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International Resume Writing Tips

39 min read
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Introduction to international resume formats and how to customize your resume for new countries or cultures.

If you are going for a job abroad and wonder whether international hiring managers have different expectations, you would be right to ask the question. 

While the recruitment process will ask many of the same questions and request the same information in every country, some of the terminology can be confusing.

There are also a few subtle differences within certain countries, so let's explore some international resume writing tips in more detail.

This blog discusses the most common types of international resume rules, challenges, and tips, including:

  • International resume introduction
  • Why it matters to customize your resume for certain countries or cultures
  • American resume
  • the British CV
  • Asian resume
  • Spanish resume
  • Russian resume
  • Writing a CV when English is your second language

Depending on the location of the job you’re applying for, you may want to understand more about an international resume. For example, if you are applying for a job in the United Kingdom, the United States, or Asia there are specific rules to follow and customs that are expected of job applicants. The same is true for Russia or Spain.

Another challenge is if languages like English or Spanish are your second language, then there are aspects of creating an international resume that should be followed in order to improve your chances of getting an interview.

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International resume introduction & writing a resume for international jobs

The first thing that you should do when applying internationally is to understand the expectations.

An international resume isn't so much a format, but rather a strategy to follow for aligning your resume with the local expectations and resume standards. The key to writing for an international audience is understanding more about expectations — what format do they prefer, do they want it translated, do they require references, a professional photo, or a portfolio?

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for an international resume, so be sure to check out the specifics below, do your research, and don't be afraid to ask locals for advice.

Tone is also very important depending on which country you’re applying in. For instance, American-style resumes are expected to be more self-promoting, whereas in other countries, like China, you’re expected to be more modest.

International resume tip — More than any other resume, if you’re applying to a foreign country you need to be clear on your resume about your nationality, visa status, and language abilities. Whereas this isn’t important if you’re applying in your own country, this is critical information for international resumes.

Expert tip

What are some tips for a good resume? The most important tip for a resume is to tailor it towards the role that you are applying for. Every sentence and achievement has to add to your case that you are the person for this specific job. The more irrelevant details there are, the less attention an employer will pay to what else is there.

The American resume

Modern American resumes are now done digitally, typically found in PDF or Microsoft Word format in order to easily upload and email.

Some people believe that an American style resume can only be one page, but that’s not necessarily true. If you have more than 5-7 years of relevant experience or are in an executive function, your resume should be two pages.

The most common form of American resume is the chronological resume, which follows along a structured style starting with your most recent position.

An American resume typically follows the format of:

  • Personal information
  • Professional summary statement
  • Work history (in reverse chronological order)
  • Education
  • Hobbies (optional)
  • Skills
  • Certifications (optional)
  • References (optional)
Expert tip

American resume tip — Make sure to understand the power of keywords. Many hiring processes and applications in the United States now involve the use of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS helps employers organize and screen the hundreds of candidates who usually apply. Companies with high volumes of candidates use their ATS to automatically screen candidate resumes looking for certain keywords and phrases.

How to write an American resume and what to avoid

Rules, examples, and tips for writing an American resume when applying for a job in the United States. Convert your CV to an American resume following these resume tips and templates for the USA.

While most of the world uses a CV when looking for a job, in America the document most commonly used is a resume.  An American resume differs from a CV in that it is a summary of a person’s work history, skills, education and other items an employer may be interested in.  A CV, in the American sense, is very detailed and chronicles the person’s entire career with details about their achievements, publications, education and other items that are relevant to the job they are applying for. For the rest of the world, a CV is the same as an American Resume.

The only exception to using a resume in America is if you are applying for a job that is in either a technical or academic field. In these cases, you would default to a longer American CV.

