Friday, February 13, 2009

Five Tips for Writing CVs for Overseas Employers

May 19, 2008 5:44 p.m.

Dreaming about a job abroad? Or maybe your spouse is transferring overseas, and you're scouting career options. When applying to employers abroad, you'll need a curriculum vitae (CV) -- the job hunter's document used outside of the U.S. that corresponds to an American-style resume. The differences between them are subtle but a CV is essential to moving through the first step of applying for positions.

There's no one way to write a CV. Still, there are some common elements and themes. Here are five things you'll need to know when writing a CV for international employers.

1. Get personal.
Your background and personal characteristics are important to many employers in European and Asian markets, says resume writer Wendy Enelow, president of Enelow Enterprises Inc. in Lynchburg, Va. At the top of your document under your name, list your birthday (including year), place of birth, marital status, number of children, and health status. A passport-size photo goes on the top right corner. If applying to employers in Asia, list your educational history, starting with kindergarten.

Include any foreign languages you know and classes you are taking, along with travel experience (vacations count). Put these at the top or in greater detail under a separate heading. You'll be showing that you are a part of the global community, says resume writer Myriam-Rose Kohn, executive director of Jeda Enterprises, an international career-coaching firm in Valencia, Calif. "It is important to present yourself as culturally-oriented," she says.

2. No 'default' option.
CVs vary from country to country and company to company. In some countries, employers want only job-history basics; in others, certificates of work and letters of recommendation typically are included, says Daniel Porot, president of Porot & Partners, a career-coaching firm in Geneva. Find out if the employer has preferences about what it wants to see on your document. Sometimes a company's Web site will list its CV requirements, according to Ms. Enelow. If not, you can call the company to ask, she suggests.

3. MacJobs in the limelight.
When job hunting in most countries outside the U.S., you'll need to list your professional experience in chronological order, starting with your earliest jobs and ending with your most recent position. However, British employers prefer a reverse-chronological list similar to the typical American resume. In the increasingly global economy, says Ms. Enelow, some international employers may prefer this approach, so if it's a good idea to check if there is a preference.

4. There's no 'I' in 'team.'
"You don't want to boast," says Ms. Kohn. In many countries, she says, "everything is a team effort." Present your achievements in the context of your role within your group, be it as a low-level member or a leader, says Mr. Porot. If you were not solely responsible an accomplishment, use nouns rather than verbs to describe it. For example, write "Maintenance of profitable management," rather than "Maintained profitable management." When describing individual successes attributable to only you, use verbs.

5. Keep it simple.
Skip the fancy fonts, and use boldface for only section titles. Take the same plain-Jane approach in your word choice. Overly sophisticated language is likely to put off hiring managers. Use words that fit your experience level, says Ms. Kohn.

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