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Preparing Curricula Vitae for the International Market

published November 27, 2006

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( 6 votes, average: 3.9 out of 5)
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One of the most apparent differences between resumes and CV has to do with the exposure of personal information. In the U.S., we are told to omit any information that could be considered personal from cover letters and resumes; however, personal information is the foremost component of the CV. At the top of your CV, below your name, you are to list your birthday (including your year of birth), place of birth, marital status, number of children, and health status. In many cases, you are required to attach a passport-sized photo to the top right corner of your CV. U.S. employers, on the other hand, are required to throw out cover letters and resumes if photos are attached.

If you are applying to a company outside of the U.S., it is very important to show your potential employer that you have knowledge of other languages and cultures by highlighting fluency or background in foreign languages, as well as travel experience (including vacation destinations). By putting these items in a visible location on your CV, you will be presenting yourself as a globally aware American—a valuable asset to any foreign company. Many international companies require that you speak their countries' languages as well as English, so it is smart to prepare your CV in both the language of the country in which your potential employer is located and in English. Also, do not forget to find out which variations of languages the company uses. For example, you will want to find out whether the company uses British English or American English. This also applies to foreign languages such as Spanish, French, and so on. An American applicant must be fluent and prepared to speak and read in the native language of his or her potential employer from the first phone conversation or personal interview; many employers like to see and hear your skills early on in the hiring process.

Simply knowing a language is not always enough. Make sure that you are familiar with the lingo and types of phrases that native speakers use, further demonstrating your ability to blend into their culture. If you use English expressions and idioms that do not translate clearly, you may seem out of touch or confusing. If you are not a native speaker of the language in question, it is a good idea to have a native speaker or an accredited translator look over your resume to help you work out the kinks.

If you have spent fewer than five years in your profession, your CV's section on educational background must include descriptions of your schooling. Simply listing the
school(s) you attended, your degree, and when you graduated is not enough. Explaining what types of courses you took, along with mentioning special projects and experiences, is key to painting a picture of your academic involvement. In certain countries, especially some countries in Asia, where you attended school is very important. It is so significant that employers in these countries even require you to list where you went to kindergarten and elementary school. The same expectations for thoroughness also apply to descriptions of employment history. All jobs held should be listed.

Unlike U.S. resume and some British CV formats, many CV formats will require you to list your education and employment history in chronological order from earliest to most recent, rather than from most recent to earliest. Always check to see what the company to which you are applying requires.

When crafting your CV and letter of intent or motivation letter (equivalents of the American cover letter), do your homework and learn about what is acceptable in your potential employer's country's culture, his or her country's corporate culture, and his or her company's specific culture, as you should aim to satisfy the expectations of all of them in your application. One principle to keep in mind is the importance of the collective rather than the individual. When listing your accomplishments, try to focus on your contributions as part of a group effort. Foreign companies tend to strongly emphasize teamwork, so make sure to convey that the ability to cooperate is part of your skill set.

Stylistically, CV and letters of intent differ in a couple of ways from resumes and cover letters. In CV and letters of intent, it is suggested that you use simpler language, as ultra-sophisticated phrases and words can confuse and put off foreign employers. Some European employers even require applicants to handwrite letters of intent so that they can assess applicants' neatness and attention to detail. Also, the rules regarding fonts are a bit stricter than in the U.S. Boldface should only be implemented for subject headings, and one's documents should use a single standard font throughout. In terms of length, CV are usually longer than resumes but no longer than two pages. If you have limited experience, one page is adequate.

Another element to consider is standard page size. European A-4 standard is 210 millimeters wide by 297 millimeters long, whereas the U.S. standard is 8 ½ inches wide by 11 inches long. Research and find out the standard page size used in the country where you are applying for a position, and use it whether you email, fax, or "snail mail" your submission.

When you are sending documents internationally, it is usually safer to send them in two forms—via email and as hard copies, for instance. If sending materials via email, make sure that your page setup matches the destination country's standards when you attach your documents to a message. Also, make things easier on your potential employer by drafting documents in a widely accepted format, like Microsoft Word.

If you do make it into a foreign firm or company, remember to stay true to who you are as an individual and a professional, without coming off as "one of those arrogant Americans." Although you may get some strange looks from your coworkers, hold on to what you believe is right and your employer and colleagues will respect you. At the same time, allow yourself to be flexible and teachable by seeking to learn all you can while working in another country. And do not forget that you are representing your own country. Your enthusiasm and performance will shape your company's impressions of the U.S., so be sure to make a commendable lasting impact.

published November 27, 2006

( 6 votes, average: 3.9 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.