In this guide, we will discuss the following critical components of writing an American resume:

  • Differences between a resume and a CV
  • The purpose of a resume
  • How to organize
  • Formatting an American resume
  • What items you should and shouldn’t include.
  • The individual components of an American resume
  • How to optimize your resume

The purpose of an American resume

When creating a resume, keep in mind its purpose. A resume will not get you a job, rather it is intended to generate enough interest in you to get you invited to an interview.  Surveys indicate that recruiters spend about 6 seconds reviewing a resume. Therefore, it is important that you capture the reader’s attention quickly and make the resume interesting enough so that they will want to continue reading it.

A good way to determine how much of your resume a recruiter will read before they decide about you is to fold the first page in half. This is the most important real estate on your resume, and you need to use it to communicate your qualifications as concisely and clearly as possible.

Expert tip

What are the 4 C's of resume writing?

  • Creativity. Every job requires you to make something from nothing every now and again.
  • Communication. Getting stuff done with others needs excellent oral and written communication.
  • Collaboration. Knowing how to achieve results as a team is key to so many careers.
  • Critical thinking. Every problem has multiple solutions - finding the right one is rarely simple.

General guidelines for an American resume

An American resume is constructed on Letter size, 8.5”x11” paper, in the portrait orientation. Modern American resumes are now done digitally, and are typically found in PDF format in order to easily upload and email.

Typically American resumes are either 1 to 2 pages, based on the length of your career.  New graduates or people with limited experience can easily use just one page to describe their qualifications. People with more experience may need two or even three pages to cover their complete job history, accomplishments, education, skills, and certifications.

A CEO will have a much longer resume than an intern. Simple as that.

When considering the content to include in your resume, a good guideline to follow is that if the information isn’t relevant to the job you are interested in then it should not be in your resume. Employers hire people for one of four reasons.

  • You will make them money
  • You will save them money
  • You will save them time
  • You will fix a problem

Keep these in mind when you are writing your resume. Another tip is to include some type of metric (i.e., $, #, %) in every 2-3 sentences. This captures the reader's attention and helps them recognize your contributions, with the assumption that you can do the same for them. There’s nothing worse than a recruiter reading some generic statement, like “Contributed to overall department success and team collaboration.”

What does that mean? What did you contribute and what were the results? What specifically did you do to promote teamwork? Be as specific as possible.

You can find resources that will help you when writing your resume across the internet. These will provide you with  examples of effective resumes and  templates you can follow while constructing your resume.

The structure of an American resume

Contact Information — The first thing in your resume should be your name and contact information. This should be at the top of the page, should be large enough to be easily seen, and should contain the following.

  • Name
  • Telephone number where you can best be reached, usually your mobile
  • E-mail address — preferably your first & last name @ domain.com – don’t use cute or funny emails
  • LinkedIn profile

Do not include a home address or links to your other social media pages. You can either put this information on the top of the first page or, better yet, include it as a heading so that it will show up on all the pages

Title — The next part of your resume is the title. This should be the same as the position you’re applying for. It lets the recruiter know exactly what position you’re interested in and sets the tone as they are reviewing the resume.

Summary — It is good to start your resume with a 2 to 3 sentence summary if your skills, experience, or education related to the job you’re applying for. This allows the recruiter to quickly recognize your qualifications and encourages them to read the remainder of the resume.

Professional Experience — You then turn to your employment experience. The section will contain details about the jobs you have worked at during the last 10 to 15 years.  Even if you have more experience, this is all you need to include because anything prior to this is either no longer relevant or has already been discussed in other job descriptions. The jobs should be detailed in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent first.

When listing your jobs, include:

  • Position or title
  • Employer – Location (City, State) – Dates Employed (Month/Year – Month/Year)

You then provide a 1 to 2 sentence summary of your responsibilities and major achievements. This is followed by 3 to 4 bullets that describe significant achievements, key contributions, or specific duties related to the position you’re applying for. If your job title is self-explanatory, then you can skip the 1 to 2-sentence summary and focus on the bullet points.

Skills — After your experience, you can list your skills relevant to the job. These are usually bulleted in the side column of the resume. Modern resumes will display skills in a way that won’t increase the size of your resume and be visually appealing to the hiring manager. Check out this resume for a Financial Advisor as an example.

