Working Abroad: Prepare your CV and Interview
The process of applying for a job can be substantially different abroad. Curriculum vitae, or resumes, are drafted in a different format and letters require a different style. In some countries, psychological tests are part of the process, or you are observed in assessment centers, whereas in other countries these are unheard of.
In France, graphology is sometimes part of the selection process, which means you may be asked to handwrite your cover letter. In the USA, but also at organizations such as the UN, references will be verified. As a foreign national in Europe, you may be required to produce a copy of your birth certificate or proof of health insurance.
In your home country, potential employers may respond to your application with a confirmation letter, but elsewhere chances are you won’t hear anything unless the potential employer is interested in your application. Let’s take a look at how CVs and interviews differ from one country to the next.
Cover Letters and CVs or Resumes
Human Resources departments are often mere gatekeepers. If your resume does not conform to the local standard, it will not gain the attention it deserves, even if you apply with an international company. In some countries, you need to include personal data that you should avoid elsewhere. Sometimes your experience is more detailed, sometimes less.
European CVs are more a listing of past achievements, whereas Australian and certainly American resumes sound more like sales letters. In France, gender and age are indicated at the top of a CV, whereas in the US both are prohibited to avoid discrimination. In some countries a passport photo is attached to the CV, or CVs are signed by the applicant.
How your CV meets the expectations
If you are applying in a foreign language you might consider either getting a professional translation or professional review. Your CV will be your initial serious contact with any potential employer and must therefore be well written according to local expectations and idiosyncrasies.
Recruiters, agencies and increasingly employers themselves, may require you to fill in an online application form. Some allow you to upload your resume into a program that translates it into their required format. You absolutely have to scrutinize the result. You are responsible for the accuracy of your own resume.
Applications to electronic job postings are screened electronically as well. Your résumé should be tailor-made to the function as it was described. Simply put, it should mimic the terminology used in the posting, as these will serve as HR’s search terms or tool for comparing applicants’ submissions. In heavily automated HR departments, an application letter or resume that cannot be scanned in a database may end up on a pile of documents that doesn’t get the proper attention they deserve.
Abroad, interviews are held differently than you would expect in your own country. The tone is inherent to conversation customs in the country. Taboos are different, expectations regarding politeness are different, even the protocol is different. Since you may be applying long-distance you may be subjected to an initial telephone interview. Interaction with the participants is different than when you are conducting a live meeting. If the interview is conducted via video conference you should be aware of your mannerisms as well as showing a professional backdrop. You should review the customs of the country before you go there, or pick up the phone.
If you are lucky enough to be flown in for an interview at the expense of the company, you should consider every little thing you do as part of the interview; you do represent yourself for the employer from the moment you have landed, checked in the hotel, or anywhere else your stay begins, until you have left again.
If you want to learn more about job applications to foreign countries, take a look at the free eBook “Working Abroad” written by August G. Minke.
Download “Working Abroad” in PDF and for free