent local job titles so your CV will show up in searches, or pass muster with CV-scanning software. 

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Check your qualifications 

Before posting your CV publicly or sending it out to employers, double check your qualifications carry over internationally. Certifications can be country specific – fields like nursing, pharmacy, optometry, and accounting all need local certification. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch however – check if your destination country has agreements in place for transferring certifications. Sometimes it means a course or two to bring you in line with the local industry. Search out local professional organisations for your industry ahead of time, and join if you can – this might give you access to better job postings as well as show international employers you are in touch with the local industry. 

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Use international language

It’s amazing how easy it is to use jargon that only makes sense in your home country. Review your CV for acronyms and incomplete place names. What may be self-evident if you’re applying in one country may be totally incomprehensible in another. Fully spell out organisations, and give the full place names including country for schools and previous employers. One sentence explaining the industry and size of the company will give international employers a sense of your work history quickly. 

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Highlight international experience and willingness to relocate

If you’ve worked in different countries before, be sure to mention this. Having experience working across cultures is important for international organisations. It shows you know how to cope when there are languages flying around you might not fully understand, and how to be sensitive and open with different cultural approaches to a situation. Be clear with what citizenship you hold, and any visas you would need help obtaining. If you’re willing to relocate and also have clearance to work in the destination country, that’s a big plus for any employer. 

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