Include both hard skills related to the job and soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. The hard skills are usually stated in the job description as requirements. The soft skills enhance your qualifications and distinguish you from other applicants.

Education — You’ll next describe your formal, informal, and continuing education. Start with the most advanced degree and work backward listing other degrees. If your formal education occurred some time ago, you can start with recent certifications you have been awarded or informal training you have that enhances your qualifications for the job.

When detailing your education, list:

  • Degree attained (i.e., MBA, BS, AS) and your major and any minors
  • The school or institution attended
  • Additional activities such as clubs, athletic teams, publications, major projects or internships

Make sure you also include information about any continuing education courses, or certifications you have received, and which are relevant to the job you are applying for.

Hobbies — This is an important section of your resume, and you should be adding them in. Hobbies show the hiring manager more about your personality and personal life, and can also help develop a connection between you and the hiring manager. List out any achievements linked to your hobbies, and provide a little bit of detail instead of blandly listing a one-word hobby.

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Expert tip

What are the 3 F's of resume writing?

  • Form. Format and style your resume so that it is easy to read and digest.
  • Function. Make the resume functional by keeping it relevant and not going back too far in time.
  • Effectiveness. An effective resume includes everything to help a hiring manager make their decision.

Things to avoid in an American resume

Items you should not include in your resume are:

Personal information: Examples of these are age, gender, race, or family status. Employers cannot ask about these due to restrictions related to job discrimination. Putting them in your resume could disqualify you from being interviewed, or waste the recruiter's time who reads them.

References: Unlike CVs that are used throughout the world, American resumes do not typically include references. If an employer needs references prior to hiring you, they will request them after you have progressed through the interview process and are being considered as one of the final candidates.

American resume: Final thoughts

Writing an effective American resume is easy if you follow the guidelines provided. You need to write with the purpose of convincing the employer you can contribute to helping them achieve their business objectives. The objective is to create enough interest in you to incent the recruiter to invite you to an interview.

Following the recommended format and structure of an American resume makes it easy to read and provides a flow. Using the valuable space at the top half of the first page to summarize your qualifications is critical. This gets the balance of the resume read and increases your chances for an interview. Including metrics throughout your resume will keep it interesting and help the employer understand how you can help them to “make money, save money or save time.”

Avoid any mention of personal information in a resume. This may result in automatic rejection, even though you may be one of the better candidates for the job. You should also not include references. These aren’t expected in America and will be requested later in the interview process if the employer needs them.

Finally, remember to write your American resume keeping the job requirements in mind. Any content that isn’t relevant to these may distract the reader from your key message and shouldn’t be included.

Expert tip

Which are red flags on a resume? There are certain things on any resume that may make a hiring manager stop reading immediately. Be careful if your resume contains the following:

  • Too many long (and unexplained) employment gaps
  • Typos, mistakes, grammatical and formatting errors
  • Lack of career progression or evidence of job hopping
  • Too much personal information seems unprofessional
  • A career path that doesn't fit the vacancy in question
  • Inconsistency between your resume and LinkedIn profile

The British CV

Every country is different! Here is a comprehensive guide that includes tips, tools, and examples for writing an amazing British CV.

Tips, tools, and examples for writing a British CV that lands an interview. If you're looking for a job in the UK, the expectations are slightly different than other countries—there are specific rules to follow with a British CV, and we cover all of them in this comprehensive guide.

As mentioned, the British use CV to denote the same as the U.S. resume. In academic circles (in both countries) CV can also be used to denote a longer form documents with lots of information about your education and professional experience, including additional training, papers you’ve written, conferences you attended, projects you’ve been involved in, and other details which demonstrate your qualifications.

British CV tip — Include references in your CV when applying for jobs in the UK, but don't include their contact details as this goes against data protection legislation. 

How to write a British CV when applying for a job in the United Kingdom

If you are looking for work in the UK, a CV will be a key part of your job search process. Any document you use to detail your qualifications is called a Curriculum Vitae, or CV. This also applies to most of Europe and even the Middle East.

Let's keep it simple.

A CV in the UK is the equivalent of a resume in the United States. 

It may have one or two pages, and all of the sections that you would expect in a resume should be present. This is not the academic document that Americans call a CV. In this comprehensive guide, we will show you how to write an effective British CV that helps you land an interview, by outlining:

  • An introduction to the British CV
  • The components of a British CV
  • The short form British CV
  • Additional advice when drafting your CV

The British CV

If you want to tell your ‘life story’ with lots of details about your education and professional experience, including additional training, papers you’ve written, conferences you attended, projects you’ve been involved in and other details which will demonstrate your qualifications, then you should opt for the long format, or detailed CV.

This document can be as long as necessary to include the details of your life which are applicable to the position you are applying to. Keep in mind that modern job applicants bring in over 200 applicants, and hiring managers spend about 7 seconds reviewing each application. So choose a CV carefully, because the time you have to impress the hiring manager is limited.

The content of the long format CV will include the following:

  • Name − full name, title, degree (e.g. Ph.D., etc.)
  • Contact information - phone, email, LinkedIn profile, personal web page (no social media or home address)
  • Summary − a brief description of what you have achieved in your education and profession
  • Academic qualifications − your academic qualification; degree(s) (descending, with most advanced first). Include key courses studied, GPA, papers written, studies performed
  • Additional training – work-related instruction or courses, conferences attended
  • Additional knowledge − skills you have acquired as part of your profession
  • Soft skills − collaboration, communication, teaming, etc.
  • Languages – native plus any foreign languages you are fluent in, if applicable
  • Software tools − applications you use in your profession (Microsoft, Google, CRM tools, etc.)
  • Operating system platforms − Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Database management system – Oracle, SAP, Siebel
  • Experience breakdown − summarized explanation of your experience – employers, title, dates, location, role, and a brief (1-2 sentence) summary of responsibilities
  • Achievements – any significant achievements in professional life
  • Awards and honors
  • A declaration − stating all information provided about the applicant as true
  • References – 2-3 references with names, titles, organization, phone, email and the role they played in your professional career (i.e., manager, customer, peer)

Short format British CV

The short format or business CV should be 1-2 pages long (A4 format). It only consists of facts, dates, and numbers. The reasons for applying and a summary of your skills which qualify you for the position can be detailed in a cover letter. Remember, recruiters only spend 7 seconds reviewing this type of resume before deciding about your qualifications, so you want to capture their interest.

The content of this type of British CV is:

  • Personal information – Name, phone, email, LinkedIn URL and location (not an address)
  • Professional summary – key skills, experience, and soft skills aligned with the job you are applying for
  • Working experience – title, employer, location, and dates, starting with the most recent job. Include a brief description of the role, followed by a bulleted list of contributions and achievements for each position
  • Formal education & training - university, dates, and places, but no grades or courses
  • Languages, skills, proficiencies related to the job you are applying for
  • Hobbies
  • A declaration − stating all information provided about the applicant as true
  • References – 2-3 references with names, titles, organization, phone, email and the role they played in your professional career (i.e., manager, customer, peer)

Additional British CV advice

Both types of CVs include your personal information, education and qualifications, work experience, interests and achievements, skills, and references. The additional information in the long format CV provides details important to recruiters and hiring managers in professions where specific coursework, publications, software skills, and other, more detailed experience and education and work experience is key to selecting a candidate.  Make sure you provide as much detail as possible when constructing a long format CV.

Also, you should always tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. Use a modern but professional format. Few if any graphic elements; these aren’t effective and will confuse Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

It is important to consider including references in your CV when applying for a position in the UK. Employers expect these and a significant majority of them take the time to contact the references you provide. It’s best to provide at least 2 references. As an alternative, you can write "references available on request."

Prior to adding someone's name and information to your CV, you should contact the person to ask their permission to use them as a reference. It is also considerate of you to provide them with a copy of your CV and discuss your job search objectives with them. Remind them of what you did when you worked together and discuss a few contributions you made while there.

The Asian resume

Similar to the long-form British CV, resumes in Asia tend be longer than the traditional American and European resume. The best practices here are to include all the information you normally would: personal information, contact details, work history, academics, skills, languages, and references.

But, you should also include a professional photo. Unlike the United States where it's common to add a photo to your resume only in certain industries, in Asia it is generally expected that you include a photo across every industry. Also include two copies of your resume — one in English, and another in the native language of that country.

Resumes in Asia are expected to be more personal in nature, where you will include your age, gender, marital status, interests, nationality, and visa status. As with a long-form CV, you should expect to be more detailed about your skills and work experience than you would in a short-form American style resume.

Asian resume tip — Even if you don’t know the native language, showing some cultural knowledge and sensitivity by including some wording or greeting will always be appreciated.

Expert tip

What are the three main types of resumes?

  • Reverse-chronological. Lists work experience in reverse order with the more recent job first.
  • Functional. A resume that focuses on functional skills, with only employers and employment dates listed.
  • Combined. An initial section for function skills with a normal chronological work experience afterwards.

Spanish resume

Spanish resumes are similar to British ones, but require you to be more clear about your language abilities. This should be front and center in your resume.

If Spanish is your second language, be sure to use templates and examples designed for a Spanish-speaking audience. Generally, Spanish resumes are 1-2 pages and include the following information:

  • Contact information
  • A professional summary
  • Education and GPA information — both high school and post-secondary
  • Work experience in bullet points
  • Skills and languages (be clear about your native language)

Spanish resume tip — It is important to have someone who is a native speaker read over your resume before you send it to an employer to ensure there are no grammatical or language errors.

Russian resume

Russian resumes are similar to resumes in Europe, in that they include all the basic information such as contact details, a professional summary, work history, education, skills, languages, and references.

Here are a few additional tips for writing a resume to apply for a job in Russia:

  • Do not exceed 2 pages in length.
  • Place the education section above work experience—this is a common expectation in Russia.
  • As with most other countries, it is suggested to list your work experience in reverse chronological order.
  • It is common to send along a translated version of your resume with a cover letter to Russian companies or an English version to an international company working within Russia.
  • Unless requested, do not include references on your Russian resume.

Russian resume tip — Photos are not required or encouraged when submitting a resume in Russia. Unless it’s specifically requested, do not include a photo.

Writing a resume or CV when English is a second language

Writing an international resume is challenging enough, so writing a resume or CV in English when you're not a native speaker makes it even more difficult. To begin writing your resume in English, you should gather all relevant information so you are well organized. This includes:

  • A copy of your current CV in your native language
  • Any additional information you need to update your CV
  • A description of the job(s) you are applying for so you can understand the types of language and keywords used
  • An English dictionary, thesaurus, and / or Google Translate
  • Templates to work with or a resume builder

Once you have all these resources, you can start translating. Check out resume examples for inspiration and research to find the right language and wording to use. Make sure to include the keywords that you collected in the job description you are applying for.

Writing a CV in English is different than writing a CV in your native language. English has several nuances that you must be aware of and the sentence structure is often different than what you are used to. However, once you are aware of these differences it is easy to translate your current CV into English.  

Writing resumes for different cultures and countries

What’s good for the UK, isn’t necessarily correct for the US, and what’s best practice in Russia, may not go over well in China. Find out as much about the local job application preferences as possible before you use an international resume to apply to a job.

If at all possible connect with a native person in your industry and ask them for feedback on your resume before you send it to an employer. It's even better if you can connect with a local person in your industry who speaks your native language too. Most often local residents are more than happy to help you get acclimated to a new job market and welcomed to their country.

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